Scotland and France will forge greater education links, encouraging more teacher and pupil exchanges as well as sharing ideas and best practice after First Minister Alex Salmond signed a statement of intent with the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
The agreement will see the two countries draw up an action plan for the two education systems to share ideas in curriculum and education reform, languages and intercultural learning, ICT support for learning, inspection and the teaching of science and mathematics.
The plan, which will be taken forward by a joint steering group, will also encourage local authorities and schools in Scotland and France to strengthen existing links by arranging more pupil, trainee and qualified teacher exchanges and co-operating over teacher training methods.
The statement of intent was signed by Mr Salmond and His Excellency Bernard Emié, Ambassador of France to the UK, at a ceremony in Edinburgh Castle this evening (Wednesday) where the First Minister also met with a senior level French trade delegation to discuss opportunities for investment in Scotland.
Commenting, the First Minister said:
"The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France is an enduring relationship reflecting a shared history of co-operation and friendship.
"Today’s announcement will strengthen these enduring links, by putting in place a plan for our two education systems to share ideas across areas such as the curriculum and education reform, the use of new technology in learning and the teaching of science and mathematics.
"This new partnership will also encourage councils and schools across Scotland to forge closer relationships with their counterparts in France, meaning more pupils and teachers will have their horizons broadened on exchange trips, gaining first-hand experience of another culture and improving their foreign language skills.
"This pioneering plan is just one of the key policy areas where we are working with the French Government and I was delighted to discuss this closer co-operation between our governments with His Excellency, the Ambassador as part of his official business during the trade delegation schedule.
"As well as promoting these inter-governmental links, the delegation’s visit will help Scottish business engage with senior representatives of some significant French companies - many of which have shown great faith in Scotland already with substantial business interests already located here."
His Excellency Bernard Emié added to the First Minister's comments, saying
"The text I have signed with the First Minister, and on behalf of M. Vincent Peillon, Minister for Education, aims at fostering the links between both ministries and promoting links between Scottish and French local education authorities and schools. Mobility for teachers and pupils alike is to be the key element supporting a better mutual understanding and each nation's language learning strategy.
"When we [French Ambassador Bernard Emié and First Minister Alex Salmond] met on my fist trip to Scotland, we discussed everything France and Scotland do together in the devolved areas, starting with culture and languages and what our French Institute accomplishes in this respect. This is why I am particularly pleased to see today the result of this exchange with the administrative arrangement on education we have just signed."
Scotland and France already share many educational links, with collaboration between schools assisted by the Institut Français d’Ecosse. The Institut also provides CPD French training for Scottish primary school teachers and works with other cultural organisations to develop learning resources for teaching modern languages in the context of Curriculum for Excellence.
The French Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the French Embassy to the UK has arranged a two-day trade delegation of senior representatives of French companies, including Thales, GDF and Veolia. During the visit, the delegation will engage with Scottish business in Fife, Dundee and Aberdeen, as well as holding talks with Scottish Development International.
The text of the statement of intent signed this evening is as follows:
Scotland and France have a shared history of co-operation over many years and have worked together in previous education partnership agreements within the terms of the cultural agreement between the Government of the French Republic and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland signed in Paris on 2 March 1948.
Both countries wish to build on this shared history and to contribute to the building of a knowledge-based Europe; are eager to strengthen links between the French and Scottish school education systems; and to deepen the mutual understanding of each country’s educational policies and ambitions for their young people.
Therefore, both affirm their joint vision for educational cooperation, including the mobility of learners and teachers between the two countries as a means of promoting language learning and intercultural dialogue; and sharing curriculum developments more broadly.
The Minister of National Education of the French Republic and the Cabinet Secretary of Education and Lifelong Learning for the Scottish Government agree to explore a joint action plan, annexed to this text, to underpin this statement of intent based on cooperation on topics of common interest in the sphere of school education and training.