Public debate

Vincent Edin, Élodie Vialle and Louise Tourret

The urgency of accessible, high-quality public education

Each year since 2013, the LabCitoyen programme has invited around sixty young citizens from five continents who are involved in projects related to human rights to visit France. An opportunity to meet with LabCitoyen’s three “mentors” in 2018, around the theme of “Education and Human Rights”.

Updated on 20/02/2019

5 min

Élodie Viale, Vincent Edin and Louise Tourret, LabCitoyen’s three “mentors” in 2018
Élodie Viale, Vincent Edin and Louise Tourret, LabCitoyen’s three “mentors” in 2018
© Vinciane Lebrun

What actions should be taken to ensure inclusive, fair and quality education for all? 60 young people from 45 countries are invited to France as part of the LabCitoyen programme to reflect on the issue of the right to education, which was codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago, in 1948.

From 1st to 9th July, the young project leaders participate in a programme rich in debates, conferences and meetings and are supported by three mentors: Louise Tourret, producer and director of the show  School Street (“Rue des écoles”) (France Culture) and journalist for; Élodie Vialle, head of the Journalism & Technology Office of  Reporters Without Borders ; Vincent Edin, professor of political rhetoric at the European Communication School and journalist notably for Usbek & Rica.

These three mentors share their concerns about education and human rights with us, and discuss the educational projects they find most urgent.

How do you envision your role as mentors for this 6th edition of LabCitoyen? What form does your support for young speakers and their projects take?

Vincent Edin: The LabCitoyen alternates plenary meetings with all the participants and workshops where the young people are divided into three groups, each supported by one of us. Our role is to lead debates in a traditional way, and also to discuss more informally with young people, who, in some cases, have many questions about life in general and their commitments in the years to come – because they are all at the beginning of their professional lives. These are very socially-committed individuals who give you faith in humanity. More than reading the news does, anyways!

Élodie Vialle: The interesting thing about the LabCitoyen workshops is that they are "collaborative". For us mentors, it is above all a question of Socratic teaching, of ensuring that these young people can speak to each other, and of helping them create solutions to the issues raised.

The educational system must be based on values of equality and emancipation.

This year focuses on the theme of "Education and Human Rights": what do you think are the major educational projects that will help us achieve a greater respect for human rights in the future?

Louise Tourret: Among the priorities, we can identify girls’ access to education, which is currently very unequal throughout the world, and the need for educational infrastructure: given population growth, especially in West Africa, there will be millions of children who will need to be educated in the coming years. The issue of refugee access to education is also crucial: we see that more and more people are being forced to become refugees and live in camps, and this situation may be a long-term one. How can we get them access to education? And how can we offer them educational continuity throughout their migratory journey? Children of refugees or the Roma people do not always have access to education, even in France, where school is public, free and compulsory. Elsewhere, such as in Africa, education is sometimes the subject of what amounts to commerce: many schools extract very high fees for very poor quality education. There is an urgent need for accessible, high-quality public education.

Élodie Vialle: I would add educational challenges related to misinformation. The manipulation of information, which is amplified on the Internet, is now a threat to democratic processes. Information and its manipulation have become a political tool. It is a challenge to teach everyone how to read between the lines in our digital societies, where social networks have become a new echo chamber of information. It is essential to think collaboratively about implementing different solutions.

It is a challenge to teach everyone how to read between the lines in our digital societies, where social networks have become a new echo chamber of information.

There are therefore projects to be carried out in terms of both infrastructure and programmes. What do these new educational needs say about our society?

Vincent Edin: If we once believed that the dissemination of information and knowledge would be sufficient to make humanity more intelligent, we now realise that this is not the case. It is therefore important to consider critical thinking and the way in which it is taught to children. We can understand the scale of the problem by looking at how Darwin’s theory of evolution is increasingly challenged in the US…

Louise Tourret: The educational system must also be based on values of equality and emancipation. This is lacking, for example, in religious schools. Education must be accompanied by a democratic project.


What is the importance of the Francophone world, in terms discussions and action, in the context of this programme?

Élodie Vialle: The excellent level of French among the young LabCitoyen guests is the first indicator of the power of the Francophone network. It’s quite impressive!

Louise Tourret: I am convinced that the Francophone world, French language and culture can contribute to disseminating and supporting ideas, particularly around education and human rights.

What can LabCitoyen offer these young people and their projects?

Vincent Edin: The great strength of the LabCitoyen programme is its ability to address issues that we are used to dealing with on a daily basis with French people, but with young people from 45 countries and thus extremely different contexts. We think that progress on equality between girls and boys in French schools is too slow? Within the program, some young girls from the Arab world had to fight for the right even to go to school! I also find that the programme offers a good balance between the institutional partners – such as UNESCO or the OECD – and in-country players, NGOs like Article 1, which are committed to equal opportunities. Finally, I would say that Labcitoyen is interesting because of its longevity. Each year after these meetings, we see that the participants follow us and follow each other on social media. They are all destined to become leaders in their fields, and it is encouraging to see that they have gotten in the habit of communicating with each other, exchanging best practices, advice and contacts, which will help them bring their projects to fruition.

The Institut français and the project

An Institut français mobility programme, LabCitoyen supports young socially-engaged citizens from all over the world. It looks to promote the French language as a tool for debate and action.

L'institut français, LAB