‘Society is fragmenting!’: discourses of migration and education in the press in France and England

This talk will critically examine the framing of migration and education in policy and media discourse in France and England. These two countries are often presented as “pole opposites” in terms of their philosophies of integration, yet they present multiple points of convergence with regard to migration and education. Despite increased diversity in school populations (linguistic, cultural, religious), both national educational systems have remained firmly monolingual and monocultural. In both countries, the legacy of colonial histories and the recent emergence of populist, far-right and xenophobic discourses contribute to contexts in which narratives of the “threatening immigrant Other” permeate social imaginaries around education and migration. Against this increasingly hostile background, schools are given a central, yet paradoxical role, at the same time blamed for fractures in society and invested with the task of building social cohesion. Educational initiatives in each country highlight these tensions around migration and education: on the one hand reinforcing national(ist) values through curricular changes (Fundamental British Values in the UK; Grande Mobilisation pour les Valeurs de la République in France) whilst on the other hand promoting new ways of being inclusive towards linguistically and religiously diverse school populations. This talk will examine these different (yet convergent) approaches to migration and education through a critical review of the press over the period 2000-2021. It will discuss the dominant narratives and discourses which emerged from this review, whilst reflecting on what this can tell us about the relationship between public discourse and education policy.