April 3, 2020 / 12:05 PM / in 4 months

Coronavirus forces cancellation of French 'bac' exam for first time since Napoleon

FILE PHOTO: A deserted classroom is seen at the International Bilingual School (EIB) in Paris as a lockdown is imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread in France, March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French high-school school students will not sit the traditional ‘baccalaureat’ (bac) exam this summer due to the coronavirus, the education minister said on Friday, an unprecedented move that highlights the scale of disruption caused by the pandemic.

It is the first time since its inception in 1808 under Napoleon Bonaparte that the ‘bac’ exam will not take place in its traditional form. Even the sweeping student and labour protests of May 1968 did not prevent the exam going ahead.

Instead, students will receive an average score in each subject calculated from marks given for tests and homework throughout the year, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said in a televised address.

“This is the most simple, secure and fair solution in these difficult times”, he said, adding that marks obtained during the current lockdown period would not be taken into account.

France has confirmed nearly 60,000 cases of the coronavirus so far and as of Friday it had recorded 5,387 deaths, the fourth highest tally in the world. Schools and universities have been shut since early March to help halt the spread of the virus.

Public end-of-year exams in some other countries including Britain have also been cancelled due to the pandemic.

If conditions allow, France could ramp up classes in June to make up for lost time in the education of its young people, said Blanquer, who has previously raised the possibility of schools reopening in early May.

In such a scenario, he added, the pupils’ attendance would be a factor in their obtaining the ‘bac’.

On Friday he said a resumption of classes in early May was for now just a “hypothesis”.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Gareth Jones

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