A study of more than 3,000 illustrations found in 29 of France’s most commonly used school books revealed that black people were frequently portrayed as jazz musicians, good sprinters or poor, while children with foreign backgrounds were shown to be inferior academically than their white French peers.
The report by Halde, the state anti-discrimination body, cites an example of a picture of a girl with a “nice French name” getting top marks while her foreign-sounding classmate, Samira, failed the exercise.
In geography and social history textbooks, Africans are consistently shown as “poor and sick” – with the exception of one photograph of a “smiling Maasai herdsman surrounded by his flock while talking on a mobile phone”.
The French education system wants to make it clear that discrimination is an offence. It conceded that improvement had been made in recent years but there was a lack of “counter-examples” – positive images to counter negative ones.