PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday detailed plans to do away with an elite academic institution that’s a key pillar of the country’s power establishment, replacing it with a more egalitarian version.
Macron was addressing hundreds of civil servants by video conference about planned reforms in the top ranks of the civil service, including putting an end to the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, widely known as ENA.
Macron himself, like most French presidents, is a graduate of the Strasbourg-based school which is the training ground for the nation’s most senior civil servants.
Macron had first referred to the idea two years ago, as France was shaken by the yellow vest protest movement seeking economic and social justice.
The reform would include a common learning trunk for all top civil servants to expose them to the realities of today, including secularism, poverty, ecology and scientific discourse.
In a peacemaking effort with Yellow Vest protesters, whose marches turned violent, Macron traveled the country in 2019 to discuss contested issues in what was billed as a “great national debate.” It concluded in late April with a news conference in which he said ENA should be ended because it doesn’t resemble French society.
The school founded in 1945 by Gen. Charles de Gaulle — with the intention of making access to the top echelons of the civil service more democratic.
The head of the association of former ENA students, Daniel Keller, disagreed with the common notion that the school turns out a cookie-cutter elite who think alike, saying on BFMTV that ENA graduates “are in contact with what is real.”
He said the 40 students who enter ENA each year are on average 25 years old, time enough to have been exposed to life, for 20 months of study.
“We must get out of this fantasy,” he said.