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France Prepares For Swine Flu Emergency With Online Education

The swine flu has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. this year, with 43,771 confirmed and probable cases since April, but we are not alone. Swine flu has gone worldwide, and European countries like France have seen their fair share of the outbreak already. In an effort to contain further spread of the virus, the French government is preparing for the possibility of shutting down all schools in the country -- but they aren't without a plan. Rather than allow schoolchildren to languish in quarantine without their proper schooling, France is instead turning to modern technology and online education.

According to Financial Times, French education minister Luc Chatel stated that, "in the event of a 'total pandemic' he was ready to order a total shutdown of all schools in France, during which time lessons for pupils aged between six and 17 would be broadcast on public television and radio and posted on the internet." It's a drastic plan, and only one option at the moment (by no means a certainty). Still, it's an option that France is more than willing to take if necessary, especially given a recent study which suggested that "a prolonged closure of schools early on in an outbreak could prevent the spread of the disease and ease the burden on hospitals."

There are, of course, other concerns to be addressed -- economic factors are the biggest concern, as parents are forced to put off work in favor of staying home with their children for those extra weeks (and especially the strain for those parents who are also health care workers). That said, utilizing methods of distance learning is an ingenious approach to one facet of a difficult situation. Over the next couple of weeks, only time and the general state of French health will tell whether this plan will go into effect, but Chatel has made it clear that it's on the playbooks should worst come to worst: "We are preparing for all eventualities," he said. "We must neither play [the epidemic] down nor dramatise it. There is no question of dropping our guard."

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