French children are to be given a “citizen’s handbook” to teach them to be better republicans, as part of national identity measures announced by the government on Monday.

Schools will be ordered to fly the French flag and to have a copy of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in every classroom.

The measures, announced by the French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, are the first to emerge from the country’s controversial debate on national identity.

Under new rules, immigrants who come to live in France, who since 2007 have had to sign a contract of welcome and integration, will have to take part in a more solemn ceremony to become French citizens. They will also be expected to demonstrate a better command of the French language and a greater knowledge of the “values of the republic.” All candidates will be required to sign a “charter” outlining their rights and responsibilities.

Lessons for immigrant parents, currently being tested in 12 regions, will be introduced across the country from September.

“The emphasis will be put on the respect for the values of the republic ... notably the principle of equality between men and women ... and the level of knowledge of the French language,” said Mr. Fillon. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

More In: Comment | Opinion