30th anniversary of the ‘academic triads’


The challenges currently facing the defence and education sectors, and the doubts and uncertainties affecting French young people, are evidence of how the trinômes académiques, or 'academic triads', are more important today than ever before.


On 22 November 2017, the Hôtel national des Invalides, that icon of French military history, will host the 30th anniversary of the trinômes académiques. The event will be an opportunity to look back on the actions carried out since

1987, to hear from teachers, and also to consider how the trinômes might respond to the contemporary challenges of national defence and citizenship. “Citizenship education and defence education go hand in hand,” explains Olivier de Lavenère Lussan, chair of the national trinômes committee at Union-IHEDN. “It is about teaching young people to take their share of responsibility in society.”


At the origin of the trinômes académiques, a memorandum of understanding signed in 1982 between the French education and defence ministries proposed for the two institutions to work together on developing and promoting a spirit and culture of defence. Five years later, in September

1987, the original structure of the trinômes was proposed, decentralised to regional education authority level. Their first activities consisted primarily of visits to military units and conferences.

Each trinôme was placed under the aegis of the regional chief education officer, who was assisted by the regional military commander and the chair of the regional association of alumni of the Institut des hautes études de défense nationale (IHEDN), a public academic establishment whose key purpose is the development of the spirit of defence. Jean-François Dedieu, who was a member of the IHEDN association for the Alsace region in 1991, before becoming its chair in 2004, recalls: “To begin with, we walked on eggshells. Two entirely distant worlds - education and defence - discovered and got to know one another, then came to appreciate each other. [...] Today, we would be lost without these links.”


The trinômes académiques are an alliance between the military community and the educational community. They bring together regional education inspectors and departmental military commanders, teachers and regional chairs of the Union-IHEDN, students and members of the armed forces. This partnership approach finds concrete expression in the three annual meetings of the committee for the promotion of the spirit of defence. The members issue an opinion on the projects received, approximately 300 of which are funded each year by the Directorate for Remembrance, Heritage and Archives (DMPA). Keen to give greater visibility to the activities of the trinômes, the DMPA has produced an information leaflet and short video, together with reports that are published on the website

The signing of a new interministerial memorandum in 2016 incorporated the agriculture ministry into the trinômes, thereby broadening their scope to include agricultural educational establishments. The new text takes the partnership approach a step further, by recommending the creation of a network comprised of associations, university and high-school student representatives, reservists, as well as environmental, social, political, economic and cultural actors. Eric Barrault, defence education officer at the Directorate-General for Schools, says: “The use of digital tools - the websites of the regional education authorities and regional associations, and the collaborative platform Viaeduc - should lead to the creation of closely interlinked communities.” Lastly, the 2016 memorandum seeks to broaden the scope of competencies to include themes such as remembrance and reducing early school leaving, and proposes the development of links between defence and higher education. It gives the trinômes new responsibilities, such as that of communicating directly with school students, the citizens of tomorrow.


Anne-Marie Hazard-Tourillon, an inspector at Créteil education authority and chair of the trinôme académique on behalf of chief education officer Béatrice Gille, told us the following: “If I had to sum up the main contribution of the trinômes, I would say it was how they contribute to young people's citizenship. Through the activities carried out with teachers and students, the trinômes académiques encourage an understanding of why a peaceful democracy like France needs a national defence policy to ensure the security of its population. It is a highly topical issue crucial to civic life.”

From the civic challenge at Lavelanet, Ariège, on 9 May 2017, to a visit to Air Base 115 in Orange in April, to a seminar on the defence of Republican values held at the Lycée de Kaweni, in the overseas department of Mayotte, in January, the spirit of defence is propagated throughout French territory through the activities of the trinômes, veritable local agents for defence education. General Bertrand de Reboul, army commander for the Southeast zone, expressed it in these terms: “For the armed forces, it means participating in citizenship education, taking up our full place, and no more. In that context, the trinômes académiques are essential to our work, because they give us access to schools and thus legitimate our activities with them.”


Since the trinômes académiques were set up, no fewer than 100 000 teachers have taken part in their activities across all of the regional education authorities in metropolitan France and the overseas French territories. Annual figures for the activities of the trinômes show the increasing involvement of actors on the ground. For instance, student participation increased fivefold in ten years. Meanwhile, the activities have diversified. Today, some 500 000 schoolchildren have their awareness raised about defence issues every year, through civic challenges and meetings with servicemen and women engaged in operations.

In a few weeks' time, the 30th anniversary of the trinômes will be an opportunity to announce loud and clear, and in one voice, the new ambitions for those involved in defence education: contribute to raising the profile of the trinômes, reinforce teacher training, be open to new partners and, five years from now, reach the equivalent of an entire annual intake, i.e. 750 000 to 800 000 young people each year.

The editor

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