October 28, 2013 by jenniebean10
This past week, a series of protests took place throughout Spain. On Friday, nearly all teachers across the country were on strike. Protesters took to the streets that afternoon and held demonstrations rallying against the recent educational reform bill passed this week.
I spoke with a couchsurfer, who is a school teacher instructing students on an administrative track, and she explained some of the problems with the new “Wert law”. Changes include increasing the already high class size limit from 30 to 35 students. With more influence from the Catholic Church, emphasis on religion in public schools will increase. Struggling students will be forced to choose their vocational tracks at an even earlier age. Grant funding for higher education will be reduced, limiting access to higher education, particularly for students from lower-income households. At the same time, private schools (like those in the Catalan region that teach only in Castilian Spanish) will receive state grants and more funding. There’s a push for a more standardized curriculum across the country, which means teaching to the test, a big problem in the US public educational system as well. Thousands of teachers and educational workers have been laid off in a bandaid-solution effort to reduce budget deficits. The teacher I spoke with said that Spanish people are upset about the education reform laws and cuts; though she doesn’t feel anything will change, it still feels good to show that they’re not happy about what’s going on. Still, it’s depressing knowing that politicians will sacrifice young people’s education, and then rationalize that these changes are positive, will benefit students, stimulate growth, or reduce the drop-out rate. Spain’s unemployment rate is currently at 26%, the highest in the EU.
The streets in the city centre were PACKED with people. Educators, students, concerned citizens, and bystanders gathered to support the teachers’ strike. People had signs, flags, t-shirts, balloons, bullhorns, and drums. I’ve never before been a part of this large of a demonstration. It was really cool to see such unity there.