Education International
Education International

Spain: new cuts hit public education

published 18 April 2012 updated 19 April 2012

The Spanish government has informed the country’s devolved Autonomous Regions about new ‘reform measures’ for public education to be passed by royal decree on Friday. They involve a €3 billion cut in the education budget which will necessitate an increase in teaching hours, the dismissal of 100,000 teaching staff and, therefore, will result in children being educated in overcrowded classrooms.

Faced with such a serious situation, EI affiliates FE-CC.OO, FETE-UGT, STES and CSIF have once again joined forces in defence of quality public education.

On Monday, union representatives handed in a joint statement at the doors of the Ministry of Education, warning the Spanish Government that this is not the way out of the crisis as expenditure on education “is the best possible investment for a people’s future”.

Overcrowded classrooms

One of the most alarming repercussions of the cuts will be an increase in pupil ratio of up to 20 per cent at primary and secondary level. At some levels of compulsory education, the ratio will then reach 33-40 pupils per classroom. Trade unions believe this measure is intended to provide justification for closing down schools at these levels.

As a result, there will be a generalised decrease in the number of classrooms in rural areas, where schools with nine or fewer pupils will disappear, as will Centros Rurales Agrupados(Group Rural Centres). Unions warn this will be a devastating blow to regions already under-populated and socially deprived.

“At present, public education reaches every corner of our country; from the smallest island to the most isolated mountain village, from city centres and out to the furthest outskirts,” reads the trade unions’ statement. “It reaches those places which would never be profitable for the private sector. That is what ensures education for all the country’s inhabitants, wherever they may be.”

Excessive number of classes

Additionally, teaching hours per week are to be increased to 25 at primary level and 20 at secondary. This entails losing teachers' valuable time for other activities including pedagogical innovation projects, meeting with pupils’ families, tutorials, and class preparation.

At the same time, the new measures stipulate that sick leave of less than 10 school days will either not be covered or will be covered by each school’s own resources, causing problems for the school administration.

Overall, for the 2012-2013 school year, there will be between 80,000-100,000 fewer teachers in the Spanish educational system.

The range of courses on offer and the introduction of new curricula, essential factors for ensuring renovation and updated teaching methods, will also be negatively affected by other structural measures to be introduced.

A lost generation

Education unions have criticised the Ministry of Education’s reluctance to engage in dialogue, refusing to discuss these measures in the democratic forums and channels established by law. Instead, the Ministry has imposed measures challenging current constitutional laws and regulations.

The measures are an encroachment by the central government on education measures which were legally transferred to the Autonomous Communities, such as numbers of teaching hours and mechanisms for covering vacancies.

The trade unions’ joint statement makes pointed reference to the negative effects on Spanish youth.  “Several generations of young people educated in our universities are being condemned to out-and-out unemployment, underemployment and emigration,” it says.

“We cannot stay silent while we are wasting our country’s greatest assets, that is, its human capital, the best educated that we have ever had,” it continues, referring to the 47 per cent of youngsters currently unemployed.

EI support

EI offers its full support to the Spanish unions in the defence of both public education and the teaching profession, to ensure equal opportunities for all and progress for the society as a whole.

To read the full statement (in Spanish), click here.