The Plataforma Estatal por la Escuela Pública (State Platform for Public Education), an umbrella group of trade unions and civil society organisations, has called a general education strike, for every level, on 24 October. An increase in pupil-teacher ratios, in contact hours, job losses, and budget cuts in areas as essential as teacher training, are just some of the grievances cited.
Since 2010, Spain has seen cuts to school and university budgets of over €6.4 billion. In 2012-2013, public spending on education amounted to barely 3.9 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
This has led to a reduction in grants, a sharp rise in university fees and the elimination of support programmes for pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs. In addition, the programme of investment in new technologies has disappeared, as have the subsidies to parents’ associations.
Punishing law approvedOn top of these cuts, harsh education reforms were eventually approved on 10 October by the current government, without parliamentary support.
The so-called Organic Law for the Improvement of Education Quality (LOMCE) will mean a reduction of over 80,000 teaching and support staff posts, as well as pay cuts and an increase in teachers’ workload.
The LOMCE will be implemented over two academic years, beginning with the coming one, with unions complaining that curricula and textbooks will have to be prepared in a very short space of time.
Citizens’ consultationTherefore, the Platform,comprising EI’s affiliates: FECCOO, FETE-UGT, and STES, as well as students organisations and the parents’ federation, has initiated a mass citizens’ consultation on education, from 23 September-27 October.
Stalls will be set up in streets, schools and universities across Spain to collect signatures of support. Two basic questions will be put to the public: Are you against the education cuts? Do you reject the central government’s education policies?
On 17 October, the signatures collected to date were delivered to the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to illustrate the massive support teachers have among the population.
International solidarity“It is materially impossible to maintain standards of education quality if, amongst other things, far fewer teachers have to take care of many more pupils,” stated EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.
“This is not the way to tackle the 30 per cent-school failure rate, nor the 50 per cent youth unemployment rate in Spain. You cannot improve the quality of teaching with fewer resources,” he added.
EI wishes to express its solidarity with the Spanish unions and fully supports them in their defence of public education and the teaching profession, aimed at guaranteeing equal opportunities and progress across society.