Striking French teachers took to the streets on Tuesday in protests over cuts, low pay and education reform.
The teachers who are members of the largest teaching union, the FSU, were protesting austerity measures and the failure of the Hollande government to make good on his promise to reverse the massive cuts made by his predecessor, Sarkozy. When in office, Sarkozy cut 60,000 teaching posts, which has left overcrowded classrooms and a massive shortage of teachers.
Moreover the introduction of ‘reform’ style school choice measures has seen the phenomenon of ‘white flight’ from schools with large populations from Muslim communities. These schools are already badly underfunded and teachers in these areas were among the largest numbers to support Tuesday’s strike. Although the other large teaching union did not join the strike 60% of teachers took part in some areas of Paris.
Thousands took to the streets in the capital and there were protests in many other towns including Nice, Rouen and Lyon. Teachers carried banners protesting about their pay, which has been frozen for several years, while headteachers have received significant rises. Above all though teachers are protesting for proper funding for education, not just for their pay but for the sake of the students who are missing out due to cuts and education ‘reform’, meaning for instance that hours are cut for students who need them most, such as those for whom French is not their first language. Moreover poorly trained substitute teachers are too often used to plug gaps in the timetable.
Teachers say that reform has been brought in without consultation. One nursery teacher said ‘I feel disrespected because we are not listened to or considered. They never ask us, the teachers, what works and what doesn’t, it all goes through the media.’
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