Discontented teachers strike

2 min
A Catalan school, in an archive image.

This Tuesday's strike in primary and secondary schools makes the distance between teachers and the Department of Education evident. There has been a palpable lack of dialogue, and families across the country find it hard to understand that bringing forward the start of the school year by one week in September could spark such a protest. The educational community is tense, far from the consensus that would be needed to give a boost to education in Catalonia, which, on the other hand, everyone is calling for. For a long time, teachers have been affected by dissatisfaction and discontent which mix elements that are difficult to reconcile. They are pushing in two different directions: on the one hand, they demand their working conditions to be improved, as the austerity cuts were never fully reversed; on the other hand, they see the need to make significant changes in the way subjects are taught, for which more resources are requested, but above all an end to the administration's immobilist and bureaucratic inertia, which in turn would damage teachers' working conditions.

All this paints a picture full of paralysing contradictions that, at this moment, have led to this clash between the unions and Catalan Education Minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, who has decided to push ahead with the changes and hold firm. The catharsis in the form of a strike is served. But hardly anything good will come of it. It seems that both the unions and the Department of Education have been taking the confrontation for granted for a long time. For the moment, and against what is supposedly the common interest of all parties, the most harmed will be the students, who will see their school rhythm broken three weeks before the Easter holidays: five days of strike are no joke. With this eventful end to the term, students will not get back into their rhythm until April 19. We are making it increasingly difficult for the boys and girls who have already been through a pandemic.

We will therefore have to turn the page as soon as possible to focus on the goal of quality education for all. And this can only be done with dialogue and commitment on all sides. Starting the school year a week earlier, and thus beginning to break a summer vacation period that is too long, should be a shared objective. Imposing it is never a good solution, but trying to stop it by force is not either. As for changes in the syllabus, guaranteeing the quality of contents, it is always better to seek agreement with those who must implement them or there is a danger that they will become a dead letter, as has often happened with so many legislative changes. In any case, the changes, if there really is a collective and shared determination to improve, must go much further, with courage and without prejudice: more autonomy for public schools (including budgetary and contractual), more freedom for each school to set its own line. Only in this way, with ambitious agreements, will the educational community be able to exert a joint pressure loaded with legitimacy to obtain, in times of recurrent crisis, more public resources to guarantee a futureproof education.