School: demands and dialogue
After the first three days of the teachers' strike (there are still two more planned, and a sixth in defence of Catalan in schools), the balance is of a large mobilisation that has forced the Education Department to make some immediate concessions, and it is likely that it will not take long to make some other gesture, especially if it repeats mistakes such as distributing a leaflet at the Education Salon on the changes to the new baccalaureate, before having informed schools. If it was a showdown, it is clear who won.
But, of course, a strike in the world of education is not just a labour dispute, although it has some aspects of this. It is something more. In the background lies the shared concern for a better education: the problem is how this desire is put into practice. What changes should be made? At what pace? How is the new curriculum dictated by the Spanish Ministry of Education, for example, rolled out? What should be done about rulings forcing schools to teach a quarter of classes in Spanish? What should the post-pandemic normality be? How should it go about shortening school summer holidays, long demanded by experts? What should be done to restore prestige to the profession? How can teacher training be transformed? There are many challenges ahead.
Faced with the foreseeable obstacles and inertia that he thought he would encounter, Catalan Education Minister Josep González-Cambray decided to accelerate the changes and took the fast track. The haste and the desire are understandable, but from the outset what he has achieved has been to unite the general malaise, which has turned against him. It would be a pity, however, if the protest were to result in immobilism: if the consequence were a pact on the most labor-related issues and, on the other hand, the rest were left, once again, for a later date. In other words, fear of change would prevail. Because precisely the attitude of many of those who have come out to protest is to demand from the administration that things change, that there be more autonomy for schools, more confidence in teachers, more resources, more empathy from families, more motivation for students, more.... In fact, it is the same demand that society in general has with the educational system, which it would like to be an example of quality and collective pride, of equal opportunities and social mobility, and instead bury the image of methodological or labour quarrels, of bureaucratic burdens, of perennial differences between state and chartered schools, of complaints and demotivation.
The idea of exigency must be, therefore, what leads the way out of the impasse. It should affect everyone: the administration, of course, but also students and teachers themselves. The other strong idea should be dialogue, but not a dialogue that sleeps on changes and seeks fearful compromises, but a courageous dialogue, to really move forward. It should seek to imitate countries where education is best, but also domestic examples which are leading the way.