Tens of thousands of protestors marched in Paris on Sunday to press demands that the French government scrap proposed education cuts and invest in schools as the best way to confront the financial crisis.
Organisers of the national day of protest said 80,000 people took part in the march but police put the figure at 32,000.
Shouting slogans like "Banks or education: I've made my choice!" and "Investing in schools is our future", the protestors -- mostly teachers and students -- accused the government of failing to make education a priority.
The protest was held a few weeks before parliament is to begin debate on the education budget for 2009, which provides for 13,500 job cuts.
Close to 20,000 jobs were slashed in 2007 and 2008 under President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to trim the civil service by not replacing many of the retiring employees.
Higher Education Minister Valerie Pecresse said the protest was "unjustified and out of sync" with reality.
"Education today is the top priority of the government," she said.
The protest was organised by 47 organisations -- parent's associations, teachers' unions and others -- in the latest show of force against the budget cuts.
Leading politicians in the opposition Socialist Party took part including Paris Mayor Betrand Delanoe who is the frontrunner to win the party leadership next month.
"This is a matter of urgency. Education is in jeopardy," Delanoe said.
Sarkozy campaigned for the presidency last year on a plan to trim down the civil service as part of a broader plan to overhaul the state and bring down public spending.