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Teachers unions predict huge turnout for strike

Text by Amara MAKHOUL

Latest update : 2008-11-20

Teachers from all levels of the French education system, kindergarten to university, go on strike on Thursday over job cuts. Primary schools will be particularly affected, with seven in 10 teachers stopping work, according to the unions.


The teaching world will mobilise en masse on Thursday for a strike, according to unions.


Along with budget cuts, they have denounced the disorder plaguing primary schools since reforms brought in by the Education Minister, Xavier Darcos, and are calling for “truthful social dialogue” with him.


According to Snuipp-FSU, the main teacher’s union, seven in 10 teachers are expected to participate in the strike. There has not been a similar participation rate since the strikes of 2003 protesting pension reform.


Reductions in aide to students in difficulty at heart of the protest


The main source of anger is the removal of 13,500 positions under the 2009 budget, which would throw into doubt the resources available for helping students in difficulty.


Close to 3,000 teachers specialising in this area would, in effect, be returned to regular classes.  


According to Snuipp-FSU, 150,000 students, many of them suffering psychological problems, are in need of the services of the so-called Rased (réseaux d’aide spécialisée aux élèves en difficulté) network.


“We cannot help these students when we have 30 students per class,” said Aurélien Mateu, a teacher for 29 years in Paris. “Every week, they receive 45 minutes of help from specialist teachers in groups of three or four, or individually. If we cancel Rased, this will increase the gap between students.”


The minister, Xavier Darcos, has questioned the effectiveness of restricting the specialist help to small groups.


“It’s about taking 3,000 Rased posts, which are itinerant, and putting them into classes, precisely where we have need of them, where they can form permanent teaching teams,” he said.


Contesting the program of reforms 

Aside from the cuts to Rased foreseen in 2009, the reform of primary school programs by the minister at the start of the new school term in 2008 – including the removal of Saturday classes - also provoked anger among teachers.

Presented by Xavier Darcos as a return to the "fundamentals" of mathematics and French, it is perceived differently by the teachers. For Gilles Moindrot, general secretary of Snuipp-FSU union, "It is not a return to the fundamentals because the hours allocated to maths and French have remained the same.”


Aurélien Mateu sees, in practice, the reform as paradoxical: "It’s absurd, we have lost 108 hours a year with the removal of Saturday but the program has not changed and the new subjects like history and art were added,” he said.



Date created : 2008-11-20