Nationwide school strike and protest marches against ‘stifling’ education reform and double exam pressure

school-strikePROTEST marches set off this morning Wednesday at 08.20 and 09.00 in Villarobledo (Albacete province) and Onil (Alicante province) respectively as part of a nationwide strike and demonstration against extra exams forced on fifth- and sixth-form students, and more are due to take place as the day progresses.

Given that Spain’s equivalent of GCSEs and A-levels – the ESO and Bachillerato – are marked by students’ own teachers, the newly-applied schools reform, known as the LOMCE, now requires pupils take an extra exam on top which is externally-graded.

If they pass the former but fail the latter, they will have failed the entire qualification and will have to resit it.

This double exam burden will increase the stress students already face at revision time, especially as the format of the additional tests is not yet known so teachers cannot prepare them for it – and it undermines teachers themselves, schools complain.

A 14-year-old boy started a petition on Change.org against the extra exams, known as re-validation tests or reválidas, and as at a month ago had netted over half a million signatures.

The reválidas are just one aspect of the LOMCE which has upset teachers, parents and pupils.

Education experts say the curriculum content is tantamount to indoctrination by the State, places too much importance on exam grades rather than wider learning, eliminates social and emotional development in education vital for the transition to adulthood, condemns weaker students to a ‘factory-fodder’ future at a very young age rather than helping them develop their full potential, stifles creativity, and is based largely upon the old-fashioned learning-by-rote method instead of teaching children critical thinking, reasoning and analysis skills.

It also means the standard exam pass mark of 50% is not enough to get to university – a minimum grade of 55% is needed to qualify for a grant which merely covers tuition fees, and to get financial help with student living costs requires a 65% mark.

Once at college, students face extra pressure to pass modules with minimum grades to continue getting grant money and not to have to refund it if they do not reach them.

Demonstration timetable
The strike affects schools nationwide and protests will be held in every region, and in most provinces.

A timetable has been released by the organisers, although this is not exhaustive as many more demonstrations are likely to be held in smaller towns and villages which are too numerous to name.

At 11.00, marches will leave from the Plaza Mayor in Calpe (Alicante province) and from the provincial council offices in Albacete city, and all the other demonstrations will start at noon.

These have been staged by pupils themselves, and this evening will bring further protests and processions involving school communities, PTAs, parents, students and campaign groups.

At 17.45, a march will leave from the Plaza Puerta de Montilla in the town of Montilla (Córdoba province), and at 18.30 from the Plaza de la Montañeta in Alicante.

Protest marches starting at 18.00 will be held in Andalucía (Málaga, Sevilla, Almería, Cádiz and Córdoba); Santa Cruz de Tenerife; Oviedo in Asturias; Guadalajara in Castilla-La Mancha; Madrid, and the Basque Country (Vitoria, Bilbao and San Sebastián).

Marches will start at 19.00 elsewhere in Castilla-La Mancha (Albacete, Toledo, Talavera de la Reina in the province of Toledo, Ciudad Real, and Cuenca); Zaragoza in Aragón, and the Comunidad Valenciana (Valencia and Castellón).

Finally, a protest procession will leave from outside the provincial council office in the Praça de Ourense in A Coruña (Galicia) at 19.30.

Published Think Spain26 October 2016

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