Evaluating the National Education Emergency Plan: Insights and Analysis

At the moment of writing these lines, the Créteil rectory has 13% of strikers in the first level and 9% in the second level for the day of the strike on April 22. The unions are asking for a 30% strike rate. All in all, the last day marks the decline of the movement, which is logical, after a two-month struggle without a clear perspective given by the union leadership.

Since February 26, institutions, mainly in Seine-Saint-Denis (93), have been fighting in defense of public schools and against repeated attacks by the Macron-Attal government: staff, but also students and parents, mobilized in joint actions.

The students' parents are also mobilizing

In several facilities in 1993, the strike was the majority with more than 70% participation on certain days. With this dynamic, the strike movement was renewed several times, after the discussion at the Assembly of the General Staff.

The solidarity of the students' parents was quickly manifested, and the days of strikes and demonstrations alternated with the days of the so-called “abandoned faculties”. The initiative, launched by the Federation of Councils of Parents and Teachers (FCPE) in Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, Bordeaux and other cities, aimed to encourage parents not to send their children to college in support of the mobilization of teachers.

Emergency plan for disgusting working conditions

“Obviously we don't have a ceiling,” high school students from Blaise-Cendrars de Sevran condemn in a video published on March 6 on TikTok. Students and professors of this institution highlight the uncertainty of their learning and working conditions: walls covered in mold, toilets without ceilings or soap, classes without desks, broken chairs or none at all. This video, which quickly surpassed two million views, highlights the outpouring of support sparked by the 93 school struggle.

For its part, the union leadership is asking for a support plan: the creation of 5,200 teaching posts, 2,000 posts for those supporting students with disabilities (AESH), 175 posts of consultant education (CPE) and 650 posts of educational assistants, as well as new recruitments school nurses and social workers. All these measures represent a total financial investment estimated at 358 million euros.

Inequalities exacerbated by the reform project

In response to the mobilization, the government found nothing better than a new counter-reform. The latter will highlight inequalities across the territory – especially in the poorest areas, such as Seine-Saint-Denis.

This so-called “knowledge shock” counter-reform project envisages the establishment of “level groups”. Students in the same class would follow most lessons together, but would be separated into “level groups” for French and math lessons, which make up a third of their classes. Therefore, for these classes, the main criterion for group composition would be “homogeneity”.

Even from an educational point of view, the creation of homogeneous groups is highly questionable. This is in contrast to the majority of studies and research conducted in the field of education over the last 30 years, which specifically emphasize the need for a heterogeneous environment to promote learning. On top of everything, these measures do not in any way solve the real problem of national education, the lack of teachers and overcrowding of classes.

French classes are among the most overcrowded in Europe, especially in high school, with an average of 25.6 students per class – where the European average is 20.9. In many cases they exceed 30 students. In such conditions, the so-called miraculous solution of “pedagogical differentiation”, which is so praised by various ministers who have changed, is simply unachievable. How would it be possible for teachers, who are already overworked, to provide qualitative lessons differentiated by “levels” without even talking about physical presence with these multiple groups? The Ministry does not give a clear answer and in the name of “flexibility” leaves it to the schools to find their way in the practical application of this reform as they know how.

The “conflict of knowledge” actually has a double goal: on the one hand, it is a reactionary propaganda operation on the theme “school was better before”; and above all, by proposing a so-called “miracle method” that costs the state almost nothing, it allows to justify the deep cuts that have taken place in national education budgets in recent years – and even to prepare others.

The movement needs a strategy and an offensive program

Seine-Saint-Denis has a long tradition of fighting to defend public schools. She led an exemplary struggle in 1998, which enabled the recruitment of 3,000 people. But today the economic and political situation is very different: public accounts are in the red and the French ruling class absolutely has to save to reduce its deficits. The government is therefore determined to implement these counter-reforms.

In this context, only a general and renewable nationwide strike could force the government to back down: “days of action”, even massive ones, will not make Macron relent. But union leaders never explain this truth. What is worse, the latter foster the illusion that the teachers' struggle can only be won in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis and only in the national education sector… This is impossible!

We have already written it and repeated it at the assemblies in which we participated during the mobilization: 1) an urgent plan to save public schools is necessary not only in 93, but in all departments. 2) The defense of national education is a struggle that is part of a wider struggle against the Macron-Attal government. This struggle must be led by the entire labor movement.

Cutting of the state budget and attacks on the living and working conditions of young people and employees will continue. The will to fight exists, but it must be organized and coordinated at the national level in order to deliver a decisive blow to the employers and their government. That's why the slogan about another general strike remains the only valid one!

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