French Teachers Protest Additional Half-Day of Class

Baku, February 14 (AZERTAC). Following the introduction of Francois Hollande’s plan to reform the French education system last month, elementary school teachers across France went on strike Tuesday February 12 to protest the additional half-day of school that the reform would implement, making a 4 day-week system a 4.5-day system. This is the third time in the last month that teachers have protested the reform. Tuesday, elementary schools across the country were closed as a result. In Paris, the majority of the region’s schools shut their doors as Parisian teachers joined the strike against this plan, proposed by the Education Minister, Vincent Peillon. In conflicting reports, Peillon claimed that 36.17% of teachers were on strike while teachers’ unions claimed 60%.

This is Hollande’s first major education reform of his tenure, and though to Americans this change sounds minimal, the reform would upend the traditional French school week. By holding morning classes on Wednesdays, this proposal, if enacted as planned in September 2013, would end a long-running tradition of a mid-week break from school for French students ages 3 to 11.

In defending the reform, Peillon argued that it would be beneficial to both students and teachers: by shortening the school day and adding the additional class-time on Wednesdays, students would benefit from extra-curricular activities at school, now possible with the extra half-day, while teachers’ overall workload would be lightened thanks to the shorter school-day. Teachers, however, did not agree, citing their already overloaded workload and claiming that such a reform would not only prove ineffective, but would worsen an already difficult job.

Hollande’s government was surprised by the fierce disapproval this proposal met as the teachers’ unions across France had been major supporters of Hollande and the Parti Socialiste (PS) in the presidential elections, mainly due to the party’s promise to overhaul France’s education system. However, many teachers expressed their disbelief and disappointment at what they see is a hasty, inadequate response to the problem.

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