Top 10 Education Protests From Around the World

Teachers, students, citizens take to the streets to fight against austerity measures and for better education.

Schoolteachers strike in Marseille, France, this past September. The banner reads: “For Another Education Policy.” (Photo: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)

In what could be dubbed “The Year of the Protest,” 2011 continues to be marked by widespread demonstrations of discontent and demands for change.

From Tahrir Square to Wisconsin, Libya to Wall Street, people from all walks of life have united in solidarity against injustice.

In the education world, both teachers and students have had plenty of reasons to hit the streets.

On October 14, students across America rallied at 150 college campuses to protest the high cost of college and the lack of employment opportunities for graduates. These students’ voices echoed those of young people and educators worldwide who have banded together to demand reform. Here’s a snapshot of recent edu-protests that have taken place in ten different countries:

1. FRANCE: After President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that 14,000 teaching positions would be eliminated in 2012, thousands of teachers went on strike on September 27. According to the Education Ministry, more than 25 percent of primary school teachers and 20 percent of high school teachers participated in the walkout, though two teachers’unions put those figures at over 50 percent.

2. MEXICO: More than 100 schools in Acapulco closed this fall because teachers were too afraid to return to work. Violent drug cartels demanded that they hand over half their paychecks. In September, about 7,000 educators marched up the main tourist strip to ask officials for greater protection. 

3. CHILE: High school and college students have been protesting the Chilean government for the past four months, demanding better education quality, more spending on public education, and the removal of for-profit institutions. Arrests and injuries were widespread during clashes with riot police, but demonstrations continued after talks between student representatives and the government collapsed.

4. SPAIN: Madrid teachers launched a three-day strike in September to protest new austerity measures, a two-hour increase in their weekly classroom time, and cuts to temporary staff. 

5. UGANDA: Teachers in Uganda are among the lowest paid public employees, earning an average of $88 per month. Over the summer, the government agreed to increase their salaries by 44 percent in 2012. Arguing that this was insufficient, and pushing for a 100 percent raise instead, teachers began a strike at the start of the school year.

6. SCOTLAND: On September 29, college students from across the country staged a 36-hour sit-in at Strathclyde University in Glasgow to protest a dramatic increase in fees. The government announced that beginning in 2012, students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales would have to pay 27,000 pounds for a four-year degree. A spokesman for the protesters said: “The introduction of fees and continuing cuts are an attack on the values of free education that Scotland has always prided itself on. We will continue to fight cuts in education and fight wider government austerity plans.”

7. ITALY: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s education cuts totaled over $10.7 billion in three years, prompting an estimated 150,000 students to take to the streets on October 7. The demonstrators were also protesting against Italy’s unemployment problem: 27 percent of young adults between ages 15 and 24 are unable to find work.

8. GREECE: As the country’s financial crisis forced the government to adopt austerity measures across the board, education was no exception. Most recently, teacher salaries were reduced and their pensions were cut by 25 percent. Students and educators joined workers from other sectors in widespread protests.

9. KENYA: In order to pressure the government to move temporarily contracted teachers to higher-paid permanent positions, Kenyan primary school teachers went on strike in September. The government conceded a week later, and agreed to promote 18,000 teachers to permanent status, followed by an additional 5,000 promotions in January.

10. EGYPT: The start of the academic year was delayed in Egypt this fall as tens of thousands of teachers rallied in Cairo demanding smaller class sizes and a living wage.  It was the first national scale teachers’ strike in 60 years. After a week of protests, teachers returned to the classrooms while awaiting a timetable for the government to meet their demands.

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