By: CHRIS GRAEME
AROUND 100,000 school teachers marched through Lisbon on Saturday demanding the dismissal of education minister Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues.
Massing at the city’s Marquês de Pombal roundabout, they swarmed down Avenida da Liberdade waving a sea of white flags before pouring into Terreiro do Paço protesting against current government policies.
The demonstration was against government attempts to shake-up public education in a bid to ensure better results in the classroom through teacher evaluation.
However, critics claim the government really wants to slash the nation’s 143,000 teachers in a cost-cutting exercise and end the generous rights and privileges teachers have had since April 25, 1974.
Many dressed in black and sporting placards and banners screaming slogans such as ‘Public education has had enough’ and ‘It’s high time the minister went’, the Marcha de Indignação (Indignation March) – the largest of its kind in recent years – was largely a peaceful, well-organised affair.
The Portuguese government has repeatedly said that Portugal must raise educational standards and the competencies of its teachers if it is to compete in 21st century Europe.
“We are here today because of our new teacher evaluation. Some of the reasons behind it are really bad for us, it’s an injustice and wrong,” said Andreia Carvalho, a Lisbon school teacher.
“They want to evaluate us using criteria that aren’t good. I think many people could lose their jobs because there are probably too many teachers in our country. It’s really about saving money and cutting courses.”
“The teacher evaluation system isn’t fair. The authorities want to use student success as a benchmark to measure how good the teachers are, but in some problem neighbourhoods where learning difficulties are rife, this means that perfectly good teachers risk losing their jobs simply because the students are disruptive and come from families with social problems,” agreed Lisbon school teacher Patricia Teixeira.
“How can it be fair to evaluate teachers in some schools where facilities are poor, the children play truant and skip classes and there are 20 or even 30 to a class?” she said.
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