Rome, Nov. 9 - Late last month Italy's Education Minister Maria Stella Gelmini’s controversial
public education reform was approved by lawmakers, introducing radical changes throughout the education
sectors that are deeply unpopular with students, parents and opposition politicians.
Leader of the Democratic Party,
Walter Veltroni, is promoting a national referendum to repeal the decree. Students and parents are joining him with massive protests in Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples, Bologna, Bari and Turin.
In Rome, university professors and teachers joined in the effort by leading lessons
throughout different piazzas in Rome; more are planned.
Critics say the new proposal -- which would includes spending cuts of nearly 8 billion euros, a return to single-teacher system for subjects in primary schools, and grades for conduct -- will set Italian schools back 30 years, damaging classroom reforms set in the 1970s.
The concept of having one teacher per
primary school class will result in tens of thousands of teachers losing
their jobs. Parents believe that a return to a one-teacher-per-class
system (from three teachers today) will cause a drop in education standards and potentially the elimination of courses like theatre and music. And, cutting the school week from 31 hours per week to 24 will cause logistical headaches for working parents, others contend.
“This law pushes toward the direction of privatization in the University sector,” said, Rosa Filardi, a John Cabot University Italian instructor. “With privatization comes a huge separation between the rich and poor. Taxes will increase making it harder for some families to even send their children to university,” she added.
After the vote was taken, the 134 senators against the reforms joined the students, teachers, and other protesters outside in Rome's Palazzo Madamo. Veltroni believes that both schools and universities will be damaged by the new reforms passed and will have devastating effects on the education system. In order for a referendum to pass, Veltroni needs 500,000 signatures and in a city with nearly three million people, it will be interesting to see whether or not he reaches the goal.
Already, the Center Right government of Silvio Berlusconi, the architects behind the plan, are considering watered-down alternatives.