Geneva’s teachers continue to strike over increased hours, larger classes and potential job losses. Many parents and students have supported teachers in their efforts to preserve the quality of their teaching environment. New developments however are posing questions on the effect of extended strike action on the children.
Students recently voiced their discontent when the much-anticipated Geneva Escalade celebrations were cancelled in most schools due to a lack of staff. They felt aggrieved that, after backing their teachers in their endeavours, they were directly punished. The unions claim their decision was taken for health and safety reasons, also pointing out that this demonstrated the need for funding for extra-curricular activities.
Many parents are now also alarmed by teachers’ latest move to withhold grades. In order to put pressure on the State and education administration, teachers have decided to withhold students’ term grades. The consequences of this are potentially serious.
The three-year secondary school cycle in Geneva operates a three-level streaming system based on grades and performance, mainly in French, Maths and German. At the end of every term, students who have considerably improved their scores are able to move up a stream. This process starts with a request from students and parents but can only begin once grades are known. If grades are not submitted before the Christmas holidays, some students will miss out on the opportunity to move up a level next term.
What has been presented as a mere delay by striking teachers might have a far greater impact on the students concerned as it could affect their motivation. In turn this could lead to declining performance with the potential to miss the boat entirely leaving them in the middle or lower stream with no access to university reducing their career choices.
Teachers’ strikes have always had a direct impact on students. And while everyone has a strong opinion on the matter, let us hope that the unions and the State soon reach an understanding so that students’ futures aren’t put at risk.
By Sabine Hutcheson
Sabine is an education consultant at TutorsPlus