Teachers in the Balearic Isles in Spain are starting the second week of their determined strike today. Thousands of teachers demonstrated every day last week outside the government building in Palma, the capital of the province. All the teachers' unions are supporting the strike and lecturers too walked out in support.

The strike is over two major issues. Firstly it is against deep cuts to the education budget in the area, which have seen teachers' salaries cut by 25% and the working week increased by two and a half hours. Morevoer there are 1000 fewer teachers this year than last for the same number of students. Secondly a major change has been dictated, by the right wing PP government, to education. The language of instruction will no longer be the Balearic version of Catalan, the language of the islands for 800 years, instead education will be through the medium of three languages, Catalan, Spanish and English. While it might seem bizarre that English is given parity with the native languages of Spain, this is a typical neo-liberal policy - seen particularly in the Global South, in countries which used to be part of the British empire, where English is seen by the ruling elite as the language of aspiration. However it has not, up to now, been the pattern in Europe.

The change has caused outrage among teachers and the wider society as has the complete refusal of the government to negotiate. Three headmasters who wrote a letter disagreeing with the three language system were promptly suspended. One government party politician commented about the strike: “The positive side of this strike is that (we) will know the name and surname of those who are concerned about the future of our children and those, on the other hand, who are playing with the students to achieve political goals.” Some high school students protesting in support of the teachers have been arrested by police.

To read more background especially on the language issue go here