Algerian high school students protest new curriculum
By Hayam El Hadi for Magharebia in Algiers – 21/01/08
After widespread demonstrations on Saturday (January 19th), Algerian high school students called for a strike on January 27th over education reforms they claim are unreasonable. Prompted by a teachers' strike that paralysed schools on January 15th, the students are protesting the implementation of a new curriculum for students preparing for their baccalaureate examinations.
Students in their final year claim the new syllabus is overloaded and that they may be unable to finish their coursework before taking the baccalaureate exams. The students also fear the new programme may result in an increased failure rate on the Bac.
Saturday's protest began in and around the capital, when hundreds of pupils from seven major high schools engaged in a sit-down demonstration outside the education ministry. Many chanted hostile slogans at the education minister. Under close supervision by security forces, they voiced their anger and stopped traffic. Once the word spread, similar events began in cities across the country.
In Kabylia, students took to the streets for the same reasons. Amel, a student at Omar Racim High School told Magharebia, "We haven't even finished the first semester of the syllabus, and we certainly don’t know it as well as we should." "How on earth will we be ready on the day of the Bac?" she asked. "It’s just not possible – the minister must find a solution to this problem."
Amel's teacher confirmed her student's fears. "You know, we only found out what was in the syllabus at the same time as our students," she said. "We've really tried to get through it quickly, but we'll never finish. I can understand the students’ anger; it’s justified."
National Education Minister Boubekeur Benbouzid responded to the protests by issuing a statement to reassure students and parents. He said, "The topics included in the 2008 baccalaureate will cover what has actually been taught across the country."
Furthermore, he stressed that the examination questions "will only cover teaching delivered, and will be approved by the national monitoring committee... in accordance with the current approach."
Benbouzid repeated one of his department's stated concerns, which is "upholding students’ interests", and discussed the formation of a "national committee with responsibility for carrying out quarterly reviews of progress".
The ministry, which called for the students to return to classes, has received no encouraging feedback so far. High school students continue to boycott lessons and are calling for talks with education managers. The call continues for a general strike on January 27th.
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