Poland Teachers Protest Reforms

Poland Teachers Protest Reforms

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Thousands of Poland's teachers and parents on Saturday protested the conservative government's plan to phase out middle schools that serve children between the ages of 12 and 16.

Organized by the teachers' union, the noisy protest in downtown Warsaw was another public show of discontent with the policies of Poland's year-old Law and Justice government. The organizers said about 50,000 people participated.

Over the past year, Warsaw has seen repeated massive protests against various steps taken by the government, especially those which critics say undermine the rule of law.

The Education Ministry wants to do away with the country's three-year middle schools starting next year. The ministry says the schools are unsafe and do a poor job educating students. It wants to go back to a system used under communism of eight-year primary schools followed by a four-year secondary school. That system was changed in 1999, when middle schools were introduced.

The protesters, joined by some local governors from across Poland, said they fear the loss of jobs, and argued that the new curriculum would have to be written in haste and would be poor quality. Some teachers say the reform is intended to add to the curriculum nationalist values and facts that are key for Law and Justice policy.

The marchers said that middle schools have helped bring Poland's education up to European standards, while a reform of the system would be costly.

"This reform is done in haste. It will bring nothing but chaos for our children," said Ewa Gniatkowska, a mother of a 10-year-old from Warsaw.

The protesters heaped pieces of chalk in front of the Parliament, to protest the draft law of the school reform.