Who goes on strike? Is it factory workers? Miners? Bus drivers? How about... University or even school students?

Student Power


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Student Power

by Chris Rose

When most people think of strikes, they think of factory workers asking for better pay and conditions, or perhaps refusing to work to support a colleague who has been unfairly sacked. It is not often that people associate strikes with school students. But in Italy, it is different. While in many countries it is absolutely unthinkable, in Italy it happens almost every year. Some people may remember the “Paris spring” of 1968, when in the French capital university students and factory workers all went on strike in a crisis which almost made the French republic collapse, but for many this is a long time ago now. But in Italy, however, the tradition has remained. It seems that almost every autumn there is a reason to protest. Most of the protests are national, like the current opposition to the government’s planned educational reforms, but there are also protests against things like local issues such as heating in the classes or treatment of individual students.

And what do students do to protest? All over the country they go on strike, they have demonstrations in the streets, they occupy their schools, they have lots of meetings and sometimes they try to run the schools themselves for a period, setting up their own lessons and courses.

Are all the students behind this? Well, it’s difficult to say exactly. But what is certain, is that very few students object.

“I think it’s important to show what we feel” says one high school student, “The new school reform will be very bad for state schools.”

Other students are more sceptical. “I think it’s great!” says one student, “It means we get a few days off school.” Another student is openly cynical: “All the people who are doing this... well, some of them are just troublemakers, others are people who are already planning to become politicians. They want to start their career now.” Others say that the strike leaders are being manipulated or used by groups from outside the schools.

Problems occurred recently when students from one school which was being occupied marched to another school which wasn’t protesting. The strikers stood outside the school and shouted and threw things at the windows. The non-striking students sat in their classrooms and did nothing, but their teachers went out and began to shout at the students from the striking school.

In Britain, and a lot of other countries, such action is unthinkable. Students are not allowed to go on strike, and if they did they would probably face severe disciplinary measures.

The strange thing about this, however, is that despite the number of school hours lost to strikes, Italian students are certainly no less intelligent or knowledgeable than their European counterparts. Their national averages are the same as others, despite the fact that on average they spend up to 20% less time in the classroom – with strikes being only one of the many interruptions of the Italian school year.

Troublemakers or not, perhaps there is something to be learned from the Italian way of studying!





This is the first time that I registered on this website and comment on an article. What I have learned from this article is the high efficiency on study of Italy students, which is valuable to other country's students including myself. I have to spend more time than others to make sure I will get a better score than them, as consequence, I lost chances to have fun with others. I hope that one day I can be effective on study and work.

Hello, I'm from Spain. I remember my high school age there were several student strikes, but I can't remember which were the reasons for every strike in that time, perhaps because the reasons weren't clears in that time, I remember my feeling about the strike leaders were manipulated by politics parties.
Today I have two daughters studying in the high school, last year one of them asked me about she could participate in a student strike, then I asked her why her mates were going to a strike. Her answer sounded me like joke "the new law is bad".
I started a conversation to her and I asked her to know before the exactly reasons why the law project was bad for students. She tried to do a copy-paste from an internet foro to me, at the end I got a little angry and showed her how to search the text of the law project and demanded her to read it and base her own point of view about the strike before supporting it.
My daughter didn't read the whole law project neither she supported the strike, but she understood that it wasn't truth everything she was hearing about that law. The strike day she gone to her class with a few number of mates.

In our country we have serious problems about students' strikes. The government has a great challenge order to resolve this problem. Students have the right to study in better conditions like furniture, technolgy advanced, appropriate buildings, spaces to study, labs, and the most important think is quality education, besides diversify fields of study according what society need. Authorities are establishing new rules like increase the to approval class average from 60% to 70%, but students and civil society ask for improve teachers skills to teach and share knowledge with respect, in the other hand, is important to put clear rules to students because many of them repeat classes many times without to pass them, and take off others students without chance to continue their careers. At the beginning students enrolled classes and after first exams, they abandon them, leaving others commitment students without any chance to continue their studies and the cost are very expensive to the government.

Like others universities, political issues it interrupts universities functions, but on the other hand, it is a power to stop the abuses against population from corrupted political leaders. I think that is the way to balance the forces in a poor country like ours. Dialogue is the bridge to solve all kind of controversies and important to take in mind the rule win-win. Nothing is absolute!

I wanted to share the story story of my country. Recently goverment suggested and started considering the new iaws that require studing 5 days a week but finishing not on the 25th of may as before but on the 10th june.Most people,even adults in my surrounding were against, because no one class has a condition maker and it would make studing, specially writing finals, unbearable. Talking about our school, head teacher went thought all classes and asked us to write an essay with our opinions on this question. Most voted for "no". Teacher took our essays.I dont know what she did to them, but there were no more news from the goverment and we hope they canceled their decisions...
pearsonaly,, I dont think that the way italian students show their protest is not right.They can just complain to the teacher or write an appilation or the letter to tj the goverment...Violence and shouting and going crazy is not the only right way in my opinion

In chile strikes have occurred in two stages, first during the military dictatorship (1970-1988) then later in democracy, (2011. until now) to get an education reform that even today does not reach a consensus. Strikes are hard for everyone, and more for those who lose their careers and even their lives in pursuit of a cause.

I am an Italian student and I think that the problem of student's strike is very complicated. In Italy we have some real problem like building because many times the walls collpse and some students died and others receive permanent damage. I personally think that protest to obtain a better school and lose day of school are in contradiction. If students would like to protest for something they have to do it with teachers because they are the other 50% of the school, they are friends and not enemies.
Only in Italy we have this problem with building or lessons? In other side of the world are there perfect schools? I don't know. Could you write how is school in your country and if you have this problems? Thank you!

Italian students are certainly no less intelligent or knowledgeable than their European counterparts. why do not we use (not less intelligent) instead of (no less intelligent) ?

Hello Sharshar,

'no' + a comparative adjective form is commonly used as a rhetorical device, i.e. to make an impact on the reader or listener. In this case, 'no less intelligent' is more emphatic than 'not less intelligent'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

strike is not good. It makes you lose your time, your money. and sometimes makes you be inlegal

As an (ex) Italian student, I can confirm most strikes were just an excuse not to have lessons. However, in my opinion students MUST have the right to strike and invoke their rights to a better school, but schools shouldn't be too permissive and instead should dole out disciplinary action when the strike's reason is evidently a moot point.