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Spanish students, teachers strike against education reforms

MADRID, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Teachers, students, parents' associations and public servants in the state education system on all levels are striking on Thursday in protest at the policy of the government of Mariano Rajoy.

The strike, which closes three days of protests within the system is directed against the projected Law to Improve the Quality of Education, designed by Education Minister Jose Ignacio Wert.

One of the proposals of this new law is to increase the academic weight to religion in schools while students will also face more external examinations as the government looks to bring in a more centralized curriculum, something which is not welcomed in communities such as Catalonia and the Basque Region.

Meanwhile, private schools looking to teach in just Castilian Spanish in the Catalan region will receive state grants.

This takes place in a context of spending cuts in the sector and the new decree which makes it harder for students to receive grants to allow them to study in higher education.

It is the second strike in the sector after a similar one in May. It is scheduled to end with a mass march through the center of Madrid from the Plaza de Neptuno to the doors or the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.

This march follows demonstrations called by students in 30 Spanish cities on Wednesday as part of their three day strike, which according to student leaders was followed by 90 percent of students, while the Ministry of Education puts the figure at just 18 percent.

The main education unions in Spain estimate that as a result of the spending cuts, the state school system has seen 25,000 teachers lose their jobs, while 4,600 university professors and 1,600 administrative staff in the university system are now also unemployed.

Meanwhile, student representatives at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, estimate that the rising tuition fees and the difficulty in finding grants means that around 3,500 students at that university alone have had to abandon their studies.

The strike is held a fortnight after a study carried out by the OCDE's International Program for the Evaluation of Adult Competence (PIACC), showed the average Spaniard aged between 16-65 is second from bottom, ahead of only Italy, of a list of 23 countries when it comes to reading comprehension, while the Spanish and Italians swap places when it comes to basic mathematics.

The OCDE study shows the average Spaniard is unable to comprehend the graphics on an electricity bill or to make a comparison between offers in a tourism brochure.

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