Teacher protest draws thousands in San José

June 29, 2011

Throngs of teachers and students marched through downtown San José Tuesday morning in a show of opposition to a trimester school year.

The National Association of Educators and the High School Teachers Association rallied teachers throughout Costa Rica against the plan proposed by Education Minister Leonardo Garnier.

Garnier’s plan calls for three trimesters of school with breaks between each. The first trimester would be 14 weeks followed by two weeks of vacation time. The second trimester would be 13 weeks followed by another two weeks of vacation time. The final trimester would be 15 weeks followed by five weeks of vacation.

The current system provides students with fewer breaks and longer vacation periods. Students have a two-week break halfway through the second semester and a longer break of two and half months at the end of the school year.

In a justification of the proposal on his website, Garnier said the reorganization of the school year would save money and increase retention rate of underperforming students.

Many teachers and students who took part in the march see the plan differently.

Teacher Roy Araya of Escuela Los Guido said the new system will make it easier for poorly performing students to graduate, increasing overall graduation rates but hurting education levels.

“Students will suffer once they get to university,” he said. “The new system will give failing students easier opportunities to test into the next grade.”

Student Jean Pierre Moreno said he thinks the system will cost parents of students more. He does not want a shortened end-of-year break, he said.

Thousands of people participated in the march, which started at 9 a.m. at the Plaza de la Democracia in downtown San José and ended in the early afternoon at Casa Presidencial in the southeastern district of Zapote.

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