19 March 2009

La Deuxième Grève Nationale en France 2009

For the second time this year, I woke up to megaphones and beating music outside my window as the national strike marched by my apartment. This strike shut down ALL public transportation within France and any other businesses connected to the public sector and unionized workers (about 1 million people striking all over France). Now that I've had time to collect more of an opinion about the French tradition of manifestation, I witnessed this strike with a new perspective. Let me first remind you that French people have quite the history in organization of citizens and cooperation when it comes to grievances with the government (e.g. Storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.) Keeping that in mind, they obviously have a great sense of French pride and passion as citizens each time they protest. Today I saw hundreds of university students striking for their right to education. The sight of students my age organizing in this strike brought an overwhelming feeling of (I don't know what) but it almost brought tears to my eyes. You're probably wondering "if these students are so passionate about education, then why are they skipping class every day and striking?"

"You don't save on education"
As a university student at Lyon III, I have witnessed an ongoing strike in the higher education system. My professors have explained the strike to the Erasmus/exchange students many times. So, as I understand it, there's two reasons for the university strike. 
1. The Students: In response to the economic crisis, right-winged Sarkozy is trying to reform the higher education system from a European model of free education (payed by tax money) to the anglo-saxon model where university costs an arm and a leg. So, university students are striking for the current free education system to remain.
2. The Lecturers: A new reform has transfered power of the education council out of Paris and into the hands of each individual university. Part of this reform is requiring that if the lecturer does not produce "enough" research, they will make up for it by teaching more classes. Research is not something that should have a standardized measurement. Assigning more classes shouldn't be a punishment for less research, as it would only take away time for more research to be done. It also means job-cuts and and different lecture training methods. 

In many cases the students AND the lecturers are on strike, blockading the schools. This is the case at universities across France, including Lyon II. My friends who are enrolled at Lyon II have no class and it has been decided that they will automatically receive credit for this semester. It also means, though, that the students from last semester have not received their final grades or credit. 

There are a few teachers and students at Lyon III who are striking but it has not effected the classes for my exchange program, luckily. However, the international students who have directly enrolled into the French classes (with the french students) have run into problems with the strike.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the strike today, for the unions and the universities. Sure, the French people strike a lot, but it is because they have the will to. I am somewhat inspired by the university strikes. It's not that I agree or would go one strike, too, just that I am impressed with the passion that French people have and all the effort they put in for change.


  1. This is so interesting! I didn't know that French university is free or rather paid for by taxes. What a concept.

  2. A Sri Lanka aussi, il y a un systeme de "free education". Pourqoui l'arrete-il en France?