The start of the new school year is an important time in the life of any country and a challenge for the administration in charge. Even more so in the times we live in, with the last two school years seriously altered by the impact of the pandemic. Although the main news is the return to normality so desired by students, teachers and parents alike, the path to it has not been an easy one. The tensions between the unions and the education authorities and the threat of a strike at all levels of education in protest over the education secretary, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, seriously endangered the start of the new school year and significantly affected the conditions under which the new term begins. Despite the fact that it was finally possible to start a week earlier than usual, as the education department wished, the conflict is far from over and could escalate at any moment. While it is true that the unions are very critical of the education secretary’s management, it is the curriculum and the educational model that lie at the heart of the conflict; in other words, questions over which direction learning should be headed in.
The fundamental problem between the teachers and the administration is the debate over acquiring “skills” rather than learning knowledge and experience. That is, what kind of citizens we should be striving for and the role of the school in training critical citizens and strengthening democracy. The contrary view sees schools as mere suppliers of an uncritical labour force in the service of consumerism. It is no minor debate - and the role of teachers has often been belittled by confusing it with legitimate work demands - but it is now a necessary one, and much more so when society is threatened by unwanted changes and transformations with unpredictable outcomes as a result of the climate and economic crises. We may have returned to a certain normality, but during the pandemic we learned that things would never be the same again. And the start of the new school year in Catalonia has provided more than a clear demonstration of this.