Commentary

Exams go well despite teachers strike

The Polish Teacher’s Union (ZNP) suffered a surprise defeat due to the assistance of volunteers who helped run exams in Polish schools. Sociologist Andrzej Wojtyczko analyses how the ZNP’s first loss weakens their negotiation position with the Polish Ministry of National Education (MEN).

It turned out that the mass participation of volunteers in examination committees allowed students to conduct their exams throughout Poland, which must’ve been a shock for the ZNP. The union presumed that without teachers in the committees, it would paralyze examinations and give themselves a powerful tool to pressure MEN.

Mayors of Poland’s largest towns had announced that the examinations will be conducted and if they hadn’t been, it would only be due to the incompetence of a school’s headmaster.

In leftist-liberal media, one could see the support for the strikes from certain celebrities and interviews with ZNP leadership. What one couldn’t see, were the voices of the volunteers and their motivations to participate in examination committees.

The head of the ZNP has participated in marches and protests organized by the opposition

The participation of volunteers was possible only because the Minister of Education changed the terms of participation of teachers in examination committees in her ministerial order. This shows the high professional competence of the head of MEN.

The educational “Solidarity” was able, through their wise and rational actions, to fight for salary increases and lower the bureaucratic burdens on teachers. Meanwhile ZNP has been unable to get anything from MEN.

Political action

What’s more, it is well-known that the ZNP strikes are meant to weaken the PiS government, so that PO-PSL will be able to regain power. The head of the ZNP has participated in marches and protests organized by the opposition and the deputy head of the ZNP is a former Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) MP and a member of that party, which is part of the European Coalition.

Owing to the volunteers, the ZNP has taken its first loss in its struggle with the ZNP which will weaken their negotiation position with PiS. The upcoming Easter holidays will limit or even suspend the strike and it will be difficult to recreate it on a large scale, which means that fighting for raises by the ZNP will become increasingly more difficult without concessions from the ZNP.

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