“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” –Aristotle

Jana Soler Librán


The Spanish educational system has always been in the spotlight. Having had seven educative laws in no more than 40 years and scoring as one of the lowest European countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (Pont and Mur, 2015, 12), education is far from being a noncontroversial issue in the region. In 2011, during the 15-M movement, all protests in defence of a quality public education united in   a  single   movement;   the   Marea   Verde,  materialising   citizen   disaffection throughout numerous demonstrations in the streets. An anti-austerity  movement  was born; facing a crisis of responsibility from institutions, Marea Verde was formed as an assembly based, horizontal and inclusive movement that  fought  for  a non-commercialised educational system (Romanos,  2006,  131)  However,  within Spanish political context nowadays –high rates of unemployment, rising nationalism, corruption scandals– streets seem to be draining in terms  of  education.  Whereas  in 2013 there were 2.322 protests in favour of remodelling the educational system, the numbers have decreased over time; 1.180 in 2014, 972 in 2015 and 1.037 in 2016[1]. Therefore, is education not as an important social concern as it was before? If the   protests have been reduced by half, is fair to say that the Marea Verde is fading away?

Remarkably, education seems to be far from being considered as an unimportant matter for the population. In fact, when asked for the main problems in the country, not only Spanish citizens consider education as one of the critical issues in Spain[2] concern on it has increased throughout the years.


Source: http://www.cis.es/cis/export/sites/default/-Archivos/Indicadores/documentos_html/TresProblemas.html


If the population still thinks education is a major problem, why does it seem that Marea Verde has died out? Internal dissidence appears to be a triggering factor. The first assembly showed two currents within the mobilised teachers: a more belligerent sector, which interpreted the measure as an aggression against the public school within a long- term strategy; and another sector, which considered it an attack on their professional status but that shared, at least partially, the educational model of the PP (Maceda, 2012, 38). This discordance within the movement could have been counteractive to it, as Gamson points out, “Successful groups tend to be more bureaucratised, centralised, and unfactionalised” (Giugni,1998, 375).

Moreover, this internal dissidence has also been reflected in terms of the  impact  of turmoil. The moderate faction of the movement opposed to the indefinite strike proposal made in 2011, appealing to more intermittent and untroubled action. This translated into a poor follow-up in the initiative, generating a strong sense of failure among conveners and participants, therefore discouraging collective action in the public sphere, specifically non-conventional one. There were dissidences in terms of the repertoire of action. In fact, nowadays, it is not as common as before seeing turbulent action in defence of public education, being the anual strike proposed by Student Unions the most popular event. Considering welfare state function in restoring order in periods of civil turmoil (Piven; Cloward, 1993, 61) the declining of disruptive action could also be seen as a damaging factor for the movement since it dissuades the possibility of policy change.

Furthermore, what about the surroundings of the movement? Political opportunity, as in “dimensions of the political environment or of change in that environment that provide incentives for collective action by aecting expectations for success or failure” (Tarrow, 1994, 163) also seems to play a significant role in Marea Verde’s process. In 2011, the parliament absolute majority of PP acted as a negative force, since instead of trying to include Marea Verde in institutions, it intended to delegitimise the movement towards public opinion, criminalising protests and discrediting by targeting it as a “political movement” impulsed by PSOE and Izquierda Unida (García, 2014, 17). Partido Popular’s severe educational policies continued; in 2013 LOMCE –Ley Orgánica para la Mejora de la Calidad Educativa- passed, causing plenteous public indignation due to the mesures entailed.[3] Paradoxically, what first was seen as a failure of the movement, LOMCE’s application actually revitalised it, bringing back educational concern and collective action for achieving change, and, later on, success: in 2015 reválidas were abolished and Juan Ignacio Wert resigned from his position of Education’s Minister.

However, nowadays, although being kind of “paralysed”, LOMCE is still ruling education. People’s disaffection with PP’s educational policies is still strong[4], and  seems to be continued since PP, PSOE and C’s have postposed the Educational Accord until January 2018.


Source: http://www.analisis.cis.es/cisdb.jsp


Then, discouraged with Marea Verde, is just that people are tired of mobilisation? Diego Cañamero[5] claimed in 2014 “is not that people don’t have reclamations anymore, it’s just that hope is now political hope (…) People think it is better to trust politics than mobilisation”. In 2014 Podemos was born, with political proposals which incarnated the 15-M movement’s values and demands. The decrease of mobilisations in defence of education could be explained by the appearance of Podemos in the political sphere,   since it seems that people’s reclamations nowadays are not usually expressed as a public mobilisation but as a vote, or better, a click. Although some think that the institutionalisation of a social movement, specifically when the leader becomes an important figure in conventional politics –like Ada Colau, impulsor of  PAH,  becoming major of Barcelona or Teresa Rodriguez, one of the Marea Verde’s face, being one of Podemos’ Members of the European Parliament–, decreases mobilisation and cools off the movement (Sánchez, 2013, 45), other academics feel that institutionalisation can be seen as a strategy, or even as part of their own evolution, in which a reformist party that accepts the rules of democracy proposes reforms from within (Barrera; Ramírez, 2005, 23). Either being institutionalisation a positive or negative factor to the movement, it is fair to say that in Spain people who showed discordance with the old way of doing politics   and specifically in terms of education, see themselves reflected in this new way of doing politics, in Podemos.


Source: http://www.analisis.cis.es/cisdb.jsp


Marea Verde, due to internal dissidences and Govern action, might has disolved, but people’s reclamations for public education are still alive. Education is yet one of the most important problems concerning Spanish citizens, who seem to have chosen to put their hope in institutionalised politics, choosing Podemos to be the main political actor for the fight on public education. From now on, will the movement’s institutionalisation be bad for its development? Are people less empowered? Has it expand it to institutions or is neutralising it? If PP, PSOE and Cs ally to stay with LOMCE, will Podemos actually be  able to do something about it? Only time will tell, but not only polls but also streets, are there to make Spanish citizens voice heard.




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  • Rosillo, Carlos. 2017. LOMCE: La cronología de una ley educativa contestada en las calles, las aulas y los parlamentos. La última reforma de la enseñanza fue aprobada en 2013 solo con los votos del Partido Popular. https://politica.elpais.com/politica/2017/03/09/actualidad/1489051432_278376.html
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  • Vargas, Jairo y Torrús, Alejandro. 2016. El ‘otoño caliente’ ante Rajoy: ¿Espejismo o realidad? El público. http://www.publico.es/politica/otono-caliente-rajoy-espejismo-o.html



[1] Data obtained from: Ministerio del Interior. Gobierno de España. Información estadística en formato reutilizable.

[2] Along with unemployment, corruption and fraud, economic problems and Catalonia’s independence (CIS data)

[3] The most controversial mesures were: 8,000M€ of education budget cuts, 275M€ less inverted in scholarships, the implantation of the reválidas, establishing philosophy as an optional subject while religion as mandatory or the option for parents to choose the language of their kid’s study in bilingual areas. (El país, LOMCE; la cronología, 2017)

[4] Moreover, in 2018 the Government will reduce, for the third consecutive year, the proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that goes to Education –from 4% to 3,8% of GDP— (Público, El pacto educativo se retrasa, 2017)

[5] Cañamero was the general secretor of the Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (SAT); now he’s a Podemos deputy in Congress. Declarations can be found in (Público, El otoño caliente, 2016)