|Minister for Education|
José Ignacio Wert
Aimed at reducing the number of 'failures'
MADRID The Minister for Education, José Ignacio Wert, last week announced a proposal for a law that will make significant changes to the educational system in Spain. While it is not yet on the statute books, the absolute majority held in the Cortes (parliament) by the governing PP party makes it highly likely that it will be soon. Opposition parties of the left, and the unions, claim that the measures are a 'cover-up' of the enormous percentages of so-called 'schooling failures' who leave the system before completing their obligatory education, which is 26.5% of people between 18 and 24, the worst in the OECD countries, according to the annual Pisa Report. Some reports attribute the 50% unemployment rate among that age group at least in part to the school failures. The main changes will be:>>>YOU WILL SOON BE UNABLE TO READ ITEMS SUCH AS THIS unless you subscribe (you should know that it has taken over two and a half days to research, interpret and write this article)>>>
(Note: Several titles and names have been left in Spanish, partly because they have no equivalent in British or American education but mainly because the student who is going through the system will be able to better explain what they mean.) (ESO stands for Educación Secundaria Básica, or Basic Secondary Education, but you knew that, right?)
Less regional decisions in education
The project reduces the percentage of school curriculum that is established by the regional authorities. The central government (i.e. the Ministry of Education in Madrid) will decide what happens in 65% of class time in tose regions with two official languages, and 75% in the rest. At present Madrid makes 55% and 65% respectively.
Road to school leaving diplomas brought forward
The paths towards Bachillerato or FP (Professional Formation, or Trade School) diplomas will be brought forward ('timidly' according to El País) to 3º ESO level (beginning at 14), with one choice of subject plus Maths, aimed at either title (Bachillerato or FP). At age 15 (4º ESO) they will have four common subjects: PE, language (Spanish, and co-official language if present), a foreign language, two other subjects and one optional. Those going for Bachillerato (i.e. the 'academic' path) can choose among the following groups: a) Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Geology; and b) Geography History or Latin. Those going for FP will be able to choose among sciences relative to their choice of trade, Information Technolgy and Communication.
The law says that one path does not exclude the other but the truth is that final exams in one or the other will make it very difficult to change paths after age 15.
Basic Professional Formation
A new cycle in FP will be open to students at age 15 if teachers decide that is the best path and parents accept it. It is to be called Formación Profesional Básica and will substitute present Programas de Cualificación Profesional Inicial. This no longer allows for the option of obtaining an ESO title nor direct access to FP at the middle grade, but the Ministry of Education insists that it does allow students to continue studying.
Evaluation and final exams
External primary school evaluations will no longer have academic consequences (there will be one at 3º grade and another at 6º); these evaluations will be purely to identify problems.
At the end of ESO, at 16, there will be final exams to obtain the title. This will be an external exam, outside the school, and different depending on whether for progress into Bachillerato or FP.
There will be exams to obtain access to University that replace (the dreaded) Selectividad. Universities will be allowed to request their own access tests. Those who do not pass any of these will be able to study for the Superior Grade FP (FP is divided into three grades: Lower, Middle and Superior.)
Boys- and girls-only education
The projected law allows for subsidies to schools that offer different education facilities for boys and girls, despite the recent sentence by the Supreme Court to the contrary on the grounds of discrimination. (Note: This is already a very controversial matter in political circles, and may well be subject to change. Many private and semi-private schools would not be able to survive without these grants and/or subsidies; there are no 'segregated' schools today that receive such munificence.)
Choosing the head teachers
Called Directores, head teachers are presently chosen by teachers and parents on School Councils.
The proposed law would reduce decisions regarding the choice and approval of heads to 30% of the vote, instead of the present 60%. (The remaining percentage goes to local and regional education authorities.)
School Councils, made up of teachers, parents, students and school workers, will lose all their powers of decision on budgets, educational projects or student admission procedures. Their mission will now be only to 'evaluate' and to 'inform'.
Also, Directores will be able specify profiles of teachers coming to their schools and to vet candidates. (Note: Until now, teachers were imposed on a school with very little consideration as to their 'fit'.)
The new law proposes to increase basic subjects (language, maths and sciences) at all stages of education. In ESO and Bachillerato, there will be fewer subjects to deal with.
The new law will not be changing much in this department: one can pass from one course to the next with two or, exceptionally, three subjects 'left behind' to be taken later (usually in September) if the teachers agree. Failing these 'last recourse' exams means repeating the previous course, staying behind in other words. However, sources at the Ministry say that the possibility of 'third subject' may be eliminated when the project passes into law.
The law will aim to 'reorder' human resources, allowing more flexibility. This means that teachers could be moved from one subject to another as well as being transferred from Primary to Secondary or FP education, and even from official language schools (Escuelas Oficiales de Idiomas) to Institutos (High Schools).
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