“Curriculum change is a mission imperative. We play a lot”Said Isabel Celaá in March, when she was still Minister of Education. Now the minister is Pilar Alegria and the draft of the Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO) curriculum is already known, but those who were unhappy with the Celaá Law they don’t seem to be satisfied with this project. And, as the former minister said, Spain continues to play a lot.
The new curriculum comes after data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have left the educational system in a very bad place: 8.7% of ESO students repeat. Four times more than the average of the 38 states that make up the OECD (1.9%). To analyze the solutions proposed by this project, EL ESPAÑOL has met with Borja Delgado, teacher of Biology and geology at IES Africa, on Fuenlabrada (Madrid).
Regarding the subject of the repetition of the course –which is one of the most controversial points of the royal decree: it will be the teaching team that considers whether the student promotes, even if they have failed subjects–, Delgado is clear: “The student has the right to repeat”. Indeed, there are many circumstances that may be involved in a student not reaching the school goals in a given year: social, family, academic … For this reason, Delgado believes in the right to second chances.
For Delgado, this measure has the mission of reducing the harmful data of school dropouts and failure, but in a very artificial way: “The government is trying to put a blindfold on; It seems to me a very short-term measure ”. This teacher is clear that within five years it will be possible to verify that, indeed, the percentage of students who will have finished ESO will be much higher. However, he warns that “in the last years of ESO, which is the narrow part of the funnel, it will be seen that there are many students who will not be in a position to graduate”.
Another complaint from teachers about this way of deciding whether the student has to pass the course is that it is interpreted as “a neglect of functions by the authorities.” If there are already schools where teachers are subjected to enormous pressure at the end of the Baccalaureate – they must decide whether a student with a failure can obtain the title that allows them to access the EBAU exams – this indicates that the pressure is going to increase. Delgado sees it as a trap: “We need a framework. How can I justify in an educational inspection that a student repeats with three failed subjects but that, in another group, a student who has failed seven passes the course? It’s a lot of subjectivity”.
He is not the only one who is against some of the precepts included in the new ESO. Laura, a primary education teacher, is also very critical of demanding less when repeating. “We are making the bed for the students, we will create loafers of the day to day and of the future. Why are we going to make an effort to teach them? Why is a child going to study? You will think, why am I going to do it, if total I will pass the course anyway. They are going to cling to the law of least effort, “he explains.
“I don’t think you can find many teachers who are in favor of this,” says Gregorio Marlasca, a French teacher at a high school in Ávila. “They are outrageous,” he continues, referring to the repetition.
Too much content?
In the 199 pages that Education has sent to the autonomous regions and that make up the project, another of the points where the most impact is on opting for a less encyclopedic education and that it focuses on essential competencies. That is, learn more and memorize less. But is it true that there is such a large volume of matter?
For Borja Delgado, although it is true that there are times that the contents are very extensive, there is a focus error, since the reduction “just like that” is not positive. In his opinion, what should be addressed is a reorganization of the contents to avoid repetition in successive courses, something very common: “In Biology and Geology we are looking at the structure of cells in the three courses of ESO. By seeing it once and if we manage to make learning meaningful and sustained… ”, says Borja.
Delgado believes that, since there are so many students per classroom, it is impossible for the teacher to certify that the students consolidate the information. That is why the repetition of content occurs year after year: it is a measure by accumulation with the reasoning that, the more something is heard, the more likely it is to be internalized. Also, remember that this causes many content that cannot be addressed because there is no time. And he insists that “the contents are not made according to particular interests, but taking into account a series of learning standards that students have to achieve.”
Learn, don’t memorize
It is an already recurring criticism of the Spanish education system: there is too much memorization of information. The new curriculum project delves into this question once again. However, Delgado is incredulous about the effectiveness of the possible measures. “The one who writes the curriculum has discovered the gunpowder”, He ironically points out,“ The thing about memorizing less and learning more is the concept of Ausubel meaningful learningWe have been doing this in educational centers for more than 100 years ”.
“I’m glad they discovered the pedagogues of the early twentieth century, but how are they going to achieve that?” For Delgado, the keys are well defined, concrete actions are lacking. “The paper holds everything, you can put that we are going to walk on a rainbowBut can they make it happen? Since teaching, they have been behind many years, many decrees and many education laws, waiting for these questions to be answered.
He is also skeptical of the actual application of the gender perspective, equality and promotion of LGTBIQ rights. There is consensus that these are values that must be instilled in the classrooms and necessary, although they wonder how to improve what already exists. “This approach of transversality in all subjects is very good, but I work in the Community of Madrid and we work on equality, tolerance, respect for sexual diversity … for many years,” explains Borja Delgado.
There are perspectives that may be more urgent and novel. This is the case, for example, of affective-sexual education, that sexologists such as Loola perez They have been demanding in educational centers for a long time to be taught by experts. The worrying numbers of sexually transmitted diseases in young people Recent years show that it is a subject to which the necessary attention has not been devoted, and where there is much room for improvement.
However, Delgado observes in this new curriculum that the same defects are repeated as with old bills: put in other words things that are already being done. Delgado refers to the subjects Technology and Digitization, Economy and Entrepreneurship, and Education in Civic Values: “These subjects already exist, they are only changing the name …”.
Delgado explains that there is now a subject called Digitization, Programming and Robotics, and that robotics is not even taught because there are no media in the classrooms. Or that there is also the subject of Initiative to economic and entrepreneurial activity, which would be the same as the new Economy and Entrepreneurship. “I would like to know what these changes are going to imply, or if it is just a bombastic name to continue in the same situation,” he asks.
For Delgado, the only solution is through something that is already a historical claim by teachers and which the new project does not seem to address: work with fewer students per classroom and in better conditions. “I hope that whoever makes the laws realizes this: we need a reduction of students per teacher, not of content,” Delgado wishes. Everything that is not this, for him is nothing more than plastering.
With this measure, in addition, Delgado believes that the contents should not be reduced, but, on the contrary, could increase: “By attending to the specific needs of each student, you could make sure that one thing is known and move on to another” , Explain. Instead, reducing subject matter and removing the threat of grade repetition can have an unwanted effect: that the student is unmotivated, does not make enough effort and their training is damaged.
Delgado asks that we learn from neighboring countries that already do this. In the case of Spain, “the year we did it due to the covid-19 health emergency we saw that the percentage of failures fell drastically”, He points out with hope. And it ends with a clear message: “Learning standards are met or not met; there are no half measures ”.