The self-congratulatory torpor of Chilean educational policy has vanished after a couple of decades of “be the girl (or) symbol of multilateral international agencies”, as a country we increasingly and irremediably face both the results of the bad legacies of the dictatorship and the problems that we did not solve in the first decades of democracy, plus those new challenges added in this century “and that we did not see coming”, that they were decisive before the pandemic, as in the same pandemic and in what we call the post-pandemic, and that have our education (and society) facing the precipice, to which –it would seem– we are headed as “zombies”.
Those of us who work in this sector know that “education resists a lot”, prior to manifesting its most critical dimensions. For example, it is difficult to find a decade like the 1980s, where the biggest mistakes and clumsiness of the 20th century in education were committed in Chile, and where those responsible have not faced the disaster of their management, whose negative consequences extend to today in the low quality of teaching, among many other anomalies.
We also know that we are currently facing problems of great magnitude, complex, difficult to measure in all their depth and extension, and that they are not resolved with “the intramural educational policy manual, designed by technocrats and international entities to test all ideology”, but that we are in a highly elusive scenario, with conflicts embedded in new social processes and where the tip of the iceberg has interaction factors that are more dynamic and changing than before, and clearly contextual.
For this reason, it is no coincidence that the main transformations of the national educational policy in this century have essentially been detonated since the student movements of 2006 and 2011. And that part of the political class of that time has tried to minimize its effects, not only because it marginalized them from their direction, but because they did not understand the depth of the demands, causing their rebirth with greater force in 2011 and that many others were rescued by the feminist movement of 2018 and social movement of October 2019.
Let us specify, it is not that the “30 years post-dictatorship” have not served, but that they were absolutely insufficient in their results in terms of reducing the great inequities of our population, that is, of that real poverty, not only of the statistics. The first decade of democracy in education focused on rebuilding the deteriorated educational system and meeting basic citizen demands for school coverage, equipment and support to study, impoverished in the 80s by a public contribution to education that was mercilessly reduced during the dictatorship. almost 25% real, devaluing education and educators.
But it was in the second decade of democracy (from 2000 onwards) where we did not know how to respond more quickly and adequately to the accumulated deficit of educational justice in this field. Despite the fact that at that time as a country we had notable GDP growth, this did not translate into a greater public contribution to education in terms equivalent to that great advance. On the contrary, credit instruments for higher education such as the State Guaranteed Credit (CAE) were created, which enriched some banks and sank many middle class families. In addition, the Ministry of Education has since lost the meaning of educational policy as a guiding framework for actions (sometimes ephemerally recovered), moving to a radial policy format (each problem a different solution). So, the school was filled with official policy initiatives (programs) with low coordination and synergy, that is, we installed the practice of the contradiction of effective public policies.
An in-depth diagnosis of our current situation as a country shows an educational system that for too many decades has suffered acute problems of low quality of school learning, decontextualization and little relevance of teaching, and persistent inequality and social segregation in its educational results, marginally corrected. for the school. Originating a significant ineffectiveness of their doing that, if compared with the country’s public per capita financial contributions, these do not match those of equivalent countries, whose educational achievements are higher.
Today we are experiencing urgent challenges such as school violence, which as such is a reflection of a society that has no practice of resolving its conflicts “in and with democracy”. Thematic that being fundamental dazzles the scenario of educational problems. By the way, it is a key issue, but it is a societal phenomenon that is not solved only in school, it requires this and much more. It is a problem rooted in the material and immaterial poverty that our public policies and also the educational ones sowed in these years.
It seems to me that it is not advisable to fill the educational agenda only with this problem, there are key matters that require deep, thoughtful solutions, implemented as short, medium and long-term State policies.
Before the pandemic we already had very important complications of low learning by our students, also expressed in relevant figures of school dropout and dropout, what we call unschooling processes, which as a result of the pandemic have worsened exponentially (doubling their number). , a more than serious issue, not only because this generation will be the illiterates of the next decade, with the collateral consequences that it implies, but also because we are “marginalizing our citizens from the cultural construction of the social pact”, which is decisive in our coexistence , and that it is not fixed only with more laws, prisons or higher penalties. This must be avoided, for which it is necessary to focus on this issue as a priority, with sustainable resources over time.
A second aspect, related to the above (the insufficient learning of our students), is to face the high and persistent school absenteeism that, boosted by the pandemic, has remained at very high records in 2022. Behind the decision of the families is a important evaluation of education, at least of its impact on the most immediate quality of life, for the same reason, it is a hard call for attention so that we install powerful and solid processes of recovery of learning in schools. But not only those that we previously thought were needed, but those that today –post-pandemic– are being demanded by families and the socio-labour world in the current context, demands that we must raise, process and develop quickly.
That is, the new contextualization of the curriculum and teaching is an unavoidable challenge in the present times. One aspect that complements this situation is the data from a recent study that shows that curricular coverage in 2022 (what is taught compared to what should be taught) is much lower than before the pandemic, that is, all this problem. We know a lot about educational standards, but very little about what our students think, feel and want, about what happens to them.
Some of the educational policy solutions that we have seen at this level are based more on platitudes, somewhat stale answers, roadmaps without much sense, recipes from those who are not in school to tell those who are in it what they should to do, by the way, without experiencing “live” the phenomenon/problem pointed out.
The second great immediate and mediate problem is related to the training and professional development of teachers. Enrollment in pedagogy courses in Chile for a decade has been falling dramatically in values close to half of what it was in 2012. The occurrence of this phenomenon is not only due to the irresponsible expansion of vacancies that took place in the first decade of this century (which in some universities reaches figures between 800 and 900% of growth in certain careers), but also because the school as a “workspace” is unattractive for new teachers (ratified by the high dropout that occurs in the first years of professional practice). In this decade, apart from recording and documenting the problem, some initiatives have suggested “lowering scores for admission to pedagogical careers” (without evaluating its impact on quality), instead of studying this situation, learning more about those who are retire while studying pedagogy, learn more about those who start working and soon retire forever from teaching. During this time, some teachers have been threatened and even beaten, assaulted, their families threatened, both by students and parents, and still, do we want people who want to be teachers? That is why we need to know what other countries are doing in this area to solve these problems.
We know that soon we will face a significant quantitative deficit of teachers, not yet talking about the qualitative deficit of their capacities to take on the new school training challenges (which have been in the fore for many years). It seems that we are not prepared as a society to take on this challenge, training teachers with other models –unconventional and less extensive– that are of quality and solve problems that we have not achieved in decades. We insist on more of the same, which is why we are heading towards the cliff, thinking that the stimulus of higher salary and a five-year undergraduate training adjusted to “expertly defined standards” are enough to face this crisis, despite the fact that a vast International experience shows that this is not the case.
The complexity of educational phenomena would require prioritizing our tasks/actions and, therefore, a policy that solidly supports (with data and theory) the decisions that we could adopt in a coherent and effective manner for the short, medium, and long term. There are no single answers or solutions. per seFor this reason, we must be attentive to the immobility that comes from invalidating all paths that are not “the definitive solution”, as if this were possible at once. It is imperative that we as a country face the key challenges that educational actors and communities define, putting today’s students at the center, with their abilities and potential.
Memorandum of issues for decision makers: today, low learning, greater dropout and absenteeism, low curricular coverage, increased social inequality (violence). Tomorrow, shortage of teachers and trained teachers. We do not know why they come or why they leave training and education. The day after tomorrow, then, the challenges of educational policy to avoid its requiem imply the need to urgently and with high quality redesign school training and that of teachers, and generate financial and legal support for its rapid and effective implementation. An educational policy solidly founded on national and international experience, less technocratic (fewer standards, more real people), more open and participatory of school communities and citizens. A politician with a human face and not a zombie.