Investing in education is investing in the future. This is a maxim that no one seems to dispute, or pedagogues, or politicians or economists. Not so long ago, some two years and a little, before the elections of 20-N , the previous minister, Ángel Gabilondo , still said: “Education should be excluded from the policies of cutting.” And yet, like the rest of social policies, education has been suffering budgetary rigors for some time.
Two figures are enough to get an idea of the magnitude of the problem: public spending on education in Spain has been reduced by around 6,000 million euros. And the staff of the educational centers have decreased by some 50,000 teachers, despite the fact that the school population increases.
First came the concern, soon the anger and protests of the teachers and many families joined, and now it is already in another stage that talks about the erosion of the effort made to cushion the impact of the cuts and discouragement lack of prospects for improvement. It’s what happens when it rains on wet. Never a new educational law, such as the one that Minister José Ignacio Wert tried to promote, had raised so few expectations. And what is called Improvement of Educational Quality .
The grip is very hard: the leading European leadership, the controls of the Treasury and the strict supervision that the autonomous and municipal governments also suffer. There is no money, they repeat each other, and education, being one of the largest games, receives new hacks.
This course has already fully deployed the savings measures set by the ministry last year: raise the ratio of 25 to 30 students per classroom in nursery and primary and from 30 to 36 in high school; increase the teaching schedule of teachers as well as postpone substitutions by leave of teachers until after two weeks. In addition, the replacement rate of only 10% in education is maintained, which means replacing only one out of every ten teachers and teachers who retire. Many interns have been left without teaching. The competitions for new places have practically disappeared, and the possibility of finding work for young teachers disappears. Altogether, less human and material resources.
To the string of bad news is added an already worrisome situation of the school in Spain with dropout rates and school failure of 25%; with poorly satisfactory results in the PISA international tests of Mathematics and Language ; with a professional training (FP) that has never just started, and with warnings from experts about an increase in internal inequalities among students. It is no longer a question of level of knowledge, but of social cohesion.
The European Commissioner for Education , Androulla Vassiliou , has warned that the reduction of the education budget will hinder the exit of the crisis and the recovery of youth employment. Between 2010 and 2012, Greece , Hungary , Italy , Lithuania and Portugal reduced their educational budget by more than 5%. Behind them is another group of countries led by Spain , Estonia and Poland .
Faced with this general picture, the repercussions of cuts and measures on the day-to-day of students (and their families) and teachers are often forgotten; aspects such as workload and stress in the face of the impossibility of doing the class that would be wanted or the resignations that must be accepted more every day by the families of the students … Magazine wanted to condense some of these effects of the crisis and the cuts in the classrooms.
WHO COVERS THE LOWS
More class hours, more days to cover a drop, more children per classroom … The adjustment measures have led to a clear reduction in the number of teachers from which a whole series of effects has derived. Lidia Rodríguez , a teacher at the Palomeras public school in the Madrid neighborhood of Vallecas , knows it well. “With the new regulations,” she explains, “teacher absences are not covered until ten business days have passed; so, if two or three get together, we’re annoyed. “
In these cases, the rest of the teachers cover the gap, usually those who support or have part of their time dedicated to a specific service such as tutoring or the unfolding of English, for example. If some children are left without their teacher, for example, they may not go to Computer Science , or the rest of the students may be left without library service because the person in charge covers the drop … In secondary education, a teacher of Language has to give a few days Physics , or the other way around.
MULTIPURPOSE TO STRENGTH
In fact, having reduced the cadre of teachers of the centers, there are already autonomies where, throughout the course, they must have taught, in addition to the subject in which they are specialists, classes of another, within what are called related subjects , of which there are not enough teachers in that center. For example, a computer teacher may have to give also Technology or even Plastic . Or one of Physics , also Chemistry . Or a philologist, Social Sciences … with the difficulty that this entails for the teacher and the loss of quality that can mean that he teaches a specialty that is not his.
LESS TEACHERS, LESS PERSONALIZED CLASSES
“We are becoming less and less,” explains Madrid professor Lidia Rodríguez , “and those of us who are here must cover those who can not come. We have been removing an English teacher in the children’s cycle, the IT technician; There is no longer a responsible for the library, or responsible for the garden. Disappearances disappear (when the class is divided into two or three groups to work better some subjects, usually the most important) and support measures (a teacher who helps the principal in the class, a speech therapist, teachers dedicated to improving psychomotor skills of the little ones …) “. These resources seek to improve the quality of teaching and offer students more personalized attention, a key issue for experts in the most advanced educational models.
“The book loan service -continues Rodríguez- we do it on the fly … In primary school, flexible, smaller groups are formed for Language and Mathematics , formed according to their learning rhythm. But when you have to replace a classmate and take charge of your class, those groups can no longer be done. ” This veteran teacher shows her concern for the consequences of these adjustments: “Who loses with all this? The kids who go worse, those who have more learning problems, those who can not afford English classes or psychomotor skills. In the end, our effort focuses on the greatest possible continuity, so that students do not go hand in hand. “
CHILDREN SUFFER THE CRISIS
The crisis enters the classrooms with the backpacks, and unknown situations arrive until now: “I see children of children (3-6 years) who come as tired, who at the mid-morning cooperative breakfast eat as if they had not tasted anything in hours -Says Professor Lidia Rodríguez. There are children who are changing schools in the middle of the year because their families have been evicted or because they have been forced to live with their grandparents. We are seeing needs, and aid is increasingly scarce. “
KINDERGARTEN WITH SMALLER GROUPS PER GROUP
Patufet is a endearing child character in Catalonia that has become vindictive. In April, he delivered 29,515 signatures to Barcelona City Council to request the recovery of the bressol school model (nurseries) that had been considered a model in Europe . It was the first citizen initiative according to a regulation that requires the signature of at least 1% of those registered in Barcelona; almost double was achieved. Patufet was accompanied by a tide of yellow shirts, a symbol of discontent.
The objective of Platform 0-3 that has collected these signatures is that the government of Mayor Xavier Trias reconsiders the management model of day care centers, which is based on outsourcing. It also wants to lower the ratio of students, which has gone from seven to eight students in the lactation classrooms, from 10 to 12 in the one-to-two-year stage and from 18 to 20 in the two-to-three-year spaces. They ask for a support educator per group (at least, three and a half hours a day). And they reject the increase of quotas and that in the future only be linked to the IPC . This course has increased by 27 euros per month, to reach 296 per month, including food. But in the three open facilities, built by the City Council and with private management, the cost amounts to 319 euros.
For Andreu Negre , director of the Parc de la Pegaso municipal nursery and promoter of the initiative, the measures that have been taken “worsen the quality” of the centers, so they ask that the demands be heard and that they become aware of the importance of this educational stage.
A disturbing fact is that enrollment in Catalan public nurseries has fallen by 11% due to the crisis, although a part is due to demography. Parents increasingly have less income to take their children to a kindergarten, and the price grows because of the cuts. In three years, the Departament d’Ensenyament of the Generalitat reduced its contribution, first, from 1,800 euros to 1,600 per seat; then, at 1,300, and this course the subsidy has been left at 875 euros. This has caused that the city councils (that take charge of the cost of the squares of nursery next to the families and the Generalitat) have increased, in general, the quotas that pay the parents. The Ministry of Education has also lowered its contribution, which has embarrassed the Generalitat, which was largely funded by state funds to cover this expense.
The map of education of 0-3 years in Catalonia also has some dysfunctions: centers had been created in populations with little demand, and there are 14,000 vacancies, according to Ensenyament, but in the municipalities of average size there are missing places.
LESS HELP, LESS EXTRAS
The cuts involve less aid to guarantee the right to education: decrease in diversity care programs; suspension of the innovation plans – who already remembers the plan of introduction of laptops in the classroom of Zapatero ? -; tougher requirements for scholarships to study and cuts in language, mobility, books and dining.
In neighborhoods on the outskirts of Madrid and Barcelona , teachers have been warning children for months that they arrive at school without having breakfast and without books. The scissors even reaches highly praised programs. The Seneca scholarships to facilitate mobility within Spain have disappeared, and on the Erasmus scholarships, the ministry and the autonomies have notably reduced their aid. Only a part of the families can be paid from now on these exchanges. In the same way, cultural and festive outings and school neighborhoods have been reduced.
The co-payment is filtered through the borders of compulsory education: the cost of tuition in public day-care centers increases, the first symbolic rates are fixed in public professional training, and certain extra-school activities that are specific activities of some centers are consolidated and there has already been the biggest increase in university fees, second only to the United Kingdom.
WITH BLANKETS TO CLASS
Students suffer from the lack of solution to maintenance or infrastructure problems. In the IES Districte Marítim of Valencia , its nearly 2,000 students are “in the fridge” in winter and “in the oven” in summer. In November they were left without heating, which forced students to carry even blankets many days to withstand temperatures close to two degrees. And now, that summer is approaching, they expect, another year, the strong heat, suffocating during the midday hours in some classes. They do not have air conditioning, which is usual in most public and private institutes. What is not normal is lack of heating.
Rosa María Civera , president of AMPA , comments that “there was a leak of water in the system that has not yet been fixed, and that is how we have been for months.” Technicians of the Department of Education prepared a budget of 30,000 euros to repair the damage, but has not yet been done. “It will be fixed, the permits are missing”, they point out in the Generalitat Valenciana ; but the serious problems of liquidity and financing of the Administration , together with the cuts in the Education budget, complicate resolving these issues at the desirable rates. The center was built nine years ago, during the time of former president Francisco Camps .
The case of this institute is not unique. The Valencian Administration of Alberto Fabra tries to patch the nefarious management in the construction of centers in the past. In Santa Pola (Alicante), there was a hole in a classroom at the Colegio Hispanidad . Nine school children of nine and ten years old were injured. Last January, at the Luis Vives primary and children’s center in Valencia, he gave in to a piece of the bathroom ceiling. Consellera María José Català has approved an ambitious infrastructure review plan.
SEARCH FOR ANOTHER SCHOOL
Closing a school, even if it’s in a big city and not a town, is a bad drink for many families. With the economic crisis and the search for saving formulas, the suppression of educational centers does not stop increasing. Only the Community of Madrid has decided that the next course stop working eight centers, claiming above all low occupation. A measure that has put families, teachers and public school defense associations on the warpath. They have protested since the end of last year, but their struggle has barely served to pardon a school: Vasco Núñez , exemplary in the integration of gypsy students.
The children’s school Verbena de Leganés . Education defends that this course only enrolled “63 children, when it has capacity for 225”. The parents and the teaching team talk about a pedagogical project offered by very few public and private centers, based on the game, the collaboration between the children and the promotion of their autonomy.
Like other parents, Barbara Andres , whose three-year-old son goes to Verbena since last September, is disappointed with counseling. And she is convinced that it is precisely the peculiar pedagogical method of the center and its structure-it trains children between three and six years old-that has led it to closure. “They do not want schools with children only, they do not want ‘different’ schools. They fill their mouths with the defense of the right of families to choose the most convenient education, but, by discouraging enrollment for years in this center to order closure at the end, they do not respect our choice, “he complains.
“The first time we visited the Verbena , we loved it, we liked its philosophy and that the children are at home,” he adds. A few days ago, Save the Children awarded this school with the distinctive center of the ambassador of the oenegé “for its admirable educational line”. Unless a miracle occurs, no child can enjoy it from June.
TRAVEL TO THE PAST IN THE RURAL SCHOOL
The school of Samos (Lugo) has computers connected to the internet, although there is no wi-fi and the maintenance is poor. Children can play sports during the harsh winter of the mountain of Lugo in the covered pavilion. From the walls hang murals with drawings of Castelao , the Galician leader died in exile, and teachers speak in Galician, the mother tongue of the 26 students. But the signs of appearance of a rural school of the 21st century contrast with the air of regression, back to the last century, which has meant the application of cuts in education of the Xunta de Galicia , more silent than in other autonomies, but constant .
And it is that, like other centers of this region crossed by the way of Santiago , the suppression of squares of teachers has left the school of Samos with only two groups, in which children of very different ages and with divergent pedagogical needs coexist. Although in subjects such as Mathematics work the split by primary cycles that allows the reduced table of four teachers, there is some subject, such as English, in which children between eight and twelve years old receive classes simultaneously.
“There is a return to the past of the unitary schools, in which all the children were together. But it is not done with the old encyclopedias, but with modern textbooks, designed to dedicate time to the student that the teacher does not have. For the teachers it is a frustration. But the most serious thing is that it discriminates against rural students “, says Professor Pedro Rodríguez , for whom there is a deliberate policy of” expulsion of the people “.
The school is threatened. It reached to have 140 students, now they are 26, fruit of the very serious demographic crisis of this zone, very aged. There are few children in the municipality, and 17 of them go to school to Sarria, 12 kilometers from Samos , although it is further away from some of its villages.
The mothers of the Samos school talk about Sarria as if it were New York . Come there a world where children grow up without contact with the garden and the animals. And they claim that they can spend at least their childhood in their paradisiacal natal environment, as the only way to keep them linked in the future. That is why they have been involved in the struggle to save the school.
Vanessa Fernandez , president of the parents’ association, points out that for the rural schools the cuts are dramatic: “Here we can not take a counselor, because there never was. We directly suppress teachers. And at this step we will have to cut out the blackboards. ” “Children are not toys,” proclaims Iago, one of the students of this school that fights to survive and does not want to be piled up in a more urban school.