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Editorials
These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

A step back to the past

The government’s education reform has caused rejection and disdains consensus

The minister of education, José Ignacio Wert, has missed the chance to legislate in the spirit of moderation and consensus that his ambitious plan for far-reaching reform of the existing educational system would seem to demand. The reform that is now about to be enacted, thanks to the Popular Party’s clear parliamentary majority, indicates that in certain areas the government has placed its legislative powers at the service of the Catholic Church, and of sectors of the radical right. With the new law, the Catholic religion recovers a privileged position in the educational system, religion being a credit-carrying course in the curriculum of the public schools, and in the criteria for obtaining grants. The Church is thus seeking to check the decline of its influence in a plural and increasingly secular society.

The reform eliminates the Civic Education course (objectionable to the Church), while creating another, yet to be defined, but with a focus on “values.” It also reinforces the position of publicly subsidized religious schools, to the detriment of the public school system, and ensures that these schools can separate pupils by sex without thereby disqualifying themselves from subsidies. The government’s intentions are clear in that, while the existing law says that the state guarantees to each Spanish citizen a place for their children “in a public school,” the wording of the new law reduces this to merely “school.”

The new law also curtails the regional governments’ capacity for decision, by defining the “mainstream” subjects of the curriculum more broadly and more precisely, with the aim of reinforcing a certain concept of Spain in the regions that possess a differentiated culture of their own. The solution for which Wert has opted, to ensure the teaching of Castilian in Catalonia, not only portends a conflict with the Catalan authorities. It is also going to be very difficult to implement; because, when it guarantees the financing of teaching in Castilian for students who demand this in a private school, it seems to disregard the fact that, in most of the private schools in Catalonia, the vehicular language is not Castilian, but also Catalan.

Under the new law, teachers and students are to lose their capacity to have a say in matters as important as budgets, the educational program and the process of admission because, where they had previously possessed a 60-percent vote, this percentage now falls to a minority, against a majority for the administration.

Last but by no means least, the new system of streaming in the third and fourth years of secondary education runs a serious risk of setting up a de facto mechanism of segregation of socially disadvantaged students. The organization of a serious, large-scale system of vocational training is, no doubt, an issue that has been pending in our country for decades, at least since the death of Franco: the text of the government’s new bill indeed proclaims its intention to do this, but something more than intention is required. The new law, ideological in all its fundamental assumptions, now awaits approval by the government’s parliamentary majority.

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