Saturday, 27 July 2013

Are school holidays too long in Andalucía? Part 2 of 2

Drop-out rates
(click to enlarge)
In Part 1, we concluded that the answer to the headline question is 'no, not really'. Here are more reasons why. And lots more conclusions...

Median length in Spain, too
Andalucía is also in the middle of the average for other regions of Spain, thanks largely to having brought forward the start of the new school year by five days back in September 2008. There was a lot of criticism about this measure from teachers' unions (which in our opinion hold much too much power of decision in almost all educational matters).>>>

In fact the unions managed to persuade the Junta's Department of Education to bring forward the entry date by only five days instead of the seven it had planned originally.

Almost all regions end their new school year on the before-last Friday of June (for Primary and Infants), except Castilla y León (June 14) and Navarra (19th). Starting the school year, though, is another matter. Dates vary widely but this does not apparently make any difference in the regions' classroom days (called jornadas lectivas in Spanish).

As for jornadas lectivas, Andalucía will be just under the average of 180 classroom days with 178 (Watch this space for the 2013/2014 School Calendar for Andalucía).

It is often said that shorter summer holidays are balanced by other, shorter ones, such as Autumn, Christmas, Spring, Easter, etc. This only partly true: among countries with fewer jornadas lectivas are those with the longest summer holidays. These include Spain, Portugal, France and a number of Baltic countries, among others.

Academic achievement does not depend on the number of school hours
According to studies of several reports on education in Europe, including those from the EU and the OECD, it would appear that the number of hours a student spends in the classroom does not impinge of academic performance.

In any case, all the studies we have seen point to Finland and Estonia, both of which head the OECD's PISA annual education report; Finland despite having an average holiday period and fewer classroom days than most European countries. Estonia, for its part, has a longer holiday period, fewer classroom days than almost all.

Less Language and Maths, more Science
When Finland's consistent educational excellence is compared to the dismal results for Andalucía (Watch this space for a major article on education in Andalucía, in preparation) the conclusion is evident: Finnish students spend much less time on Language and Maths, and almost double on Science.

None of the reports we looked at mentioned the teachers themselves - possibly because almost all were issued or backed by teachers' organizations or unions and therefore unlikely to point a finger at themselves.

It is well known, at least by those who care (and everyone should, given that we're talking about a depressing future for generations), that one of the principal reasons people study Magisterio (the main teaching degree) in Spain and Andalucía is job security.

Once a long series of hoops have been jumped through (we're looking at those, too), it is very difficult for a teacher to be fired, except for gross behaviour or other criminal activity - never for teaching efficiency or lack of achievement.

This is not to say that vocation is absent. There are plenty of teachers with true vocation, but the fact is that they are sadly in the minority.

It is also a fact that the majority of teachers in both primary and secondary education feel neglected by the region's education authorities, according to their unions.

Recent classroom numbers were increased, and more classroom hours introduced, causing demonstrations throughout the system. Continual changes in curriculum and educational emphasis don't help, either, even when even the unions recognize that changes need to be made if for no other reason than to reduce the vast number of students leaving early, most of which happens in the second year of secondary school (ESO), at about age 13, and well before the legal age to leave school, 16.

Teachers should not be "mates"
With plenty of exceptions, the desultory attitude of teachers in Andalucía is most noticeable in secondary education. Not surprising, since teachers have long been encouraged to be their pupils' "mates".

The natural distance, and therefore respect, between teacher and pupil has been erased, giving rise to student behaviour that would never be accepted anywhere else - though we hear of similar problems in the UK, the US, France and more, probably for the many of the same reasons.

But we will leave these subjects for a deeper study of the problem.

(Sources: PISA, Eurydice, Ancaba)

No comments: