The Spanish Government now wants to recentralise the school system

In the middle of the political storm referring to the relations between Catalonia and Spain, the Spanish Government announced an education reform that recentralises the school curriculum and evaluation system. The Catalan Education Ministry qualified the reform as a “total recentralisation” and a “total attack” against Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy. In the reform, the Spanish Government would impose 65% of the school curriculum and would run evaluations at the end of school and high school.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

September 22, 2012 01:06 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- On Friday, the Spanish Government approved a wide education reform, which recentralises the school curriculum and evaluation system. The announcement comes 10 days after the 1.5 million strong demonstration for Catalonia’s independence and the day after the crucial meeting between the Spanish Prime Minister and the Catalan President, in which the Spanish nationalism closed the door to a new fiscal agreement for Catalonia. The Spanish Government’s education reform is seen in Catalonia as another attempt at recentralisation. The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, considered this proposal as a “total recentralisation” and a “total attack” against Catalonia’s self-government and its main law, the Statute of Autonomy. In fact, the Statute of Autonomy – which was approved by the Spanish Parliament, the Catalan people, and later trimmed by the Constitutional Court – nowadays clearly states that the Catalan Government is in charge of the education evaluations, and that later it will share the data with the Spanish Government. Rigau was hoping to be able to change the parts going against Catalonia’s self-government during the parliamentary talks. The reform has been approved by the Spanish Government as a proposal and now it will have to be voted on by the Spanish Parliament. However, the People’s Party (PP), which runs Spain’s Government, has an absolute majority at the Parliament.

The Spanish Government has approved an education reform “to fight school failure”. The Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, who is a sociologist and was collaborating with ultra-conservative and Spanish nationalist media and think tanks before becoming Minister, stated that the reform is “sensible, gradual, instrumental and, in a certain way, ideological”. “It is a reform based on data about the system’s insufficiencies and problems”, and “it aims to improve the education level”.

The reform foresees that the Spanish Government will impose 65% of the school curriculum on Catalonia and the other Autonomous Communities with their own language, instead of the 55% decided in the previous law, dating from 2006. For the rest of the Autonomous Communities, the Spanish Government will impose 75% of the school content.

Furthermore, education centres will have a greater level of autonomy deciding the school curriculum. Therefore if the Spanish Government imposes between 65 and 75% of the curriculum and centres have greater autonomy, the share to be decided by the Autonomous Communities is considerably reduced.

A third pillar of the reform is that the Spanish Government will run a common evaluation throughout Spain at the end of high school and at the end of the obligatory education cycle. Pupils will have to pass these exams to go to university, vocational training or the last cycle of high school. In addition, there will be an evaluation at the end of the third year of Primary school and another one at the end of the sixth year, although the results will not be individual and will be used to assess the schools.

In addition, the Spanish Government’s reform will enable privately owned schools and high schools segregating students by gender to receive public funding.

“A total recentralisation”

The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, considers the reform a “total recentralisation” and a “total attack” against Catalonia’s self-government and its Statute of Autonomy. Rigau, who is a member of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), is particularly against increasing the share of the contents imposed by the Spanish Government and the common evaluations. Rigau emphasised that the Statute of Autonomy clearly states that students within Catalonia’s education system “are examined and evaluated by the Catalan Government”. In addition, she criticised the Spanish Government’s attempt to “homogenise” and “control” school contents. “This is a big step backwards”, concluded Rigau.

The main opposition party in Catalonia, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), has also heavily criticised the Spanish Government’s reform for being a “recentralisation” and “anachronistic”. The PSC Spokesperson, Jaume Collboni, underlined that Catalonia “has to be able to freely decide on its education system”. According to Collboni, Wert’s proposal is a “counter-reform”, which does not present measures for improving” the education system but it is a series of “unconnected measures, with a strictly ideological sense”.