Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Marked For Life

Ok, it's time for this blog to get back to what it does really well - taking the piss out of Esperanza Aguirre! Don't run away, there is a serious point behind this post. A few months ago I wrote a guest post on racism in Spain for the blog Notes From Spain (while its owners were getting severely stressed out on holiday in Thailand). Almost in passing I mentioned the educational policy of the regional government in Madrid, which encourages the ghettoisation of immigrant children in the public school system of the region. In one of the comments to that post, Katie from España Profunda confirmed my suspicion about Aguirre's policies with first hand experience of having worked in a public school in Madrid.

Well El País today provided further confirmation with a report showing that 80% of immigrant children in Madrid are now being educated in the public system, whilst 2 out of 3 Spanish pupils are going either entirely private or to the unreasonably heavily subsidised concertados. It's not an accidental policy. Tonight I read that Aguirre now wants all pupils in the public schools to wear a uniform. She's clearly not satisfied with the fact that enough of these pupils have darker coloured skins or speak strange languages, she needs something else to identify their second class status. Someone should tell her, gently if possible (harshly if not), that this sort of stigmatisation hasn't been popular since the end of the Second World War.

On a more frivolous note, I was quietly proud for a while - despite the end of Google Bombing - that the words "Pauper President" had such success in identifying Aguirre in Google searches. Unfortunately some people have started using them about other politicians, what a liberty.


Natalia said...

Sad to say that happens not only in Madrid but everywhere in Spain. I live in Barcelona and its the same here. If you are Spanish and you have money enought you bring your children to a "concertada" or to a private school. If you are Spanish but you cannot pay (like is my case) you have to deal with a public school that seems to dedicate all this efforts not to educate the children or at least to give them the knowlegde they deserve but to "park" them not to be noisy or "unconfortable". The result of this sitem is that our society is getting more divided in two "stages" day by day. How can we , the fathers and mothers expect our children to grow up and gett a better position than we have if they are not receiving the right eduation we ALL are payinf for with our taxes.
When our goverments (right or lef-winged never mind) will stop the policy of financin schools that did not accept every kind of students and give this money to improve the quality of the public schools for the good of everybody ?

Graeme said...

Well it's not just a Spanish phenomenon, it happens in Britain too - in the end the affluent always get the education they want for their kids, and the rest.....

However, in this case it appears - at least from the El Pais piece, that Cataluña has not gone as far down this road as Madrid has. The day they tell the concertados to look after themselves and start investing the money they use to subsisdise them for the public system would be a day when things could start to change.

Evaristo said...

I totally agree. The problem is that this situation is so comfortable for everybody (except the unlucky ones who can must go to the public schools) that you don't hear many complaints. Many people understand that it's not fair to have this 'concertados' where, you don't know how or why, but there are almost no inmigrants or low class students. Still they will prefer that school for their children and they are also not going to ask for the system to be changed.

The funny part is that there are many great public schools with great teachers. Don't forget that you don't need to pass the oposiciones to teach at a concertada. But many parents prefer a "clean" school even if the teachers are worse.


Peter said...

I am not surprised by your notes on the Madrid-area. My wife and I considered moving to Spain, as she is lawyer from Ecuador and I an Dutch economist who studied Spanish as well.

Being in Spain, it became clear that (latin american) racism makes it difficult to integrate in society, even if you speak the language well.

I think other countries are better to live in as a mixed couple. The Netherlands for instance. As long as one learns the language and performs a job...

I am increasingly happy with the fact that no public schools exist in The Netherlands. Every child goes the nearest school and school level selection (starting 12 years) is based on intelligence and capacity.

Graeme said...

Interesting comment Peter, in partial defence of the situation in Spain I would say that I believe things will improve as the immigrant population becomes more established. That's not to excuse racism, but Spain has gone very quickly from being a country of emigrants to one of immigration. Unfortunately the worst response often comes from the administration and the policy in Madrid is simply appalling - regular readers of this blog will know already I'm not a big fan of our regional government.

I think you put your finger on the solution anyway. The policy of providing "choice" in education never works for more than a minority - and it always seems to work best for the middle classes. In the UK the league table system of classifying schools is a disaster because it punishes any school that tries to work for all of its pupils instead of just the gifted minority. The issue in the end is about more than just race, it's about everyone getting access to decent educational opportunities.

Ed S. said...

Public education in Spain has been a lost cause for a long time now. There's nothing to do.

And I'm not precisely keen on "concertados"; even though they probably have the best education offer within the Spanish system, they're extremely religious, extremely. Of course, Mrs. Aguirre and the whole of the Spanish ultra-catholic right are more than happy with it, and no doubt they'll keep on supporting "concertados".

Let's remember that Spain, even though Gay people can get married, even though we sometimes try too hard to seem like a modern liberal nation, is still a very religious country. Therefore, while "concertados" exist, do not expect any kind of measure regarding public schools.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really not against religion, I just believe it shouldn't get mixed up with education; religion should be something personal and 100% intimate, something that should develope at home.

BTW, this is from the point of view of a former "concertado"-student (for only 3 years, I must say), just graduated from a private school, which my family has struggled to pay in view of the lack of alternative in this country.

Tom said...

Yeah, this is a big problem. We've already started to consider the options for schooling and we've not even decided if we want kids yet. Though it goes against many of my 'firmly held' principles, I'm beginning to think that a good, non-religious international school would fit well with a child coming from a trilingual household (my wife speaks Catalan and a western dialect of Catalan, known as Castilian).

But none of this excuses the state for funding private schools. It's utterly unacceptable that the taxpayer should fund these sorts of places and not be automatically eligible for a place in one.

Graeme said...

Ed S. I agree completely on keeping religion out of education - you would think that an institution receiving so much public money for religious schools might start to show a bit of humility, but on top of that the Church wants to decide what is taught.