Madrid's regional government likes to boast of its commitment to bilingual education, and funds expensive campaigns to that effect; most notably we had the recent "Yes we want" fiasco. There is another side to the story, as explained here by Blackboard the Pirate; South of Watford's first ever guest blogger.
With the school year - and quite possibly the national PSOE government - heading towards an end, and with Countess Aguirre’s private Comunidad widely cited as a model for Spain to follow, a genuine educational model is being bullied by Aguirre’s administration for the sin of being a better scheme than her own.
Thousands of Madrid’s schoolchildren receive tuition in both Spanish and English, in a scheme which – according to Aguirre’s propaganda – is “un modelo educativo considerado como el mejor programa de inmersión lingüística de Europa”. This isn’t true: it’s not even el mejor programa operating within her own Comunidad. In 1996, the British Council (BC) started up and part-funded a project whereby some schools would teach some lessons in English - not just English lessons, but other lessons too. Class teachers are assisted by asesores, native English speakers or Spaniards who have spent a long time in English-speaking countries and achieved fluency in English. Having started in just a few schools, it has thrived: a hundred or more schools across Spain are now in the project, including a number in the Comunidad de Madrid.
Keen to be associated with a popular idea, but not keen that anybody else should get any credit, Aguirre subsequently started up her own scheme – in which there are no asesores. It’s not really a bad scheme, but is manifestly inferior to the BC project. So, piqued by the existence of a better version existing on her own patch, Aguirre is trying to bully the Madrid schools into leaving the BC project and joining her own. Her methods of doing this have so far included:
(a) refusing permission to teachers in BC schools to attend training courses ;
(b) either refusing to let schools replace asesores who have left, or engaging in a lot of feet-dragging before allowing them to do so;
(c) her education minister refusing to meet parents complaining about this, on the specious grounds that she didn't have an available room big enough ;
(d) a late-in-the-day insistence that the BC schools pay for all their pupils to take exams they had not previously taken, costing them of thousands of euros which would otherwise have been available for books and other educational needs.
It seems to some BC project teachers that the intention is to make life increasingly hard for their project unless and until the schools jump ship and join Aguirre’s project instead, which some secondary schools have found themselves obliged to do. The chaos resulting from Aguirre’s meddling is documented in this report.
Is it an unfamiliar pattern? The public face is a forest of press releases with many pictures of Aguirre and many declarations of her greatness: the reality is bullying, empire-building, and a worse service pretending to be a better one. That’s the future for the kids Aguirre is using as pawns in a propaganda game, and conceivably the future for Spain as well.