Is everything fixed with more money?

It is evident that the results of the PISA report are bad, without excuses.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
07 December 2023 Thursday 03:38
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Is everything fixed with more money?

It is evident that the results of the PISA report are bad, without excuses. This is how the president of the Generalitat responded clearly to the results published this week by the OECD, which evaluates the educational systems of countries. Clarity is appreciated, because recognizing that things are not working as they should is the first step in seeking solutions. It is not enough to say that the issue is very complex and that there are many causes that explain the result. The statement is true, but you have to have courage and assertiveness to identify where the focus and efforts should be placed.

In the same way that we all have a soccer coach inside us and we know, especially after the game, which was the best lineup, something similar happens with education, on which experts appear with infallible solutions. And we also tend to use some mantras that seem to answer all the problems, but commonplaces are not always useful to understand what is happening.

Almost always, changes follow reality. What we collect today is a photo of what has been planted in recent years and the structural changes take time, but we must get the diagnosis right. It is surprising and frustrating that when more than ever is invested in education (6.8 billion euros in Catalonia, two thousand more than a decade ago) and when there are more teachers than ever in the system, the results do not improve but rather get worse. Therefore, as happens in other countries, at a certain point, the improvements in the system are not explained only by the millions of euros spent, since there are many factors, some exogenous to the school, that explain the results.

Many elements impact the educational system. Of course, the educational policies and the resources allocated or the scholarship system, but also the degree of commitment of families, students and teachers, the socioeconomic conditions of the environment, the management models of educational centers and, naturally, the way in which global challenges such as digitalization and the omnipresence of screens and social networks are addressed. Each actor must play their role and therefore it would be unfair, and unhelpful, for the poor results of the PISA report to be dismissed by attributing everything to the fact that more money must be put into the system and that's it.

One of the few things that generate consensus in the analysis of the situation, and this is supported by the data, is that there is a direct relationship between the results and academic performance of the students and the socioeconomic and cultural conditions of the families. It may be uncomfortable to recognize this reality openly, especially in times when political correctness marks opinions and discourses, but it is a fact that the reality of our society, of our towns, neighborhoods and cities has a reflection, as if It is a mirror, in what happens at school. School is not a bubble where you start from a blank page in which everything has to be done and everything is possible; The school follows reality and has the noble function of improving it, but it does not work miracles.

That there is a structural problem of lack of housing that concentrates low incomes in certain areas, that there are 20% of families on the poverty line, that the purchasing power of families is lower every day due to salaries that are often miserable. , or that one can live better by collecting a well-deserved pension that working ten hours a day inevitably leads to reducing the opportunities of students from those environments.

Catalonia has reached eight million inhabitants this autumn. In fifteen years we have added a million, half in the last five years. It is impossible, with an honest and objective analysis, not to reach the conclusion that this reality – which has very positive things in other areas – has a direct impact on educational results. In the same way that it impacts other public services such as healthcare.

Explaining this is not avoiding responsibilities because it is part of the answer to the question of what is happening to us. It is true that, through bad faith and intentionality, it can support classist and xenophobic discourses, but falling into the naivety of not incorporating this element in the analysis would be foolhardy if one really wants to turn the situation around. And that is everyone's task, without exceptions and without excuses.