An overview of education

   The latest report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) about education in its member states, although does not go to the heart of the educational issue in Europe and other American, Asian and Pacific nations, contains interesting data, even though they are limited and insufficient.

   The essential reference of a quality education system is the transmission of the cultural legacy of moral and Community achievements related to basic human rights, such as life, freedom and property. School systems, and especially the Spanish one, do not provide adequate training in the dimensions mentioned, nor in other instrumental subjects also important, which OECD studies focus on.

   The report “Education at a glance” by the OECD provides us with valuable data. The first point to focus on is the huge expenditure by the European countries, USA, Canada, Japan, etc. and Spain. An exaggerated increase in their teaching force, and lower ratios of students to teachers and classrooms to students, bring with them a heavy cost not matched by the performance in areas such as mathematics, language and science. As it is well known a pupil / teacher ratio of below 30 especially in upper secondary education does not affect academic performance significantly. A large body of scientific literature confirms it. The students’ success is rooted in discipline, teachers training and family attitudes, not in an unchecked spending. Eastern Europe countries, such as Estonia, Poland and Czech Republic have a superior performance in PISA-OECD testing to Spain, USA and France in Mathematics, language and science. Other countries such as Finland with a similar expenditure to ours overtake us in academic performance.

   These studies show that quality of key subjects such as mathematics and language does not depend on the increase of investment beyond a reasonable threshold around an average of 5,000 euros per student in compulsory schooling. In the public sector of “plunder autonomies” the cost of the student’s place per year in state schools will be around 8,000 euros. Concertada schools of the public sector have a cost much lower, around an average of 3,000 euros. On the other hand, regarding teacher salaries and according to OECD Spain is among those countries where teacher’s work is better paid. Its place is the 5th followed by USA and other countries richer than ours regarding per capita income, such us Canada, Netherlands or Italy.

   This is all very interesting, but I must insist that our studies -made by an institution strongly politicized such as OECD- do not include other quality educational dimensions whose main measurement variable is the transmission of the legacy named “West”. It is a devastating picture the lack of historic, literary, philosophical and Jewish-Christian religious knowledge, among the pupils leaving secondary school.

   Unlike other studies, OECD does not address the close relation between family stability, learning achievements and development of moral values. In USA different institutions from civil society have made investigations concluding children and adolescents without a well-structured family and a stable marriage to have fewer chances at success in studies.

   The status of History Education, a priority issue, is not analyzed. The History that is being taught does not transmit the disasters of Communist tyrannies of the 20th century –from Soviet Union mainly- that have drown several generations during the last century into economic backwardness and violence, and still going on today (see North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela). Spanish youngsters have hardly received teachings about the civilizing purpose of our ancestors in America and Asia. In view of this situation it is no wonder many of them are easily manipulable by totalitarian ideologies –such as separatisms and Podemos communism- that if successful would push them back into tyranny and poverty.

   In conclusion, the increase of public investment does not lead to an improvement of student performance in every dimensions of integral training: civic and academic. We must focus on variables such us training, selection and professionalization of the teaching profession; control-evaluation; autonomy of schools; reduction in any interventionist action; rational allocation of resources. And, above all, a broader competition within school systems.

    Silvino Lantero Vallina

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