April 22, 2024

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The new registration system that the Basque Government has established for the next academic year, which includes the obligation of educational centers to reserve places for vulnerable students, has opened a bitter controversy in the Basque Country. The Department of Education and the two large employers of subsidized education are in conflict: the ikastolas and religious schools. The Ministry of the branch reserves the power to redistribute the enrollees who will access the educational system –two-year-olds– to achieve a balanced distribution of needy students and avoid school segregation. You have already exercised that right. Of a total of 11,967 new registered, 275 have been affected by this measure against ghettoisation. These have been assigned to a center that their parents did not choose at the time of processing the pre-registration. The ikastolas concerted parties have threatened to retain them. The tension is served.

The 2023/2024 academic year will be the first in the Basque Country to be governed by a new student admission regulation that establishes a vulnerability index for all educational centers and reserves a quota of places for students with needs based on the socioeconomic reality of the area in which the school is located. This quota has been calculated from the questionnaires that the families have been filling out when they completed the pre-registration. In this form they were asked about the number of family members, the educational level of its members or their occupation. The most controversial thing about the survey is that it included other more shocking questions: Do you have pay television (Netflix, HBO or Amazon Prime)? How many encyclopedias, dictionaries or reference books do you have? How many e-books and tablets? How many mobile phones with WhatsApp?

Once the so-called school vulnerability map was drawn up, Education defined the places that each center financed with public funds should offer these families. These were the rules of the game that were agreed upon in the educational pact supported by the agents involved in April last year. They all agreed to face the risk of creating ghettos in schools and preventing the less favored population from concentrating in the same schools. In this community there are 524 public and subsidized centers that have a two-year classroom. When the time comes to put these new criteria into practice, the confrontation is a fact. The ikastolas They criticize in a statement the “lack of transparency” of Education when defining the vulnerability indices and denounce that the transfer of families to centers that they did not choose “is not being done in a balanced way.” The Christian subsidized centers of Kristau Eskola request that students not be referred to centers other than the one they wish to, because there have been cases of families that opted for a religious school and have been sent to a public one in another municipality.

Ikastolen Elkartea has taken a much more belligerent position and warns that its schools will refuse to part with students who chose a ikastola for the coming academic year, which would place them outside of what the regulations dictate. Kristau Eskola will not opt ​​for such a drastic decision. The counselor Jokin Bildarratz warned last Friday in Parliament that “with bids and orders no one is helped, no family is helped.”

With the data in hand, the head of Education explained that 93.8% of families managed to enroll their children in the center they wanted. Another 3.8% have been placed in one of the alternative centers indicated on the form. Only 2.3% (275 schoolchildren) will be transferred by the administration to another school because their parents “only gave one school option.”

What is at stake, says Julen Llanos, head of Education for Comisiones Obreras, is the distribution of students at a time when the birth rate is falling and the number of enrollments is dwindling. “It is an open war to secure registrations. They have a lot of weight there ikastolas and the great religious centers, while the more modest schools are turning their ears to the wolf”, he affirms. The ultimate goal of achieving an equitable distribution of vulnerable students is something defended by all parties; the problem occurs when this distribution of less advantaged students is executed. Llanos points out that “the large subsidized centers see their ability to expand their offer and gain students reduced, because they are obliged to offer a number of places to vulnerable families and if they cannot complete them they cannot assign them to other types of students.”

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