The Ombudsman of Navarra, Patxi Vera, has asked the Department of Education to monitor whether some centers inflate the grade of Baccalaureate students to facilitate access to university. The call for attention, advanced by Cadena Ser Navarra, arises from a complaint filed last June by a mother who reported that the average grades obtained by students in some centers do not correspond to what they later obtain in the Access to Education Assessment. University (EVAU). The Ombudsman has verified this by analyzing the grades from the last six courses and has specifically singled out Miravalles-El Redín and Irabia-Izaga, the centers related to Opus Dei, whose students have obtained the best average grades in Navarra, without this later reflected in the results obtained in the university entrance exam. “In view of the data collected,” says the Ombudsman, “there are results that can be described, at least, as striking and that, even indicatively, could point to an overestimation of grades by some centers.” Hence, he has recommended that Education supervise “the actions of the schools to which reference has been made.” None of the centers have wanted to issue a statement in this regard, when consulted by EL PAÍS.
The complaint was registered with the Ombudsman on June 30, 2022. In her brief, the author asserts that, in the ranking of qualifications, “in the last 5 years the same centers appear in the first positions, private-subsidized centers, with an average grade that is higher each year. Is it possible to have an average high school grade of 9.07 for all students? (…) As can be seen, there is a considerable difference between the average high school and EVAU grades in these centers, which leads me to think that the high school grades are inflated”. The issue is not trivial, since the average qualification for university access is obtained with 60% of that obtained in baccalaureate and 40% of the result in Selectividad.
The Ombudsman requested both Education and the Public University of Navarra for the grades obtained by Navarre students both in the Baccalaureate stage and in the EVAU during the last five academic years: from the 2016/2017 academic year to the 2021/2022 academic year, both included. After analyzing the information, it has pointed directly to the two aforementioned centers.
The Ombudsman asserts in his brief that the Miravalles-El Redín school, in the six years examined, has the highest qualifications in Baccalaureate in the entire foral community. The average grades range between 8.22 in the first year analyzed and the 8.84 that the students obtained on average in the 2020-21 academic year. The institution points out that there is no “reasonable” correlation between these very high averages -between 8 and 9- and the results obtained in the EVAU. Moreover, the Ombudsman details, although Miravalles-El Redín was the one that gave the best grades during the six courses analyzed, it was only the best in the EVAU on one occasion, in 2016/2017. In the rest, it remains in fourth position ―in the ranking of all the Navarrese institutes― in 2017/2018, third in 2018/2019, eighteenth in 2019/2020, seventeenth in 2020/2021 and tenth in 2021/2022.
On the other hand, the high school students of the Irabia-Izaga center are the second center that has obtained the best average grades, behind the previous one, in the six courses analyzed by the Ombudsman. From the 7.75 of the 2016/2017 academic year to the 8.45 obtained in 2020-21 or the 8.36 of the last academic year. However, the students do not shine the same in Selectividad, since they obtained the following positions: “Thirty-third position in 2016/2017, twenty-third position in 2017/2018, twentieth position in 2018/2019, fourteenth position in 2019/2020, ninth position in 2020/2021, and seventh position in 2021/2022″.
According to the Ombudsman’s resolution, “it does not seem reasonable that each and every year, without exception, the baccalaureate grade is the highest of all the centers, and that, once the EVAU has been completed, this result does not have the same reflection”. Moreover, he emphasizes, it is striking that there is no “correlation, if not absolute or exact, then at least substantially similar.” Above all, taking into account that the results of six consecutive courses are being analyzed, “a relevant period of time”.
The Ombudsman includes another criterion in his analysis, that of the average deviation of the schools between the high school grades and the EVAU, which, in general terms, are lower in the set of centers. If the average deviation of the rest of the centers is 0.583, in the case of Miravalles-El Redín and Irabia-Izaga, “this deviation amounts to 1,325 points and 1,183 points, respectively, so we are faced with differences between double and triple the mean deviation.
They continue to segregate by sex
The Department of Education has not yet responded to the Ombudsman’s recommendation. It is expected that he will make statements in the next few hours and that he will officially respond to the entity within the maximum period of two months granted by law. It should be noted that, next year, Education will stop financing the Baccalaureate stage in these two centers linked to Opus Dei because they have breached the agreement and have continued to segregate students by sex.
The author of the complaint also demanded in her writing that, from now on, it is the department that establishes the same evaluation and recovery exams for all the centers. A requirement that she has already been denied by Education, which argued that they have pedagogical autonomy, so they can determine for themselves which evaluation instruments to use. There is a common base, Provincial Decree 25/2015, which establishes the curriculum ―contents, evaluation criteria and evaluable learning standards―, which is mandatory and applicable to schools.
However, the Ombudsman considers that signs of overqualification may translate into non-compliance with the principles of equality, merit and ability that govern access to the university. Hence, he maintains, the margin of autonomy of the centers and of the teaching staff “is not incompatible with the possibility of establishing control over it, to the extent that there are indications that the rules and principles established in the educational laws may be compromised.”
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