Fight against school segregation is failing

2 min
A school hanger in an archival image

Efforts to combat school segregation have not made the grade. In fact, in some respects it is getting worse. Two years ago, political institutions and the educational community committed themselves in a solemn pact to combat this problem, one of the main problems that hinder the quality and fairness of the system. The initiative was promoted by the Department of Education and the Catalan Ombudsman, and practically everyone joined in, including private schools and the various players in education. But so far those good intentions have remained a dead letter. Too often writing good laws and good reports is relatively easy, but putting them into practice is another matter. This should not be the case.

If the agreement was practically unanimous given the seriousness of the situation – a few schools concentrated the bulk of disadvantaged pupils – we can now say that two years later the situation remains stagnant or has even worsened. This is what a study by the Fundació Bofill reveals: 83% of vulnerable schools had pupils enrolling in the middle of the school year, often in a tough personal situations. This had been explicitly prohibited by the pact and further complicates the situation of these centres. One in three boys and girls arriving during the 2019-2020 academic year, whose families had migrated or struggled financially, ended up in one of these schools.

In fact, the administrations' inaction (both by the Generalitat and many town councils) has made the general problem more acute, with an increase in the number of schools that can be considered segregated, which have gone from 400 to 420 in the last five years. In other words, the mechanisms included in the pact have not worked in practice. There has been a lack of political will and a lack of resources, normally two sides of the same coin. And as Bofill's study highlights, the issue cannot be reduced to the public-private dichotomy: although most of the schools affected are public, there are also chartered schools that are in this situation and public state (specifically, 140) that clearly fail to take in their share.

The problem of segregation, moreover, goes beyond late enrolments. According to the most updated data, the Generalitat's Department of Education only detected 59,082 vulnerable students, 7% of the total, when the rate of students below the poverty line is 21.3%, which means that about 120,000 children with special educational have gone unnoticed. This is a lot and these boys and girls will have a very difficult time progressing educationally and, therefore, also socially and economically. It is no good to lament later school failure, poor average academic level and many young people's lack of preparation. A good integration into the school world is the best recipe for fixing the currently broken social ladder and therefore achieving a fairer and more dynamic society.