14/06/2021

The worrying level of prospective teachers

2 min
An empty classroom at the Rafael Alberti School in Badalona.

For years there has been a broad consensus on the need to promote a major change in the education system in order to drive Catalan society towards higher levels of progress, understood in terms of economic, cultural and scientific improvement, and greater equality of opportunity. While the need is widely agreed on, there is no unanimity, however, on how to achieve it. Many successful experiences have been carried out, but even so, overall results continue to be modest to worrying. In any case, beyond methods, one of the factors that has always been sought is to try to achieve a highly qualified corps of teachers, as happens in some of the most successful countries in education, such as Finland.

Well, if we look at the results of the personal aptitude tests (PAP), mandatory since 2017 for all those students who want to pursue an educational degree at any Catalan university, it seems that we are going backwards, like crabs: from 30% of failures in the first year it went to 40% the following years and now it has risen to 50%. And these are not exactly difficult tests. In fact, they are unquestionably simple if what we are really trying to do is to imprint talent on the teaching profession in order to raise the general bar. They only guarantee a minimum level, a very minimum level. And yet, this time, one in two prospective teachers failed the test. Examiners themselves considered the results disappointing and have raised a cry of warning: they consider the drop in passes "significant and alarming" and also note many students' "poor reading habits", unable to remember any book read - not even those mandatory in baccalaureate - and with "serious mistakes in reading comprehension and written expression", not to mention cultural or social references. In mathematics, the conclusions are no better, with serious difficulties in interpreting graphs published in the media. To sum up, the average level of those who aspire to be teachers is manifestly low

Therefore, a fundamental reflection is necessary. As the assessors of PAPs themselves believe, these two school years affected by the pandemic, with little attendance, may have worsened the situation in baccalaureate, becoming less demanding and more passes being given than usual. But the problem is more fundamental: secondary school students' general level, not only in academic terms, but also in terms of cultural interest and motivation, is in no way desirable. If we add to this the fact that the brightest students do not tend to opt for the teaching profession, we enter a loop. Breaking this vicious circle is crucial. Because, no matter how many innovations, resources and changes are introduced in schools and high schools, without good students who want to be good teachers, without professionals with a good educational base, both restless and capable, the future of education in this country is not guaranteed. Giving these studies and the profession prestige should be a national priority. The results of this year's PAPs show us that more courageous measures must be taken at all levels if we really want to make an educational revolution that will revitalize our society possible.

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