Education Dpt advertises new baccalaureate at Education Salon before informing schools

A leaflet is distributed listing the subjects that will be on offer and how the new 'general baccalaureate' will be organised

3 min
The Minister of Education, visiting the Salón de la Enseñanza.

BarcelonaLeaflets distributed at the Department of Education's stand at the Education Salon have caused a stir: among the information that students could consult there was an outline of what the future baccalaureate will be like. This would seem perfectly normal were it not for the fact that this is precisely the information schools have been requesting for over a month in order to make contributions and also advise students, especially those in their last year of compulsory education, on what future path to follow. Indignation among teachers was evident on social media. They consider that, once again, the Department will apply changes without consulting them. Precisely, the Department of Education's ways are one of the reasons that pushed many teachers to take part of the five-day strike.

The information leaflet, which has also been posted on the Department's website, makes it clear that the information is "provisional", but the truth is that it is the first document by the Education Department giving details in writing of what the future baccalaureate will be like. Until now the only news that schools had came from the unions and the press. The leaflet explains that in the first year of baccalaureate the hours of core subjects (languages, philosophy and physical education) will go down from 14 to 12 per week, after the subject of sciences of the contemporary world was eliminated; the modality subjects (those that are studied depending to the branch students chose) go down from 12 hours per week to 9, whilst optional subjects (where students have the most freedom to choose) will go up from 4 to 9 hours per week. The aim is to diversify and personalise learning according to each student's interests.

According to the leaflet, students will be able to choose between annual optionals (biomedicine, business operations, classical world, programming, psychology...) and quarterly optionals (literary creation, applied mathematics, social problems, current scientific challenges, citizenship, politics and law, robotics...). Second-year students will continue with the current system, for the time being, although new optionals will also be introduced, such as sustainable environment, peace, justice and co-responsibility, and population and prosperity.

Another of the changes announced is the introduction of a new type of baccalaureate, the general baccalaureate, which is "in pilot phase" and which the department told the media would initially only be offered in about twenty schools. This new baccalaureate will allow students to mix subjects from already existing branches (science and technology, humanities and social sciences, and arts): first-year students will have to do compulsory mathematics and economics, and second-years will have to take general sciences and cultural and artistic movements.

"Another lack of respect"

Beyond the changes, teachers have shown their discomfort for having learnt about the new curriculum through social media. "The respect given to the educational community is somewhere between grotesque and dramatic," said Cesc Ayora, head of studies at Tecnos School of Terrassa. "With this provisionality it is impossible to guide last-year compulsory education students properly", said Jaume Montsalvatge, head of the pedagogy and innovation area at Escoles Pies de Catalunya. For Joan Cumeras, director of the Institut Sobrequés in Girona, it is "another lack of respect and improvisation" by the department. "Heads do not have the promised draft nor have we been able to talk in any meeting but it is already being distributed to students in the Education Salon. We are outraged," he assures.

All in all, schools will have one more year of margin to start applying these changes. On the second day of the strike, Education minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray announced a small concession regarding the curriculum: the department will pass the changes but will allow schools that wish to do so to delay rolling out the changes. The minister had already said in a letter to teachers last week that the changes will be rolled out "progressively and with flexibility" and that there would be three years of margin. Yesterday, the day after a major strike by teachers against his policies, he explained that there would be a voluntary moratorium so that the centers that want to can continue applying the current curricula next year. Unions say the announcement is a smokescreen.

45% of Catalans back bringing forward the beginning of the school year

Bringing forward the start of the school year is not the (only) cause of the strike, but it was the main trigger, because the unions announced the five days of industrial action just after Cambray stuck to his guns over the summer holidays. This Thursday there has been evidence of social support for the measure: 45.2% of Catalans support the starting the school year earlier, according a CEO survey, while 36.5% are against it and 18% are unsure. Lowering student/teacher ratios has much more support: 74.5% of respondents are in favour of reducing the number of students per classroom.