Education Ministry says the new university entrance exams will be introduced in the 2023-24 academic year

Catalonia will have 261 more A-level groups ('bachillerato') and vocational training ('FP'), and two new specific vocational training schools

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Students during a PAU exam at the Faculty of Economics and Business at the UB on Tuesday.

BarcelonaThe days of the current selectividad (university entrance exams) are numbered. Whether they will be few or many depends on the department of education and the universities, but for the moment the former seem determined to reform the current university entrance system. "We won't be able to hold out much longer with the current selectividad. The current university entrance exams (PAU) are unsustainable", said the Minister of Education, Josep Bargalló. The bachillerato (A-levels), said Bargalló, is the level of education that has remained most on the fringes of the wave of educational transformation that has shaken the education system in recent years, and this has meant that two entire academic years are conditioned by an exam. "The bachillerato has a corset called PAU", he said, and reviewed the grievances: he said that it is an exam that has "nothing to do with" skills-based work, that is based on "the old memorised study" and that "causes anxiety" to students. Despite the "reticence" that exists, the Education Ministry assures us that we are getting closer and closer to reforming this stage of education.

According to the general director of Curriculum and Personalisation, Maite Aymerich, a decree is being prepared to transform the Spanish A-levels and make them more "flexible" and not just "a gateway to pass a test". The new regulations will be approved next year, to be applied in the 2022-2023 academic year, and allow the introduction of new university entrance exams in the 2023-2024 academic year. The first students to take the new test, then, would be those who are now studying 3rd of ESO.

This is, in fact, what a group of headmistresses, united in the platform Canviem el Batxillerat, asked a few months ago to refocus these two courses to make them more flexible. The general aim, explained the three promoters to ARA, is to stop seeing the bachillerato as the prelude to university. "Many teachers think that the bachillerato only serves to take the university entrance exams, and do not remember that many students do bachillerato to continue with vocational training (in Spanish, FP, formación profesional), said Maribel Tarrés, director of the Institute Jaume Cabré de Terrassa. "It's as if there were no other path, when in reality there should be many options", she added.

In this line, Bargalló has presented several novelties for the next course regarding post-compulsory studies (bachillerato and formación profesional, especially). In total, they will have 8,267 groups, 261 more than this academic year, and will have to provide places for 350,000 students. To begin with, two new specific public formación profesional schools will be opened: the Institut Centre de Tecnologies d'Aliments, in Mercabarna, and the Institut Antoni Algueró, in Sant Just Desvern, dedicated to graphic arts. In addition, twelve training cycles will be launched for the first time in Catalonia, including office computing, access and conservation in facilities, or guiding in the natural environment and leisure time. There will also be an increase in the number of centres that will offer both the artistic bachillerato (there will be three more, now 67) and the double qualification of sports and artistic education (they will be taught in fifteen schools, six more than now).

All of this, said Bargalló, in order to increase the quality and specialisation of the offer and adapt it "to the demand of the labour market". In fact, the minister said that the aim is to abandon the current "generic and generalist" training and move towards a model linked "to the needs of the territory and the labour market and to the new concerns of students". In this sense, the offer of the new opportunities programme for young people aged between 14 and 24 who want to obtain their ESO (compulsory education) diploma, re-enter the education system and prepare themselves to enter the job market will also be reinforced with 23 more groups.

The Generalitat is confident of recovering full presentiality next academic year

The Ministry of Education "is not considering that the next academic year could be blended learning", but hopes that all students in post-compulsory stages will be able to return to full attendance even before the end of the academic year. "If the indicators had been better after Easter, especially the occupation of the ICUs, the return to the classroom would have already been arranged", said Minister Bargalló. This return will be guaranteed especially for students in the second year of bachillerato, who are precisely those who have to take the university entrance exams. The academic year began with on-site studies, but in October, in view of the worsening of the data and the second wave of covid, a blended learning system was introduced in bachillerato and vocational training, which has been maintained until now.