Half of those who want to become teachers do not pass aptitude tests
The coordinators of the tests warn that the drop in the number of passes is "alarming" and call for "urgent reflection" on teacher training
BarcelonaHalf of the applicants to study a degree in teaching at any Catalan university have not passed the personal aptitude tests (PAPs), carried out since 2017 with the aim of making the requirements to become a teacher more demanding and giving the teaching profession more prestige. Only 51.58% of the 4,236 people who took the tests on April 10 have provisionally passed them, as published on the website Unportal. The figure is 12 points lower than last year, in which 63.3% of the students passed PAPs, and the lowest number of passes ever recorded -until now, the pass rate had not fallen below 59%-. It is a "significant and alarming" drop, according to organisers, which forces all the institutions involved to make an "urgent reflection" on teacher training.
According to those responsible for the PAPs, the results "have not been sufficiently satisfactory". In a forceful report of two and a half pages, signed by the coordinator for Teaching PAPs of the Interuniversity Council of Catalonia, Josep Maria Cornadó, it is alarming that a considerable number of students lack "reading habits" - a part of the candidates "has difficulties to remember any book they have read" and "they have not even been able to remember some set books from baccalaureate-", they make "grave reading comprehension and written expression mistakes", they lack "social and cultural references", they have problems to interpret graphs published in the media and show a "lack of resources and expertise to analyse problems". The most worrying aspect is that the people who have done PAPs are students who have finished high school or are about to or adults who have passed the tests for the over-24s and over-45s and that, in addition, the exams have "a level of complexity that most 12 to 15-year-old students should be able to deal with without difficulty," says the coordinator.
Covid is not the only cause
The Cornadó report consulted by ARA tries to address the causes of this year's poor results. On the one hand, it points to baccalaureate and vocational training students' "emergency academic situation", who in the past two years have had few presential classes, due to lockdown and restrictions against covid. The pandemic could also have influenced the results of PAPs for another reason: the promotion criteria have been modified "in an exceptional way" and students have been allowed to pass from one year to the next and obtain degrees despite having failed any number of subjects. Partly for this reason, last year the number of students who passed baccalaureate soared: 83.25% passed, 11% more than the previous year. "We do not know to what extent the assessments made in schools reflect the reality of each student," the Cornadó report states, which also recalls that the administrations asked "not to penalise" students for the tasks they did from home because it could not be guaranteed that all enjoyed adequate conditions to follow the course.
However, the same document makes clear that "it is naive" to believe that the cause of the bad results to the PAP is "exclusively" covid-19 or the level of complexity of the tests, taking into account that the aptitude tests only demand "minimum requirements and the indispensable minimum level" to be a teacher. " There is a more important background, and that the results of this year have to bring a deeper reflection, because the deficit in some skills is not just a matter of a year," says Cornadó. Indeed, the first year that PAPs were carried out, in 2017, seven out of ten applicants passed; the following three courses (2018, 2019 and 2020) it was down to six out of ten applicants and, finally, this year there it was five out of ten. "The results are a symptom that something is not working properly. We have the responsibility to ask for an urgent reflection from all the institutions involved in one way or another in the training of future teachers", the document concludes.
Changes since 2013
Catalonia is the only community in the state that tests everyone who wants to become a teacher. Until the tests were implemented, to study to be a teacher only a very low mark was required; even so, students who did not make the cut could resort to private universities. But in 2013 measures began to be put in place to profoundly transform these degrees with the aim of giving the profession prestige. Driven by the MIF program, led by the Government and all universities, steps were taken to filter students who had personal and vocational skills to become teachers. The first measure, in 2013, was to demand a minimum grade of 4/10 in Catalan and Spanish in University entrance exams and an average of 5 between the two subjects. One in ten applicants was left out. The second measure, PAPs, was introduced in 2017: students, apart from the minimum grades in Catalan and Spanish, have to pass a test that evaluates communicative competence and critical thinking, and another one that evaluates logical and mathematical competence. To pass PAPs you must get at least a 50% on average between the two tests, but you need to score at least 40% in each one.
According to Cornadó, the PAPs "are not an obstacle to break vocations" but a "mechanism to contribute to select future teachers with a minimum cultural knowledge". "It is essential to have teachers with a good cultural knowledge, socially involved, with a critical attitude, suitable teaching skills and the necessary motivation," says the report. Despite all this, the coordinators are aware, they say, that the current tests "have to evolve and as soon as possible they have to try to assess other fundamental competencies in a teacher". In fact, while no one doubts that those who want to become teachers have to demonstrate specific personal and emotional competencies, there are voices that question whether the current test really assesses these requirements. The same test coordinators admit that they cannot evaluate empathy or assertiveness and that the best mechanism would be a personal interview, but at the moment it is not sustainable to prepare one for so many people. At least, they say, PAPs guarantee at least that the people who pass them "have a cultural basis of a certain solidity and appropriate concerns and interests".