Education in Catalonia continues in the eye of the hurricane. The growth of independence, which in the last decade has gone from having the support of 15% of the population to 40%, has opened the debate on the possible reasons and the school has been one of the main focal points. First was the Catalan: the most critical voices considered that the system of linguistic immersion in the classrooms was a nest of independentistas. Then teachers were targeted and the use of symbols – like yellow ties in support of the imprisoned independence leaders – and now the new culprit of the supposed nationalist indoctrination in the schools are the textbooks.
The latest controversy is a report commissioned by the former Minister of Education Íñigo Méndez de Vigo to the High State Inspection – group A officials appointed by the Government in each of the 17 autonomous communities – that concludes that some books of Social Sciences and History in Catalonia "contravene" principles of the Constitution and "incite separatism "
Can textbooks indoctrinate? The experts and teachers consulted reject this extreme en bloc. "The school can not explain the growth of the independence movement. Searching in the education system the answer to the Catalan crisis is to confuse the debate ", explains Lluís Orriols, doctor in Political Science for the Oxford University and professor of Carlos III from Madrid. Education, says Orriols, generates gradual changes as different generations enter, and that leads to progressive increases in decades. "Here we see a concentrated increase in time: between 2006 and 2012 the pace of growth of the independence movement among young people educated in the educational system of Jordi Pujol and among those over 50 who went to school during the Franco regime, has been practically identical, "he says.
"The school plays an important role in the ideological configuration in a very specific historical moment: in the passage from an illiterate society to a scholarized one", points out José Saturnino Martínez, professor of Sociology at the University of La Laguna. The first generation in school, explains the expert, is formed in values that parents do not know, but from there, it is the family that transmits an identity to their children. "The effect of the school is very limited", Add.
For its part, the Síndic de Greuges (Catalan ombudsman) has received about thirty complaints since the independence of course indoctrination at school – painted in the courtyard, exhibition of partisan symbols or debates in favor of independence in the classrooms, among others. The Ministry of Education collected another 138 complaints. These 174 complaints were analyzed by the Catalan Ombudsman, who could only verify irregularities in 10 of them, such as a center that sent a statement encouraging them to participate in one of the strikes called in support of independence or a school that organized a simulation in the courtyard of a vote as a voluntary activity. None of them made reference to textbooks. The Catalan Ombudsman insists that the cases of malpractice detected can not be extrapolated to the entire education system and recalls that there are about ten irregularities in a context of 1.3 million students enrolled in 4,800 public and private schools.
"We can say categorically that we have a school with pluralism and without indoctrination," the Síndic, Rafael Ribó, said last July in the presentation of a report on alleged indoctrination in the classrooms. Ribó also charged against the union AMES and accused him of "cataloging as indoctrinators contents that appear reflected in the legal system." The Catalan Ombudsman explained that when dealing with 11-year-old children, the contents can be simplified to make them understandable "without there necessarily being a real will to transmit a deformed vision of reality". "The same historiography admits different interpretations of historical facts," he added.
Miguel Ángel Puig-Samper, researcher at the CSIC, believes that Spain should create a committee to review textbooks from different perspectives to analyze if there are biases. He and his team have detected in academic books of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries biased views of the history of Spain and believes that this reality could be transferred to textbooks. Andalusia is an example of this: it has approved a regulation so that all textbooks are revised from infant to high school to ensure that there are no gender biases.
The shadow of indoctrination that has dragged the Catalan school for years intensified last autumn after the consultation on October 1, a day where schools played a key role as polling stations. From that moment, many Catalan families denounced that the tension of the street and the division of the you procés They had sneaked into the classroom. In the last year, the Catalan Inspection Service has received a total of 4,254 complaints about the operation of educational centers, of which 30 are related to alleged indoctrination and, of these, four with textbooks, as confirmed by the Department of Education of the Generalitat to EL PAÍS.
The Publishers Guild of Catalonia, which represents some of the editorials mentioned by the High Inspection in its report, such as Teide, Vicens Vives, Barcanova (of the Anaya group) or La Galera, denies that the textbooks include content that instrumentalize about nationalism. "We make efforts not to hurt sensibilities. You can make some mistake, historical or appreciation. If it happens, a parent or teacher denounces it to the inspection, it draws attention to the publisher and the publisher corrects the problem. This has always happened, "says Antonio Garrido, spokesman for the guild and general director of the Edebé publishing house, which does not appear in the aforementioned report.
Garrido explains that textbooks are prepared by expert teachers in the field, but admits that "there is no foolproof formula to analyze the truthfulness of a textbook." "The problem in the Social Sciences is that they give more freedom to interpretation. For example, when explaining the Civil War, the bias towards one side or another will hardly have an explanation that is incontestable ". The editor considers that the analyzed sample is not representative, since in Spain there are 60,000 textbooks (10,000 in Catalonia) and the High Inspection has analyzed 127 of all Spain. "The textbook is not a dogma of faith. It is a tool more at the service of the educational community. The teacher is the one who directs, tutors and designs the curricular objectives ", ditch.
On the ground, teachers also coincide with the editors. "The book is a support tool, not a bible," says Núria García, director of the public institute Montserrat de Barcelona, located in the upper area of the Catalan capital with 800 students and 75 teachers. "Each department chooses whether or not it wants a textbook and which publisher. I do not get involved in the materials they use, "Garcia adds. The freedom of chair, included in the Constitution, establishes the freedom of teachers "to teach and debate" without being limited by doctrines. Each teacher can follow the teaching method he considers appropriate.
The autonomy of the center when choosing materials is sacred. The professors of the same department decide which books, which publishers, or which tools will be used during the course. The teachers are in charge of reviewing the contents of the books and selecting the one they consider most appropriate for their educational project. All textbooks have to meet the curricular criteria set by the Ministry, as well as those approved by the regional administrations.
The teaching community rejects that textbooks serve as an indoctrinating element or that eliminate the critical capacity of the student. In any case, they limit the controversy to the history books. "The social sciences are not objective. But here are some programs and curriculums that you have to follow. You can not go to class and do what you want, "says Montserrat Bolós, a physics and chemistry teacher in high school and high school in Montserrat. His partner, Rafael Bocanegra, a specialist in geography and history and also a professor at the center, admits that there are history books that are "more tendentious than others; some that speak more of Spain and others more of Catalonia ", but insists on the filter role of the teacher. "We are here to detect these things. What we always try to do is tell the students: there is this and this other and you decide, "he adds.
The teachers insist that the pedagogical renovation has revolutionized the classrooms and the image that remains in the collective imagination of the teacher reading the book in class has disappeared. "If you are reading the book in class, no child will pay attention to you. The children of now are different from those of before and, for survival, the teacher has to self-invent. With or without a book, "says García.
In Catalonia 33% of teachers no longer use textbooks in the classroom, compared to 25% of the rest of Spain, according to data from the Publishers Guild. The network of innovative schools Escola Nova 21, which brings together 480 public and subsidized schools of Catalonia united to turn the traditional classroom, promotes the use of new teaching materials. Eduard Vallory, director of the Center for Unesco of Catalonia and founder of the platform, considers that the personalization of learning is key, and that the book as the only source of knowledge is an educational model to be overcome. "We can not transmit definitive knowledge forever, but the idea of permanent construction," he says in relation to the first report of the Unesco about education in 1972. "There was already talk about lifelong learning; in Catalonia that vision is already overcome ".
"We can spend our lives turning every page of a book into a battlefield, or we can let the publisher do their job," adds Ismael Palacín, director of the Jaume Bofill Foundation, an organization dedicated to research on education. The researcher insists that the controversy of indoctrination is "artificial", that "it does not respond to a real problem of education". And he warns: "Whoever wants the school not to be neutral, what he wants is to shut his mouth to education. You have to let the school educate in values. An aseptic school is one of those who want students not to think. "
"Textbooks are nothing more than a part of the school material that is used in educational centers. In the classrooms, networks, magazines, newspapers and textbooks are used"With these words, the Minister of Education, Isabel Celaá, answered the questions of the journalists about the indoctrination report in the textbooks prepared by the High Inspection." Indoctrination in the classroom requires working on many fronts and from many areas, "the minister racalcó, for whom" there is no magic recipe. "
The controversy of the alleged indoctrination with textbooks in Catalonia dates back to May 2017, when a deputy of Ciudadanos brought to Congress a report from the Catalan teachers' union AMES – a minority group with no union representation in the Catalan school – in the that after analyzing 19 5th and 6th grade textbooks (14 Catalan and 5 Madrid editions), it concludes that there are "partisan ideological contents" in 12 of the books published in Catalonia. In the same document, AMES demands that the Central Administration supervise textbooks before distribution, a practice inherited from the Franco regime that was abolished in 1998 to give greater autonomy to schools.
That document never saw the light. The team of the new Minister of Education assures that they found it in a drawer of the headquarters of Alcalá 34 a month ago. The minister described the document as lacking in rigor and announced that she will not publish it for "responsibility". In total, 127 primary, secondary and high school books used in the different autonomous communities were analyzed in which, according to the Ministry, contradictory analyzes of the same book appear, which makes it impossible to "reach rigorous conclusions". It also criticizes that the methodology followed by the top inspectors is not specified, and that inaccurate data, misprints, conceptual errors, partial readings and subjective evaluations appear, which "take away any scientific rigor". Catalonia also does not have a register of the books used by each educational center, so the impact and level of dissemination of the books analyzed can not be assessed.
The rain of criticism of the report of the High Inspection also comes from the career inspectors. "The word high inspection confuses the population: it is not a technical body specialized in education, but group A officials. They have not passed a specific opposition that ensures they know the educational evaluation or content monitoring systems," says Xavier Chavarria , Chief Inspector of Barcelona, with 42 inspectors under his charge.
Carmen Martinez, current director of the High Inspection in Aragon, recently appointed by the Government of Pedro Sánchez, believes that it is not about having or not the knowledge to analyze a textbook, but it is a matter of resources. "Our work is purely administrative; We are about five or six per community and we take care of the homologations of titles or validations. Making a report of that kind requires resources that we do not have, "he says. He believes that to carry out a rigorous analysis, a significant number of textbooks would have to be analyzed. Of the 60,000 textbooks that, according to estimations of the Publishers Guild of Catalonia, circulate each course in Spain, the High Inspection only analyzed 127.