Only Turkey segregates its poor students more than the Community of Madrid in the entire OECD

If Madrid were a country, only Turkey would further segregate its students based on their socioeconomic origin. In other words: the region chaired by Isabel Díaz Ayuso separates (or groups) its students according to their social class more than any other in all of Spain and is among those that do so the most in the developed world, according to the study prepared by Save the Children and Esade. The report, titled Diversity and freedom, reduce school segregation while respecting the ability to choose a center, leaves a clue of the possible reasons behind this data: “Educational policies play an essential role in school segregation.”

This statement makes perfect sense when one thinks of Madrid and its policies are compared with the elements which, according to this report, have an influence on increasing segregation: financing of the centers, the fees of the concerted school, the scales to choose a school or institute, live license or school zoning are some of the elements that are indicated as decisive. And hence the great differences between autonomous communities that the report points out.

Spain as a whole is not doing much better, in part because of the Madrid data, which pull the average upwards. The country is the third most segregated in the OECD, surpassed only by Lithuania and Turkey, the text adds. At the other end of Madrid, La Rioja and Cantabria stand out, due to their lower segregation, with figures that remain in half of the Madrid ones. The work of regions such as these two mentioned or Catalonia and Asturias also stands out, which have managed to reduce their segregation since 2015. In Madrid, the land of freedom of choice, it has risen both in Primary and Secondary. The poor are more and more with other poor and the rich, more and more with other rich.

This segregation is not anecdotal, say the authors of the report, but rather “has become a growing problem for the quality, equity and freedom of education in Spain.” Neither has it fallen from the sky or it simply occurs more or less naturally, for example by the mere fact that the geographic distribution of the population already groups it by socioeconomic level (wealthy neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods).

The text, prepared by Álvaro Ferrer, a specialist in educational equity at Save the Children, and Lucas Gortazar, Research Director at Esade EcPol, does not limit itself to describing the situation. The authors also defend that the ability to choose a center must be included in the concept of “educational freedom”, although they add that for this, this possibility of choice must be real and not be sustained only on paper as it is now, and they propose eight measures so that may be possible. Some of them are: increasing positive discrimination to socioeconomic groups on admission; address the enrollment of students who join during the course; equip the centers [concertados] of sufficient financing and control to avoid the payment of quotas; and improve the school offer of public centers, among others.

This report confirms data from another, from February 2018, which already indicated Madrid among the most segregating regions in Europe.

The still photo

The report analyzes segregation at school based on two variables, the school stage and the origin of the students. And he concludes that it is higher in Primary than in Secondary and that it is given more by social class than by geographical origin. It almost goes without saying that Madrid leads the socioeconomic segregation both in Primary and Secondary, although it remains in the middle of the table in which it measures the differences by place of birth of the student (immigrants versus those born in the country).

In Primary and depending on the socioeconomic level, Madrid segregates at the level of Lithuania and above Spain as a whole, but also France, Chile or Portugal. Above is only Turkey in the entire developed world. The Gorard index in this case, which measures the “uniformity” of the system, yields a result of almost 0.35 for the region led by Díaz Ayuso. In other words, 35% of students who belong to the poorest 25% of society (this measure has been chosen as it could have been any other) would have to change centers so that the representativeness of this specific group was the same in schools than in society. The data has risen (worsened) since 2015, when it was at 0.30.

Spain as a country presents a somewhat better figure, with a segregation of 0.32. However, it does not help you much to get down in this classification. Our country is the third that segregates the most in Primary, at a level similar to that of the French neighbors, but higher than Portugal, for example, or Italy. With the Nordic countries, in the positions of honor of the table, it is difficult to compare (see graph).

In Secondary, the statistics leave Spain practically in the OECD average, bordering on a Gorard index of 0.30. Also to Madrid. In this case, the authors of the report emphasize, the wide difference between regions is more striking, with Madrid and the Basque Country at the fore (correlation or causality, they are the two regions that have the most concerted schools) and La Rioja and Cantabria a The tail. In this stage it stands out, unlike in Primary, that the national average has fallen in recent years (less segregation), driven by the fall of Catalonia, Asturias, the Canary Islands, Cantabria and La Rioja (see graph). As happens in Primary, segregation does not increase according to the nationality of origin of the students (at the national level, it does occur in autonomous regions such as Andalusia or Euskadi). It is not, this data seems to indicate, the nationality; is the money.

“Beyond the residential structure”

Why does this segregation occur? How much to blame is the existence of the concerted network, as is often pointed out? And the mere division of municipalities into more or less affluent neighborhoods? “Different studies show that beyond the residential structure of cities and regions and the double public-concerted network, educational policies play an essential role in school segregation,” the report responds.

Ferrer explains that the first thing is that the public debate is perverted. “We believe that in the debate that is taking place on freedom, two ideas must be reconciled: we talk about the freedom of choice of center, a recognized right, but we must also talk about the freedom that gives boys and girls the same possibilities to choose what they are going to do with their life, “he argues. Freedom of choice of center, yes, say Ferrer and Gortazar. Freedom to choose oneself and that life does not choose for one because it has not had the same opportunities because the educational system, the theoretical guarantor of it, does not exercise, too.

And the problem, continues this expert, is that many families do not really choose. “Families with a lower socioeconomic level or of foreign origin have less access to information, because they have less social network,” begins Ferrer. “Native families or families with a higher socioeconomic level turn to friends or acquaintances, they also have fewer worries in their lives to be able to spend more time getting to know their centers, etc.”, he continues. Furthermore, “families with a lower socioeconomic level prioritize proximity because distance has a cost in transportation and work-life balance. Also the fees that are charged in most of the concerted centers [y algunos públicos], which prevent them from being accessible to all families. ”

Positive discrimination adds up

At this point, the authors of the report propose solutions that, in their opinion, would serve to simultaneously “reduce school segregation and respect (and even for the most vulnerable, expand) the families’ ability to choose.” As Ferrer explains, all these measures have already been tested somewhere (in Spain or abroad) with success. In any case, he adds, a battery of measures is offered and administrations are encouraged to “experiment.”

The first proposal and perhaps the most striking is “to increase positive discrimination to socioeconomic groups in the admission scales.” Spain, and this is a somewhat particular issue, is not strictly committed to school zoning, the report explains. In the Community of Madrid, for example, there is a single district in the entire region. But, as explained above, not all families have the same real choice. “To the extent that families with lower socioeconomic status benefit less from the choice, it makes sense to positively discriminate against them on admission and not reward high-income families, as is done in some communities,” the researchers write.

Ferrer explains the case of the Community of Madrid. The Decree of Freedom of Choice of 2013 introduced a change in the admission scales by reducing the weight of income as a criterion and introducing the extra point for being a relative of a former student, along with another point at the discretion of the center’s management. “That was the factor that contributed to the increase in segregation by socioeconomic level and migrant origin and not the introduction of the single district,” the authors say. To remedy this, they propose increasing the weight of socioeconomic criteria and eliminating the extra point for former students or discretionary, which some centers have used to favor higher incomes.

The ‘living license plate’

Another proposal from Save the Children and Esade involves modifying the so-called ‘live enrollment’, the enrollment of students – usually foreigners – that occurs with the course already underway and which tends to disadvantage schools with the highest concentration of vulnerable students, as shown by data from Catalonia. The solution is simple in this case: “An intelligent use of seat reservations and increases and decreases in the ratio allows the live enrollment to be managed in a balanced way”.

A third proposal concerns the financing of the centers, explains Ferrer. “Both in terms of addressing the correct financing of the concerted school as a financing more applied to the situation of the students,” he says. Regarding the first, the authors believe, a tight financing of the concerted school would mean that the fees, excluding fees, would cease to be charged, and in any case it would be monitored that this was the case. Quotas also tend to result in underfinancing becoming overfinancing, allowing these centers an increase in resources that is intended “to improve the quality or differentiate the same school offer in a context of quasi-educational market.”

Regarding funding, the report argues that a public school with more targeted and less general funding per center is capable of reducing segregation. “In the United Kingdom, more resources are given to centers with more vulnerable students in public schools. Segregation has been reduced thanks to this more equitable funding,” Ferrer illustrates.

In addition to these, the authors propose to implement double waiting list systems in the centers that discriminate by socioeconomic level and allocate places based on vacancies; organize (improve) the school offer of the public system to make it more attractive (dining rooms, morning classroom, compact day); replace the current slot allocation mechanism; and to promote the network of offices for schooling, information and support so that all families have the same conditions when choosing their center.

Are there any of these more important measures, with better results than the others? “The problem of segregation is very complex”, answers Ferrer. “That is why we offer several solutions and we encourage administrations to experiment, to test and see which ones work best. But all have been implemented somewhere, in Spain or abroad, and it has been proven that they work,” he closes.


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