23 years ago, before representatives of 28 countries, the German physicist Andreas Schleicher (Hamburg, 1964) proposed to apply scientific rigor to educational policy in the controversial PISA tests that, at present, condition the performance of the OECD governments. Yesterday Schleicher ate with Minister Isabel Celáa, willing to change the education law, and presented his latest book First Class (Santillana Foundation), on the classrooms of the 21st century.
Question. Do PISA tests kill creativity in the classroom?
Answer. It is curious, because PISA would criticize Spain for focusing on the reproduction of knowledge. Spaniards are the best at remembering facts, figures … but they flounder on creative thinking, solving problems or applying knowledge to new situations.
P. Do you support changing the education law?
R. If I look at the past, Spain has made great efforts to change the laws, but in practice nothing changes. The fewer politicians involved in education, there will be more opportunity for students, parents and teachers to participate. If it is integrated into society, the educational law will last longer.
P. You do not distinguish between the ownership of the schools.
R. If I analyze PISA and eliminate the social context, in Spain there is no difference in quality between public, concerted and private. I do not see a specific advantage. The private sector in Spain has become a way to segregate students by their social context, but it does not seem very effective when it comes to raising education, at least according to the results of PISA.
P. The British consultant Ken Robinson said the other day in this newspaper that in Hong Kong there are agencies that prepare children of three years to enter the nursery. Is not it excessive?
R. I think there may be an obsession with cognitive knowledge, but in Hong Kong there are more innovative educational environments than in Spain. Do not fall into stereotypes. Of course, the daycare center has to be connected with the social and emotional development of the children.
P. In Spain, teachers are accessed with a five. Should the cut note be raised?
R. Yes, but a good teaching is not achieved by just raising the grade, because we could lose people who want to be a teacher. The question is how do we make teaching intellectually attractive? In Finland, everyone wants because there is a lot of autonomy, you learn every day and you can contribute to the education system. In Spain, salaries are good, but teachers do not receive enough support.
P. But in the last working years the salary is lower than the European average.
R. This is what I mean. There is a lack of attractiveness. In Singapore the director asks the teacher: what do you want to do? Be a teacher mentor? Improve the curriculum? In addition, they can invest 100 hours a year in training. In Spain, a teacher is alone.
P. It is surprising when he states that the ratio of students per class does not influence performance.
R. It is a myth. If one does not change the teaching practices, it does not matter if you have 20 students or 30. Obviously it is an advantage for small classes, but the question is, if we have one euro over budget, do we spend it in a lower ratio, in a better salary for the teacher or in a professional career? The solution is to spend money on teachers having time to talk with parents or attend individually.
P. In Spain they hardly have time.
R. It's true, they go from one class to another. In Shanghai, for example, teachers give 11 to 16 hours a week, half of them Spanish, but spend more time in other things … They have fun. Here is a very industrial work structure.
P. How is that structure?
R. Teachers teach curricula, but they do not own their practice, they do not have time to be with classmates, they can not participate in the decisions of the center … It is as if they worked in a factory, in a production chain. What they have to be is workers who know their job, who own their career. We talk a lot about lifelong education, but students are not always training if they see that their teachers do not.
P. In the last competitions of high school teachers in Spain 9.6% of the places were deserted. Should we change the access system?
R. I'll give the opposite example. In Finland it is quite easy to pass the entrance exam for the teaching profession, but in the second year most of the course is spent in schools and only 1 in 10 is able to stay. An academic exam is an aspect to take into account when choosing teachers, but also the willingness to learn, adapt or work as a team. One for passing an exam does not necessarily become a good teacher.
P. Duty yes or no? In Spain there is a great debate.
R. They are a great opportunity for students to take responsibility for their own learning, but they should never be a substitute for school. They should not ask them to do what they have not given time in school and then ask for the help of the parents.
P. You insist a lot on the involvement of the parents.
R. We underestimate the important role that families play. In successful systems they are very involved. Two years ago I was in one of the poorest areas of China, and I asked a teacher how she was doing so that parents without training could participate in the school. And she told me that she called them twice a week. "And it's not a big burden for you?" I asked. The teacher was surprised and replied: "I had never thought about it, if I did not have his help it would be impossible for me to do my job". She saw them as a huge resource.
P. In Spain it would be inconceivable.
R. Normally, in all countries parents are called when the student causes a problem, and always the father defends the child and nothing is solved. Missing communication In Sweden, at the end of the course, the teachers meet with each of their students and their parents. The rule that must be met is that no one can complain about the other.