“If with 100% attendance we found ourselves with the problem of endless syllabi, semi-attendance leads us to a situation of permanent anguish from the beginning of the course”. We haven’t been in the course for two weeks and Rosa Linares, a language and literature teacher at a Madrid high school, is starting to get overwhelmed. Not for safety measures, hygiene, protocols or masks. For that also. But Linares thinks of his 2nd Baccalaureate classes, of the difficulties of a standard course to teach the complete syllabus and prepare well for the University entrance exam, the only real reason for that course to be, and believes “physically impossible” to get there Until the end in a year with all the conditions that this will have. “The discouragement and concern of teachers and students before an EVAU – she uses the acronym chosen by the Community of Madrid to name the test – which, at the moment, remains deaf to the current exceptionality, is great,” he says.
Uncompromising subjects make it difficult for students to assimilate knowledge
Not alone. All the teachers who teach 2nd year of Baccalaureate consulted to carry out this article coincide with Linares. The course is taken with pins, they explain, and as soon as they are badly given the seams are seen. It happened, obviously, at the end of the previous one, when it was necessary to change the test and lighten the agenda. And this will pass, they warn. “It is already late,” says Linares, to adapt to this reality. But administrations don’t seem to be thinking about this right now. From the Ministries of Education and University they do not enter into the question: they are not evaluating it at the moment. The Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities says that it is not their thing.
The precedent of last year with the Ebau is there (the test is known in some communities as Evau, in others as Ebau, others call it PAU and those of a certain age refer to it as Selectividad). With the course interrupted by the confinement that caused the pandemic, the syllabi were shortened and the test was slightly modified, making it more flexible so that students could choose between several topics in case some had not been covered during the course. The combined result of a course in which the hand was raised with assessment and a more flexible Ebau was the 14 percentage point rise in the rate of graduates (which rose to 90%), although that rise was not transferred to the Selectividad, which presented its more or less usual 93% of passed.
A stifling course
Eva Iturri is a history teacher at the IES El Bohío in Cartagena. He repeats almost word for word Linares’ explanations about the immensity of the syllabi and how “overwhelming” the course is. Iturri, also like Linares, as in most of the autonomous communities, has the groups divided in two. Some in the classroom, others at home and they take turns appearing in the center. She only sees difficulties upon difficulties.
“This year we are going to have to rely heavily on technology, and technology fails day in and day out as well. One day some of the Google Meet will not be able to connect [los alumnos a distancia], another day the classroom equipment will not work, and the students will lose those days or those parts. And I will have to repeat, but those who were in class did see it. The groups are going to be out of place for sure, “he predicts. Enrique Ortiz, a language teacher at an institute in Madrid, agrees.” Reducing face-to-face is going to be noticeable, in such young students we greatly reduce our effectiveness, “he explains. the view back to the spring.
“Let’s speak clearly”, says Linares, “by blended presence we must understand reduction of the right to education.” It is true, he explains, that “in 2nd year of Baccalaureate, girls and boys have a greater degree of autonomy and discipline than in ESO, but the Ebau prevents us from considering a methodology in accordance with the online format (research proposals, interpretation or creation , I work for projects …) “. Iturri agrees: “The Ebau is very squared and does not allow other approaches. It is very artificial.” Ortiz has also observed the same reality, aggravated by distance learning. “Blendedness makes certain teaching dynamics more complicated. You have to adapt to the reality of the classroom, it is likely that you will have to duplicate sessions … We did it in June and it is complicated,” he says.
And this course, teachers add, the starting situation is worse than others. “We started a course whose learning it is very possible that they have been resented by the exceptionality of the confinement during the last quarter of last year”, recalls Linares.
Toni González, president of the federation of associations of directors of public Fedadi institutes and a second-year high school teacher himself, is also aware of the problem, although he admits that at this time as a federation they are focused on more urgent aspects. “At this moment, speaking with the directors, we are concerned about the confinement of teachers because they have to take care of a suspicious child or one who has been in contact with one,” he explains, “we have centers with up to ten teachers at home,” he says.
But it is true, he concedes, “that in 2nd year of Baccalaureate there is going to be a thousand from minute zero, accelerating content, looking for a way for the students to get everything and have the maximum tools to achieve the highest grade. We know that this year we will have to speed up still a little bit more than an ordinary year. ” In any case, he affirms, it is among Fedadi’s plans to address this issue with the administration as soon as the emergencies are resolved.
And teachers need a response sooner rather than later. As has been mentioned, the curriculum is so fair in the 2nd year of Baccalaureate that the schedules go almost to the minute of each class. What is not done today will not be able to be recovered, so if adaptations have to be made –and the teaching staff defend that they have to be done– we cannot wait any longer. But neither can each teacher do them on their own because, until further notice, the course is developed with normal -At least curricular- and you have to give everything. “If in the rest of the courses it is feasible – and advisable – to lighten and develop the curriculum according to the conditions of blendedness, in 2nd year of Baccalaureate this adaptation is materially impossible unless we receive instructions from the coordinating teams of the University”, he explains Linares.
A test that marks the year
The professors’ doubts lead them to inevitably ask another question: the Ebau needs a change. Nor is it a new thinking. “We have heard for several years that it was the last of the Ebau,” Iturri says sarcastically. Beyond the joke, Ortiz explains, the test is inadequate as a concept and, furthermore, in terms of its structure. “It is a mechanical test in which the teachers dedicate themselves to preparing the answers,” he explains the mechanics of the course.
“It is more than proven that external tests pervert the teaching / learning process”, argues Linares, “the more rigid and standardized the structure of the Ebau, the greater degree of submission with respect to it will require teachers and students.” In other words, if an important exam is given at the end of the course, the course will be dedicated specifically to preparing that exam rather than teaching itself.
“If they have had the audacity to offer blended presence as a valid format to face this course – instead of reducing the ratios – they should have the courage to offer a proposal that is realistic with the time we have and that, therefore, is sensible to the complicated academic situation – and who knows if personal – from which 17-year-old girls and boys are going to face it, “he demands.
Ortiz believes that “the memory part should be eliminated, accumulating knowledge does not make much sense. The excess of information causes the student not to be able to differentiate which is valid and which is not.” From his privileged double position as a 2nd year high school teacher and associate professor at the University as a teacher trainer, Ortiz says that the test does not prepare for anything: “I am very obsessed with linking high school education with the University. This test is It is very far from the skills that are required in higher education, and the student finds an abyss from 2nd year of Baccalaureate to what is found in the University: autonomous work, oral presentations, etc. ”
Iturri would suppress it directly: “I think it is not necessary, re-examining a student who has already passed some knowledge does not make sense. It could only be accessed with the Baccalaureate mark.” This would allow, he adds, “to make a second more educational, in which we could focus on the knowledge we want them to learn”.
And then there are those who go for the grade without dissimulation, with hardly any interest in education, explains Ortiz: there are institutes where the Ebau is not prepared, it is that the teachers write entire answers for their students to memorize. “Many summaries have not been made by students. It shows. It is something we know, although no teacher will admit it openly; but I have had the opportunity to read 50 or 60 literature responses (or even critical evaluations, which should be more subjective although they can give concepts to the student) like drops of water. It is quite worrying for education “.
Linares closes with a reflection that, in these times, could almost be described as romantic: “My great fear –and not only in 2nd year of Baccalaureate–, is that the reduction of time in the classroom ends up sweeping away those practices less attached to the curricular contents that are more objectively measurable and evaluable, and yet are at the very foundation of an emancipatory education, in the most beautiful sense of the term. I am referring to reading, debating, interpreting, experimenting and creating. In education, the approaches lateral and leisurely, those that in their practice create exploratory digressions, are the ones that have the best possibility of making students intimately take ownership of knowledge “. If she were by her side, her classmate, Ortiz, would nod. It makes exactly the same thought.