The debate is being fierce and, although at the moment it only strictly concerns the Valencian Community, teachers from all over Spain anticipate a discussion that will probably come to them in future courses. The decision of the Government of the Generalitat to introduce the areas in a compulsory way in 1st of ESO has left the educational community: teachers and family associations are divided among those who see them as an advance in various fields ("results are improving" , they argue) and those who maintain that they represent a step backwards with catastrophic consequences ("if the results improve, it is because the bar has been lowered", they reply).
Like competencies, domains are not a new element in Education. They basically consist of grouping various subjects – related to each other, if possible – into one and teaching everything together to relate the different knowledge. For example, Mathematics and Physics. Or History and Language. Ideally, several teachers of the different subjects together would deal with this area, so that each teacher can influence their specialty. In practice, the Valencian teachers assure, it is not happening and a single teacher is in charge of teaching several subjects. Until now, and with the exception of the Valencian Community, the areas had been limited to some reinforcement programs or attention to diversity, but the Lomloe contemplates them for all students, especially for the 1st year of ESO.
The areas are supposed, says the theory, closer to the new educational law, which seeks a more practical, more applied teaching, and to reality (which is not compartmentalized in watertight areas of knowledge such as subjects) and that also facilitate the always complicated transition from Primary, where the same teacher teaches many things, to Secondary, in which teachers are specialized in their subject and the number of subjects multiplies.
Their detractors reply, simplifying, that they do not have any scientific support, that they really imply a lowering of the educational level because they dilute the content of the grouped subjects, they mean having teachers who have specialized in something teaching something else and that they do not make sense applied with thick line for all: they can be used in certain circumstances for certain students, especially those with the most performance problems.
The fact is that the Valencian Community was ahead of Lomloe and implemented the areas in general after the pandemic. They were supposed, as explained in principle, temporary. But they stayed. And when the Generalitat imposed them as definitive and obligatory for the first year of ESO, pandemonium was formed among the teaching community. The last page of this educational battle that has already lasted two courses but is more alive than ever was written by the Superior Court of Justice of the region (TSJCV) last week, when it attended an appeal from the UGT and precautionary paralyzed the mandatory application of the areas: it has been done "in haste" and there is no time to prepare it, says the Court.
That it took two years to apply, since the return post confinement, has not seemed to influence the judges. "Nothing prevents the grouping by areas of knowledge from being applied in previous courses in accordance with the proposal of the educational centers within the exercise of their autonomy, since what is suspended is the application in a mandatory and imperative manner. What has been said determines that if an educational center considers the grouping applicable, nothing prevents this from being done," says the order.
Thus, each institute will now have to decide whether or not to apply them through the faculty (composed of the center's teachers) or the School Council (which also includes families and students), not even the parties agree on this. In any case, this kind of massive survey will at least serve to quantify the strengths of each group when the results are known. At the moment there are associations of families and teachers on both sides, the two groups are considered the majority –perhaps they make more noise, the less in networks, the opponents– and the Valencian Ministry of Education is clear that its model is the areas for all.
For this coming course it does not seem that any other community is going to be encouraged by this measure. Asturias has included them in its instructions for the school year and sent a circular to the centers a few days ago asking them to consider them, although voluntarily in this case. This course is not going to pass, ventures the director of the IES Mata Jove de Gijón and president of the association of directors of public secondary schools Adespas, César González: "In this rush it is impossible, I think that no center is going to apply it, least not those of more than line 4 (four groups per course) because this had to have been planned in June". The president is aware of the debate that has arisen in the Valencian Community and confesses to being a partial supporter: "In Asturias, from what I know of other directors, it seems to us a good measure for the attention to the diversity of the student body that comes from Primary" . That is, well in some cases, for some students.
Irene Murcia, a Mathematics teacher at a community institute and president of the OCRE (Observatori Crític de la Realitat Educativa), one of the main opposition platforms, maintains that "thousands of people [las agrupadas en torno a las asociaciones] We defend the voluntariness of the areas. We respect that the centers in which they have been doing it for two years (a few years before) do it voluntarily. In some neighborhoods of Valencia, such as the Fuente de San Luis, with a student body with specific characteristics for this to work, with many students from a low socioeconomic level, they work because the level is lowered and thus better results are achieved".
This is one of the main –perhaps the main– argument of those who do not want the imposed areas. Putting together several subjects in one dilutes the knowledge that is taught and also forces teachers to teach things that are not their specialty, they say. "We have hundreds of negative experiences of teachers, painful in some cases, and we are not willing," continues Murcia. "In the agreement that we have made between UGT and the platform, we emphasize that whoever does it with specialist teachers. If there is a Mathematics teacher who wants to do one area with another in Technology, that they deal with and take responsibility for that area, but that not that it is only one of Mathematics that gives both things, for example".
Toni González Picornell is director of the IES Pare Vitòria in Alicante and president of Fedadi (Federation of Associations of Directors of Public Educational Centers) and defender of the areas. "We came with a very positive positive progression. The Ministry is collecting data on school success compared to before the pandemic and there has been a 5% increase in school success," he defends.
But it is at the cost of lowering the bar so that more people overcome it, the arguments of the other party are transferred to it. "There is no level down," he counters. "What is intended is to give the students the basis so that each one deepens in what is most appropriate at each moment. The feeling that the students who have worked with areas transmits to us is that they liked it, among other things because they did not pass a few subjects [en Primaria] to be more than ten [en la ESO]. They were working with eight in 1 until now, which made the transition easier."
His partner César González, from Gijón, is in a halfway position. "In general in Asturias, from what I know of other directors, we think it is a good measure for attention to the diversity of students who come from Primary. The areas can respond to a specific profile of students -of low socioeconomic level- , a student who with five subjects instead of ten and a different methodology can achieve their goals", he reflects.
And he explains that they do not have to be all or nothing: "There is also the option that part of the group is in areas and part is not... it is complex. But I think the diversity of options is interesting."
The platform No als àmbits maintains that "there is no scientific evidence that endorses the supposed benefits" of the areas and that the drop in the requirement for students occurs when "the teaching staff lowers the level in those subjects in which they feel insecure due to lack of knowledge, and that imposing them as compulsory is a measure "policy aimed at lowering the number of suspensions at any price". Also, point out in their decalogue that "the educational shortcomings derived from this teaching are especially detrimental to socially disadvantaged studentsthat these families can no longer compensate for external educational experiences" (private classes or similar activities).
Valencian families are also divided. The Confederation of Ampas Gonzalo Anaya maintains that "it is evident that a change in teaching methodology is necessary," in the words of its president, Rubén Pacheco, who alludes to high school failure to justify his statement. "The fact that subjects are taught by areas does not imply that at certain times certain specific content is not being considered in the classic way. Nobody says that one day you cannot spend 45 minutes in a row talking about equations. What is required is that in a way transversally, the contents of the subjects of that area are interspersed".
Her counterpart from the Covapa Confederation, Sonia Terrero, believes that the problem is the shortage of teachers to teach the areas in conditions, with more than one teacher per class, and that the specialization of professionals is avoided by diluting it in areas. Nor does Covapa like that they are mandatory or that the faculty chooses through the faculty. "Let it be decided in the School Council," asks Terrero.
The course is about to start and the TSJCV will have to make a final decision regarding the areas, since the decision to suspend the areas was precautionary and did not enter into the substance of the appeal raised by the UGT with the support of the opposition platforms. . What is certain is the debate, which has crossed the borders of the community given the certainty of the teaching staff that it is a matter of time before it reaches everyone, it promises to be extended over time. Opponents promise fight. They consider the areas an aberration and the Valencian example shows that they are willing to put up a fight. Against them they have the law, which contemplates them, although it does not impose them by itself, and what seems to be a certain disposition of the administrations to implement them.