"Parents at fault," says PM in response to PISA report

6th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

6 December 2007, MADRID - The poor results obtained by Spanish students in the recently published PISA report, which analyses average abilities in math, reading and science, sparked fierce debate among politicians and educators yesterday, with parents being subjected to blame, as well as the education system itself.

6 December 2007

MADRID - The poor results obtained by Spanish students in the recently published PISA report, which analyses average abilities in math, reading and science, sparked fierce debate among politicians and educators yesterday, with parents being subjected to blame, as well as the education system itself.

The results of the PISA 2006 survey of 15-year-olds, released on Tuesday, showed that Spain is the country to have dropped furthest in terms of reading skills with respect to previous reports - from an average of 581 points to 561 - leaving it in 35th place of the 56 countries surveyed, behind Luxembourg, Portugal, Italy and Slovakia. Moreover, Spanish students have also failed to improve in math and science, leaving them in 32nd and 31st places, respectively.

Speaking on Tuesday at a conference organised by British publication The Economist, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said that "the main determining factor regarding education for each generation is the education that their parents received, along with what they get from the education system." He went on to explain that Spain has seen many generations with little education in its recent history.

That statement was classed as "surprising" by the leader of the opposition Popular Party Mariano Rajoy, who called educational reforms an issue of "national urgency" in order to eliminate "the deficits in the educational model that are attacking the equality of opportunities" for students.

Referring to Zapatero's comments, Rajoy said that parents have a role to play in terms of conveying values to children, but "the educational system should be above par." Speaking in Córdoba yesterday, he went on to say: "This year, there has been a lot of talk of nations, alliances of civilisations, many debates about statutes, but very little focus on the economy and scant attention to the themes that really matter, such as education."

For her part, Education Minister Mercedes Cabrera attempted to justify Zapatero's words, saying that associating the PISA figures with the education level of parents "does not involve casting the blame on anyone." Speaking to radio station Cadena Ser yesterday, she said that it was "a factor to bear in mind when considering the PISA report because it's very important."

She also pointed out that obligatory education until the age of 16 was only introduced in Spain in 1991 - "practically yesterday," as she described it.

For teachers, however, the culprit was clear: the education system itself. The spokesperson for the Association of High School Teachers, Blanca García Olmos, claimed yesterday that "not all the students can be dim, and not all of the teachers can be incompetent."

She went on to say that teachers were not surprised by this data. "We see it in class every day, how, year after year, standards keep dropping. What is surprising," she continued, "is that measures aren't taken and the law is not changed."

García Olmos concluded by saying that it "is not a question of money, but instead a question of being sensible, there being more teaching and learning, and less demagoguery."

The president of the Federation of Head Teachers of High Schools, José Antonio Martínez, called for the education debate to be taken out of the political arena. "We need legal stability in the system, that stops [the government] from changing it every five minutes."

[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. / S. HUNTER 2007]

Subject: Spanish news

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