The Minister of Education announced at the end of last year that she was going to propose the prohibition of these devices throughout the mandatory stage, with the exception of educational uses that secondary school teachers may propose. It is already on its way to being the norm (although several communities have it regulated on their own): in a meeting this Thursday in which the minister, Pilar Alegría, and the president of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, participated, the State School Council has unanimously approved a document proposing a general prohibition, including dining rooms and recesses, but also an exception.
The proposal aims to ensure that students do not carry the devices in Primary and have them turned off throughout the day in Secondary. At this stage, however, occasional educational use may be made if it fits with a specific educational project of a teacher. In the post-obligatory stages, the Council proposes that each center regulate according to its interests.
In addition to approving this document, the President of the Government has explained to the School Council, which brings together the entire educational community, some details of the plan to reinforce Mathematics and reading comprehension that he presented last Sunday. The main novelty of this project is that it is extended to high school students, who in principle were going to be left out of the program. Mathematics and reading comprehension are the two big ones highlighted after the PISA exam. The president explained that he is going to allocate 500 million euros to reinforce the students who need it most in both subjects, although the minister said this Thursday that “there is no fixed figure,” but that it will be “as big as the plan is ambitious.” ”.
Alegría has also referred to the third major educational issue of the week, the proposal made this Wednesday by Alberto Nuñez Feijóo to establish a unique Ebau (selectivity) in the communities where the PP governs. “It has no legal framework, and they know it,” the minister maintained while she recalled that there are two rulings from the Constitutional Court that reinforced regional competence at the time. “They did not change it when they had an absolute majority, they are fireworks and it will not be carried out,” she ventured.
Towards the mobile veto
But the big announcement that comes out of the meeting is the ban on mobile devices on school grounds. The measure to prohibit its use, which somewhat contradicts what the ministry had said a few weeks before Alegría (“you cannot put doors on the field”), was welcomed at the time by the autonomous communities, which are those who have the powers and ultimate power to regulate.
In fact, the autonomies governed by the PP have told the minister that they have already done it: Castilla y León was the first, in 2007. Castilla-La Mancha, Galicia and Madrid also have regulations with a route, while Andalusia, Murcia and Aragón just did it, the latter just two days ago. There are more that are also in the regulatory process right now.
This Thursday’s School Council approved a report along the same lines, to the satisfaction of the minister, who especially appreciated that the approval was unanimous among the group of 21 people who voted in favor of the text. Before the minister, the president of the institution, Encarna Cuenca, had explained that the Council is aware that we live “in a digital society and students must be prepared” for it, but “there are also dangers,” she assessed. She has also explained Cuenca that the Council’s intention is for “the centers to propose alternatives” to the students so that they can recover the games during recess.
Others believe that prohibition is not the way. More than three hundred teachers have signed a manifesto in favor of the educational use of mobile phones in the classroom and against the “reactionary” discourse that advocates the ban.
The manifesto goes into specific issues about the use of ICT in classrooms and defends that they can be used for active learning, that they offer multimedia content that “enriches the educational experience” or that facilitates the “personalization” of teaching. In addition, the signatories remember the obligation to promote digital competence – included in the curriculum – and the importance of closing the digital divide.
The research also debunks some myths related to the use of mobile phones, such as that they cause myopia or that they affect people’s cognitive functions, although they admit certain harmful effects related to mobile phones, but not due to the nature of the device, but rather for misuse. For example, when it takes away hours of leisure on the street, when it is used as if it were a book or because it is distracting.
The reinforcement plan is extended to Baccalaureate
Regarding the reinforcement plan announced by Sánchez last Sunday, the main novelty is that it will be extended to high school students. Reinforcement of reading comprehension will begin in 1st grade and in mathematics from 3rd grade. In both cases it extends to the post-obligatory stage.
The Government is going to allocate an amount to be determined (Sánchez announced 500 million euros during the legislature, but today Alegría said that the specific figure is to be determined) to a program with three axes: reduce the number of students in class in those subjects through splits , reinforce the training, both didactic and content, of teachers, and offer extracurricular (free) reinforcement classes to whoever needs it, in the absence of developing the details. The plan would cover, the Executive has explained, from Primary to Baccalaureate and Vocational Training, in public and subsidized centers.
The educational community has welcomed Sánchez’s idea with skepticism. On the one hand, intention is valued positively, explain the educational unions. On the other hand, the planned financial resources are insufficient (only 0.8% of the total educational budget will be allocated to each course), they add, which will limit the effectiveness of the project. “It seems difficult for this amount to benefit, as intended, nearly 5 million students, that is, almost 200,000 groups,” summarizes ANPE. “With these amounts you can only make a program to reach, in the best of cases, 5% of students”adds Lucas Gortázar, director of Education at EsadeEcPol.
Regarding investment, Minister Alegría has assured that the figure is not closed: “The budget will be as ambitious as the objective,” she settled when asked by journalists after the meeting.
There are other doubts, in this case more purely educational. Pablo Beltrán-Pellicer, professor of Mathematics Didactics at the University of Zaragoza, believes that teacher training is positive, but also that the reform should start from the foundations (initial training at the University for Primary, the master’s degree for teachers in Secondary), one of the great pending musts.
And the Ebau?
Finally, Alegría referred to the proposal that Feijóo made this Wednesday regarding a common Ebau. The minister has harshly criticized the PP for making this proposal when they have not participated in the negotiation to redesign the test nor did anything in favor of a common exam during their years in government and has ventured that it will not be held.
“There is no legal reserve and they know it,” he maintained. “The proposal is fireworks, it is frivolous to gain focus on Education Day [que se celebró ayer]. I think it will not be carried out, it is not possible, it does not respect the powers [de las comunidades autónomas]”, he assured.
He also recalled that 50% of the contents of the stage are decided by each autonomous government, which makes it impossible to do a common exam because the contents are not the same throughout Spain. There are as many resumes as there are communities. “Are all students going to take the same exams when the communities have 50% of the curriculum?” He has asked rhetorically.
Furthermore, Alegría has maintained that the conference of rectors itself sees it as unviable and that there is “no serious study” that maintains that there are Ebaus that are easier than others according to the autonomous community.