CHILDREN, teens and young adults across Spain have been going back to school and college this week, and parents digging deep in their pockets to find the cash for textbooks and notebooks – which pupils are required to...
Spanish teachers enjoy and value their jobs, but want more training on classroom discipline, says OECD report
By thinkSPAIN Team Fri, Jun 21, 2019
NINE in 10 school teachers in Spain are happy in their chosen profession and say they have a good relationship with their pupils, according to the TALIS International Teaching and Learning Study recently released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
This organisation, which covers all the world's developed countries and a handful of its emerging economies, reveals that 90% of primary school teachers and 85.6% of those in secondary school would choose their profession if they had their time again, and 90% believe that compulsory education allows them to influence children's development and offer a positive contribution to society.
But the report also reveals that 'interruptions in class' – children talking, misbehaving or being a bit rowdy – are greater in Spanish schools than in the OECD average.
A total of 45.1% of teachers in Spain admit they have to waste a lot of time on getting children to behave and focus – compared with a typical 28.7% in the rest of the developed world.
The percentage rises to 31.3% for the European Union as a whole, and Brazil is the only country where child class disruption time exceeds that of Spain.
As for how easy or otherwise teachers find classes to control, experience appears to be a huge contributing factor: 82% of those who have been in the profession a long time say they feel capable of restoring order in the classroom, compared to 66% of new or relatively new teachers.
Secretary of State for Education in Spain, Alejandro Tiana, and head of Education and Competence for the OECD Marta Encinas-Martín, both say that the discipline issue is more a matter of training rather than children's behavioural problems in general – only 35% of teachers believe they have the knowledge and skills to keep classes under control, compared with 53% of the OECD, with those who do not but manage it anyway with relative ease saying they have learnt to do so 'on the hoof' and through experience.
And only four in 10 teachers feel they have been given sufficient training to handle rowdy classes, compared with 72% across the OECD as a whole.
Sra Encinas-Martín says the issue of how to handle disruptive classes increases in schools with a 'more complex structure', such as those with a high number of immigrants or children with specific learning needs.
She says in other OECD countries, the teachers with the most experience will normally be put in charge of classes with a diverse range of abilities, origins, backgrounds and personalities, although this is less the case in Spain.
Her verdict is that teachers in Spain need more training in techniques and procedures for helping with the integration of refugee pupils, foreign pupils and those with special learning needs – a definition that covers the full scale from those with an exceptionally high IQ to those with severe development disabilities.
Spain has one of the most multi-cultural school communities on earth – whilst 17% of teachers in the OECD work in centres where at least one in 10 pupils has a different native language to that of the classroom, this rises to 22% in Spain, and 26% of teachers work in schools where at least one in 10 children are foreigners.
In practice, as many expats with children – or who have been children in a foreign system – will testify to, in primary school in particular linguistic and cultural integration tends to be fairly swift, with parents reporting that their children end up being completely bilingual or trilingual within less than a year of starting school in a foreign country, but the language aspect can be more challenging if the child does not begin his or her education abroad until high school.
Even then, success stories are numerous, and foreign families recognise that in doing so, their children have been granted an excellent opportunity to become fully immersed in two different cultures and to reach adulthood with, effectively, at least two native languages.
But some schools in Spain offer more support than others to children who speak a different language – those in much more cosmopolitan areas usually, by default, offer intense remedial Spanish-language classes, a facility that has been increasing and improving dramatically over the past decade or so.
Teachers in Spain, however, do complain about lack of resources, lower pay than their international counterparts, and lack of incentives – although these are issues that the socialist government which has now been in power for a year, and many regional governments, particularly that of Valencia, are focusing heavily on resolving.
In the Valencia region, for example, investment in schools, facilities, material and teaching staff has increased considerably in the past three years since the regional education authorities decided to outsource spending in this area to local councils and decentralising the process of building new schools and renovating existing ones, limiting itself to handing out the funds.
Marta Encinas-Martín recalls that Spain is one of the countries with the highest rate of pupils leaving at 16 and with the most pupils having to repeat a year – although the figures are slightly skewed, given that in many countries, children automatically go up a class at the beginning of every new academic year whether or not they are ready to do so in terms of their educational results.
Early-leaving percentages have, however, gone down considerably in the past decade due to the financial crisis which broke out at the end of 2008, since more pupils opted to continue with their education due to the scarcity of jobs and apprenticeships.
Teachers in Spain say they receive less training on discipline and special learning needs because of a 'lack of incentives' and a 'lack of relevant courses' they can take up.
Despite their overwhelming love of the job, teachers do not feel very valued by society in general, as a profession – only 12% of primary teachers do, and 14% of secondary teachers.
Overall, they want to be offered more and better-quality training in non-academic issues such as child behaviour and class control and also on special educational needs, higher salaries, and for class groups to shrink.
Spain's class sizes are 'slightly higher' than the average for the OECD, although some regional governments have pledged to increase funding so that groups never go beyond a maximum of 20 to 25 pupils, compared to 30 or so as they have been in past years.
Sra Encinas-Martín believes class sizes remain a little larger than they should be because of education authorities' having focused their concerns more on other aspects of teaching and learning.
The current government is working on a definitive and streamlined new structure to education nationwide after the previous leadership's reforms proved unpopular, with teachers claiming exam grades were being given priority over more qualitative aspects of educational and personal development, such as critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking is now being given much more focus in the classroom after a generation of what teachers and ex-pupils alike have described as rote-learning aimed at developing knowledge rather than views.
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