A public education at the service of the people
I am Public is a young collective assembly created by professors of the Community of Madrid who consider that education runs the risk of being totally privatized in their region. For this reason, they have joined forces to claim a public school model at the service of the community and diversity. We talked about all this with Marina Augustín, a member of this group, in the following interview.
Positive News: Why does education have to be public?
Marina Augustín: We think public services belong to the people. We understand public as of the community. Not so much in an institutional sense, not of the State, but more of community and community. We were going around the name, and once chosen, when analyzing it, we saw that we liked it to start with a statement as blunt as it is "I am". And then public, in feminine, that allows us, on the one hand, to use an inclusive language. And on the other hand, it generates the doubt in people, since anyone who sees this name immediately asks what is that of I am Public, and that is very interesting, because when people ask questions, they are also looking for the answers. And the fact of making that attention call is already a way of making ourselves public, never better said.
N +: Why do you think public education is threatened?
MA: It is not only a threat, but they are facts, which began a few years ago. Public education has been privatized, especially in the Community of Madrid, but also in the other communities. This is occurring through several routes. On the one hand, through educational concerts. Initially, they emerged to respond to a need, at a time when there were many places in the Spanish State without public educational centers, and it was a way to cover this lack. But later it has been taken advantage of so that many other centers, where perhaps it was not so necessary, were arranged.
The concerted ones are subsidized by the public administrations, and when a center that is private is being subsidized, let's not forget it, we are paying twice. On the one hand it is paid via taxes, because it is a subsidy, but on the other hand, families are paying a series of fees, which theoretically are illegal, but in practice it happens in all centers. These fees may vary between 200 and 800 euros per month.
In recent years, this process is accelerating greatly. In such a way that the investment in education in the Community of Madrid has fallen in the public centers, and has increased in the centers of the private concert. Therefore, that they do not stop repeating to us that there is no money is relative, since the money there is being taken by private centers.
N +: People who defend private education say that it is of higher quality than public. Is this true or is it a myth?
MA: Public education, until relatively few years ago, was really of good quality. Although I don't like this word, because I consider quality to be a term that neoliberals have introduced as if it were a company. In 15M they talked about warmth, which I like much more.
Public education has been very good until recently because, among other things, it dealt with all levels of the population: people who come from other countries, people who have socioeconomic problems and all those most disadvantaged in The society, in short. Public education opened its doors to all these people, in the form of different programs. Like educational support programs for people who had dyslexia or hyperactivity problems. There were also the unfolding programs, in which for example a group of 30 students was divided into two of 15, to receive more personalized attention. To this was added the tutorial work, which is very important, since it relates the educational center with families.
All this is being lost, as shown by the instructions that the Community of Madrid is giving for the beginning of the course. Hours of unfolding, of general support for students are being removed, and many people are being added to each group of students. In such a way that they are far exceeding the legal ratios that were previously.
N +: That is, the problem is not that public education is of poor quality, but that the political decisions that are being made are reducing their quality.
MA: Indeed, the management that the public administration is doing is causing the quality of education to fall, because when you put many students in a classroom, it is much more difficult to teach in that classroom. And when teachers are added more teaching load, for example by giving a group to each teacher, what is causing is that this teacher has even more workload. In addition, the tutoring time has been removed. Therefore, personalized teaching also disappears.
One thing I want to put a lot of emphasis on is the number of hours teachers work each week. Because one thing is a lesson time, that is, an hour in a class, and another thing is the time required for the preparation of that class, which involves looking for information and looking for many other things to do the activities and for those activities are different and specific for each group. Then there are the correction times for exams, tests, etc. In addition to those hours, there are hours of meetings and coordination with educational teams, evaluation meetings, cloisters, etc. All those hours are the ones that are taking us away, besides adding teaching hours.
N +: And what is the reason for this way of proceeding?
MA: The reason we see is that it is intended to give priority to private education, which, by the way, is being taken right now by entrepreneurs who are from other fields, not from educational fields, but from the hospitality or construction companies, for example. They are great entrepreneurs who are now taking schools, probably favored by cronyism.
On the other hand, they say you save money when there is more privatization. But in the end, education is going to be for those who can afford it, and that is what creates an even greater gap between social classes. That gap is growing by leaps and bounds.
An example is this baccalaureate of excellence that they have invented now, which they want to apply at the cost of some baccalaureates that a few years ago had that same number of students who want to put now in the baccalaureate of excellence, but in the latter case, in One center
N +: If the baccalaureate of excellence causes that differentiation, what it would also cause in some way is that not everyone can be excellent.
MA: If you take the word excellent, it is a comparative term. It is excellent compared to the rest, that is, it is better. But in Public I believe that education should be good for everyone, and that everyone should have the same opportunities. Who needs support from below, who has them, and who needs support from above, who also has them.
All this of excellence comes from that commodification policy advocated by institutions such as the IMF, who want to create people who are consumerist and hardworking, and then they are dividing society into those sectors. Thus, there will end up being a public education in which ghettos are formed, and almost reached charity, so that these social classes continue to be the slaves of the system.
N +: What do you think of the proposal to create an MIR for teachers recently launched by the PSOE candidate, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba?
MA: This is very curious. On the one hand, Rubalcaba has proposed measures in its program, and on the other hand, it has said that it will not touch any educational law. He has said it elsewhere in less than a week. So, I don't know what to stay with. The idea of MIR, if it were well posed, could be positive, but there is still not much information to position itself. On the other hand, this question could be related, although it is not clear either, with the new draft of the Law for access to public function, in which there are true aberrations. For example, the fact that experience will not count. This is defended by saying that the new generations that are coming out also have the right to be professors, with which we agree. They also say they want the teachers to be the best. Of course, those best who are newly graduates, and who may be very well prepared, have the right to be teachers, but also the thousands and thousands of interim and interim students who have gone through a opposition and that they have approved it without a place, and that they have also been teaching for years. Against that draft that they want to approve, not only has I positioned myself, I am Public, but the entire educational community is one of those with him.
N +: It is very clear what is criticized since I am Public. But why do you bet as a collective?
MA: There would have to be a comprehensive educational reform. Because we are defending the public model, but we are not saying that the model that was ten years ago was wonderful. It was good, but also improvable. In addition, in these ten years society has changed and many things have changed.
This educational reform happens because education is not only in the hands of teachers, since education is a social and community thing. In such a way that schools must be part of their neighborhood and their surroundings. And they have to be spaces where not only regulated education is present, but also allows the existence of workshops and courses for families, and where different social groups also have a place . We must bet on integral centers in which there are also other types of professionals, such as professionals in social education, psychology, health, and many others.
On the other hand, at other levels, this tremendous compartmentalization of the subjects would have to be changed for a way to work more as a team. So that you work on a topic from the different subjects. Logically, each teacher is a specialist in their subject, but it is true that there are common issues on which you can work together. I have experience of working like this, and the results are impressive, and the student is delighted with this possibility.
We must insist that we want a public education, but not public in terms of institutional, as it has been until now. We must add more things in positive, cooperative and collective.
N +: What question do you think should be especially influenced in this struggle that I am Public to change the educational model?
MA: I want to influence the change of language, ideas and ways of acting. In Soy Público we try not to use many technical terms that are used in the mercantilist and neoliberal world. That is why the name of our platform is not "association ..." or "against", but the concept of moving forward and positive moves us further. In that sense, we have always tried to do different and original actions. For example, in the demonstration that we made on May 5 together with health groups, we organized a small performance, in which we asked the people attending the demonstration to claim the administrations to do their homework. Then the people got involved and wrote the duties that they thought the administrations should assume in terms of education.
In another action that we also carried out with those of health, we went to the Retiro Park with some blackboards and some paper strips in which we asked people questions. In such a way that people, when reading the question, have to think about it. It is a way to make it reflect.
In short, I want to influence this positive discourse and create actions that are different and that use another type of language, ideas and expression.
Image: I am Public logo. Courtesy of the collective.
(Article originally published on 7/13/11)