Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Losing The Classroom: TIL

I have a question. It is one that, I suppose, I should send in three languages, addressed to President Bauzá with a copy to education minister Joana Maria Camps. The question is this. How do you expect normality to return to schools in the Balearics when you have clearly lost the classroom?

Rather like the football manager who is said to have lost the dressing-room, the regional government has lost the classroom - its teacher, its pupils, its parents - yet it ploughs on with a system that few associated with the classroom have any confidence in. A football manager who insists on playing 4-3-3 when the team knows it should be playing 4-5-1, who oversees a slump in the team's fortunes which place it in danger of relegation, who is derided from the terraces and who is attacked on phone-ins for the loss of the dressing-room usually ends up getting the sack. Once he has been sacked, a new man comes in and hopefully confidence is restored.

There isn't anyone who can sack Bauzá, unless the ranks of the Partido Popular were to rise as one and start singing "you don't know what you're doing" and a good old-fashioned putsch were to be effected. There is someone who can sack Camps. Bauzá. But he wouldn't do this, as Camps was brought in to press ahead with the 4-3-3 system (or 3-3-3, if you prefer). Camps has lost the classroom but it is a loss dictated remotely from on high. She is the Steve Kean of Balearics education, reporting to a Venky Bauzá, both of them clucking around an empty school field like headless chickens desperately looking for the goals but forgetting that they moved the goalposts, so that no one, not even them, can remember where they put them.

The question I pose above seems a pretty damn crucial one. There is no real point in reiterating the reasons why the teachers have chosen to strike. There is no real point in further dissecting the educational merits of a system that strikes mostly anyone with a touch of common sense as being introduced devoid of rationality and practicality. There is no real point in debating whether the objections to trilingual teaching are in fact more of an objection to an undermining of Catalan than to the use of English. We have become pointed out.

How does the government think it is going to restore anything like normality? The teachers will have to return to work, especially if they lose out financially, and there will be only so few politicians, such as the leader of the Entesa party in Muro, willing to hand over a month's salary to swell the assembly of teachers' coffers. But they will do so under sufferance, lacking confidence in the system, demotivated and demoralised. Their pupils will know all about this lack of confidence and so will parents. The classroom has been well and truly lost.

There is very little point the unions demanding the removal of Keano Camps. José Ramón Venky would simply parachute in a global education adviser with probably even less qualification for the job than Joana Maria. (As was said when she was appointed, she had at least been to school.)

A replacement for Camps on the educational "campo" would not restore confidence. There is only thing that would, and that is that the government backs down and does what it should have done, which is to introduce TIL in a more evolutionary fashion than it is attempting. But would Bauzá consider such a climb down? It's most unlikely. Any credibility he may have would be shot to pieces were he to.

The government has chosen a battle, victory in which can only be pyrrhic. Its eventual loss is likely to be greater than any gains it feels it has made by planting the un-Catalan flag of TIL on the school field. The loss may be, in under two years time, to the replacement board under Francina Armengol which would lower the flag and reclaim the classroom. Meanwhile, two years of education would have been for nothing.

The battle is one that is in contrast to the surrender to business when it threatened the government with the courts over its green taxes; one that is in contrast to its slavish bowing to the demands of its sponsors in the hotel industry. It has picked a fight in which there aren't any winners and so we will be left with a system that is deeply flawed, being implemented by teachers who don't believe in it. The classroom is lost.

Any comments to please.

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