Spain’s lower parliamentary house, the Congress of Deputies has passed the latest reforms to the educational system.
The bill which is popularly known as ‘Ley Celaá’ – the education minister of the socialist PSOE party is called Isabel Celaá – was passed amid much acrimonious debate in a house divided between left and right wing parties.
The bill was passed with 177 votes in favour, 148 against and 17 abstentions, the law was backed by the coalition governing parties of PSOE and Podemos, as well as the regional parties of Esquerra Republicana (ERC), Basque Nationalist Party, Más País, Compromís and Nueva Canarias.
The bill has yet to pass the final hurdle of the upper house, the Senate, before becoming law.
The bill titled ‘Organic Law of Modification of the Organic Law of Education’ is the eighth major reform to the Spanish educational system since the restoration of democracy in 1978.
Its left wing parliamentary supporters have hailed it as “modern, equitable and inclusive.”
However the right represented by the main opposition party Partido Popular, far-right Vox party, as well as the majority of the more centrist Ciudadanos were fiercely opposed with the Partido Popular’s spokesperson saying that the proposals ‘breaks [Spain’s] system of liberties and the constitutional consensus’.
The main provisions of the bill are for more social inclusion in schools so that pupils from low-income families are equally represented both in public and the semi-private ‘concertada’ schools, the latter of which are attended by almost a quarter of Spanish students.
It also outlines limits further construction of public land for public education facilities only and not for concertada schools. Further to this, there will be no fee-paying extra-curricular activities allowed within school hours.
In addition there will be limits on pupils repeating subjects as presently 34% of Spanish 15-year-old students have to retake failed subjects which is almost double the average number in OECD countries. Under the new law pupils can only be held back once in primary school and twice during their obligatory years of education.
The law also outlines the promotion of gender equality and schools will be encouraged to highlight the contributions of both men and women, in all areas of study and where they are not usually addressed. Equal representation with regard to the hiring of teachers will also be implemented.
The bill outlines the objective of reducing the environmental impact of education centres, as well as the creation of ‘safe paths’ to encourage students to walk to school.
Increased public spending on education are featured with the aim of reaching to 5% of GDP.
The issue of the status of Castilian Spanish as the ‘vehicular language’ of Spain has also been brough to the fore and a return to the battles in Catalonia for Catalan to be used as the primary teaching language.
However during the debate the minister said that the status of Castilian is “perfectly safeguarded’ and that all pupils need to pass it’s proficiency.
Should the Senate ratify the law as expected before the end of this year the changes will be introduced gradually from March 2021.