I often hear that “Liberals want to finish public school”. This idea couldn’t be more absurd as it fluctuates between ignorance and intellectual dishonesty depending on the author. The problem requires profound reformulation. As a liberal, as a woman, as a mother and as a citizen, I want an education policy with real opportunities for everyone. And a new education policy that advocates a simple, clear and unambiguous principle: that no child is left behind.
Indeed, this principle leads to the creation of opportunities, particularly in disadvantaged socio-economic environments, and to the improvement of capacities and talent. This requires a high degree of autonomy for schools and fostering a close relationship with the whole school community. Above all, the school must be a space of freedom: freedom of performance, development and intellectual growth, a space that does not make it decisively binding and does not stigmatize each child based on the socio-economic origin.
A recent study by NOVA SBE, coordinated by Bruno Carvalho, Mariana Esteves, Miguel Herdade, Pedro Freitas and Susana Peralta, “Children in Portugal and Distance Learning: A Portrait”, reveals the enormous difficulties experienced by families with a low level of schooling, in particular large families and single parents, in a phenomenon that occurs not just in one region of the country (which would be a shame) but is widespread throughout the country. A country in which some of its children continue to live in unconditional homes, in a context of crime and violence, hunger and cold. A country with such a portrait has to rethink everything: from education to the inhumane situation of hidden poverty. It is necessary to acknowledge the failure of policies based on ideological fundamentalism and populist measures to buy votes. It is necessary to act and not let the subject be forgotten until the paradigm and attitudes of the government change.
When we talk about inequality and opportunity, we know we are talking about something that affects an entire nation, and it is also a reflection of what has failed in the past and present. When it reaches children in this way, it adds the dimension that will continue into the future.
Even before the pandemic, an audit by the Court of Auditors put the national strategy (or the lack of one) against school dropouts on the “road of bitterness”. This whole subject is therefore not new, but it has deteriorated and, under the circumstances, has become visible and undisguised.
We should focus on promoting proficiency levels, knowledge requirements and teaching conditions. We should focus on solving real problems in our schools and making sure that every child actually has the opportunity to grow and develop through education.
Instead of making education an effective goal, we continue to rely on a large handful of nothing or individual measures that are lost and shrouded in false polemics. Rather than having students as the center and priority of politics, governments continue to be seen as pioneers of corporatism and unionism.
Is that the education policy we want? If none of this comes as a surprise, the government’s lack of preparation for this atypical school year has shown much more than incompetence: it underscores the lack of care, planning, and the ability to prioritize what should undoubtedly be central – the children .
In the past few months, teachers have overcome themselves in trouble by demonstrating their resilience and adaptability by putting their mission and students above all else. Should the government and its ministers do the same …
In other texts, I have highlighted concerns about mental health problems and their impact on child development. When you talk about “distance learning” and “personal” choices, it is important to take this into account. For those in power, the development of educational policy cannot continue to be the work of theory, propaganda and self-preservation. We have already seen the government fail – but there were those who revealed themselves to the students. The teachers.
Being a teacher is one of the noblest and most relevant professions in a country. Over the past few months, teachers have outdone each other in difficult times to demonstrate their resilience and adaptability. Why? Probably because both those who have good school conditions and are in a motivating and stimulating environment and those who lack autonomy, resources, projects and who are zigzagged by guardianship have put their mission and their students above all else . Should the government and its ministers do the same …
If it were, we would have talked about the restoration of materials and content before the summer, effective preparation, planning and the purchase of computer equipment would not have been postponed. However, this is not only the responsibility of the education minister. A country with so many children in a situation of hunger, cold and poor living conditions is an underdeveloped country with no vision for the future. More than in vain are the empty words that affirm that education is a priority are abhorrent. It wasn’t and it isn’t.
Public education policy has failed: there is an urgent need to reform that policy, these leaders, and implement a whole new vision.
The author writes under the new spelling agreement