Isabel Celaá, Education Minister.

Isabel Celaá, Education Minister.

03-05-2020Jorge París

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to suspend all face-to-face activities and Education Minister, Isabel Celaá, says the return dates for students going back to school will vary.

"The date is set by each community and there is a wide range, given that they have to complete at least 175 days of compulsory schooling.”

Parents have complained that they’ve been kept in the dark over the de-escalation plans, but Minister Celaá promises that more information will be available soon.

“The de-escalation plan hasn't been discussed but everyone knows the courses start in September," she said. "What is being discussed with the communities is how we conclude this term at the end of June and how to adapt the curriculum and evaluate it, then the promotion of next term will follow.”

School Admin offices could be up and running in Phase 1 if the health protocols are in place in time, but the students will have to wait.

“In phase 2, the schools will be open for students who have exams, such as, 4º of ESO, 2º of Baccalaureate or higher cycles of FP,” she said. “There will be fewer Special Education students, to guarantee sanitary conditions, and infants aged 0-6 will be admitted if the parents can prove that they’re unable to take care of the child because they have to go to work.

Minister Celaá says it won't be easy to meet the educational needs of children with the current health and social distancing rules.

“Obviously, our obligation is to ensure that teachers have adequate protection for student care, but until we have a remedy or a vaccine, the only tool to fight the virus is confinement and we cannot risk everything that’s been done so far,” she said. “With 3 million Primary School children going to school accompanied by an adult, you can imagine how much movement that causes, and if all the children arrive at the same time, we won’t be able to safeguard the required distance.”

Minister Celaá pointed out that if a solution can't be found the only option will be to be cut capacity by 50% by alternating in-person lessons with telematic ones.

“Fortunately, 85% of Spain has broadband and schools are connected, but we still have to address the digital divide because a percentage of students don’t have internet access or they have to share a computer with their siblings and/or parents, so we are trying to identifying them to provide resources.”

She continued, “Through companies, such as Telefónica, Xiaomi and Orange we have distributed about 20,000 data cards and the Autonomous Governments are also doing the same thing.”

The digital divide is actually not the biggest worry because money can take care of that problem, the social divide is much more worrying because the loss of face-to-face classes deepens inequality.

To make sure that any gaps in education are filled, the Education Minister, Isabel Celaá says schools will have to recap some lessons.

“Course content that wasn’t been studied in depth at the end of the 2019-2020 term will have to be reinforced and that’s why modifying the curriculum is so important, because that’s where we’ll see exactly what has been completed and what hasn’t and it won’t do the students any harm to go over things a second time in the third trimester,” she said.

She also said that Professionals in each community will make sure that all students are evaluated fairly and don’t benefit or lose out in any way, because of where they live.

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