Our dependence on tourism and services has meant that for several months a year, half of all available jobs came from the hospitality industry. The closure of bars, restaurants and hotels has exposed the fragility of this model and condemns another generation to precariousness and a lack of opportunities. Our economy and education system need a coordinated revamp to help brake the perverse cycle that makes crises in Spain longer and more painful.
The Great Recession in 2008 could have been parlayed into a profound education reform focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and training. Instead, Spain chose to cut back on education spending and avoid any major reforms, keeping teachers in precarious employment. If history is any indication, we’re on track to repeat the same mistake.
The transformative power of education has been a driving force in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore in recent decades. But we don’t need to look to Asian countries alone: Portugal, our Iberian neighbor, began major education reforms in 2000 that have turned its education scores around and brought its students up to par with the best in Europe, thanks to quality public schools.
Spain needs a Portuguese-style education revolution, starting with the training, assessment and fair remuneration of the people we entrust with the task of teaching our children. Beyond resources, the modernization of schools and universities will require a complete curriculum overhaul and reformulation of teaching and learning methods. We must urgently prioritize critical thinking, creativity, rational debate, civility and the humanities.
But it’s not the politicians, nor this journalist, who should design the schools of the future — it’s the experts who for years have put forth proposals and cautioned against a deterioration that will be reversed only when our society changes its priorities. The philosopher José Antonio Marina, who has been clamoring for change for decades, rightly laments, “Education is of no interest to anyone except parents with school-aged children.”
Until those priorities change on a societal level, they won’t change for our politicians either. Although the coronavirus pandemic has exposed one of our worst weaknesses as a nation, we will continue to be the country where education will never get a leg up on good fun.
David Jiménez (@DavidJimenezTW) is a writer and journalist. His most recent book is “El director.”
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