23 SES 14 D, Priority Education Policies in Europe: Can education compensate for society?
The emergence and consolidation of Welfare States, together with the development of human capital discourses and poverty alleviation programs contributed to the development of Compensatory Education and Priority Education Policies in Europe (Demeuse et al, 2012). In the case of Spain, the late processes of political democratization and mass schooling (Lerena, 1986) deferred the development of compensatory policies to facilitate higher opportunities for the most disadvantaged. It was not until 1983 when the social-democratic government launched the first program targeting the educational needs of the most vulnerable population. The so-called Program of Compensatory Education defined the establishment of “priority education action areas” an assumed that “compensatory education was a necessity to achieve a minimum level of educational public services in all the Spanish territories in order to avoid inequalities” (RD 1174/1983). This first attempt of compensatory policies was inspired by the labour experience of Education Prioriy Areas in the UK (Llevot, 2005). Despite its optimistic and universalist aspirations, the programme ended up with a certain selective and palliative orientation. Simultaneously, the decentralization process of education in Spain enabled a further development of such policies at the regional scale (Bonal et al, 2005). Those regional governments that enjoyed earlier political capacity launched specific policies to mitigate inequalities. That was the case of the Catalan government that launched a compensatory education programme at the early eighties. Since that moment, priority education policies in Catalonia evolved from a basic social assistance compensatory framework for socially disadvantaged students to a more diversified range of policies mainly addressed to migrant students, including programs of linguistic support and individualised curriculum. The approval of the 2009 Education Reform Act generated high expectations around potential positive discrimination measures to reduce education inequalities. However, the new law gave central emphasis to school autonomy while ignoring policies to ensure a more balanced distribution of socially at-risk students to reduce school segregation (Bonal and Pagès, 2019). This paper reviews the evolution and change of priority education policies in Catalonia to illustrate the many shortcomings in their design, ambition and implementation. Overall, compensatory education policies have failed as a means to reduce education inequalities. Our analysis illustrates how these policies have been characterised by significant omissions and a social assistance orientation addressed to the most disadvantaged.
Bonal & Pagès (2019) Les polítiques educatives d’atenció als centres escolars socialment desafavorits: anàlisi i propostes. Els Reptes de l’Educació a Catalunya Anuari 2018. Fundació Jaume Bofill. Bonal, X., Rambla, F. X., Calderón, E., & Pros, N. (2005). La descentralización educativa en España: Una mirada comparativa a los sistemas escolares de las comunidades autónomas. Fundació Carles Pi i Sunyer. Demeuse, M., Frandji, D., Greger, D. & Rochex, JY. (2012) Educational Policies and Inequalities in Europe. London: Palgrave MacMillan. Lerena, C. (1986) Escuela, ideología y clases sociales en España. Barcelona: Ariel. Llevot, N. (2005). Del Programa d’Educació Compensatòria al nou Pla per a la Llengua i la Cohesió Social. Papers: revista de sociologia, (78), 197-214.
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