“The influx of millions of euros of investment from EU funds is a great opportunity for Spain to change its social and economic model for the next generation. The transformation of education should be one of Spain’s priorities when earmarking these investments”, said Toni Roldán, director of EsadeEcPol, the Esade Centre of Economic Policy, in the new report ‘10.000 millones para rescatar y transformar el sistema educativo con fondos europeos tras la covid-19’ (€10bn for salvaging and overhauling Spain’s education system with EU funds after the coronavirus). “The impact of the pandemic and the crisis, particularly on students, will be massive. The loss of learning so far is reckoned to be the equivalent of 3 to 4 months of classes in a school year, plus a considerable increase in education gaps”, said Lucas Gortázar, head of research at EsadeEcPol and author of the report. According to financial estimates, this decline may cause future wages to fall and GDP to shrink by 1.5% in the long term. “It is essential to tackle the structural challenge of educational equality across the board with the support of these investments to ensure economic recovery, jobs for an entire generation, and social and political cohesion in the coming years,” emphasised Gortázar.
Increase the capacity of the education system to respond to challenges
EsadeEcPol proposes the implementation of a €10bn scheme with four pillars of investment in the form of grants and loans, financed by EU Next Generation funds.
1. Support and recovery for students affected most by the learning crisis caused by school closures during the coronavirus pandemic. In order to assess the impact of the pandemic on education, and the academic failure and drop-outs it might cause, EsadeEpol proposes carrying out diagnoses of the basic skills in primary education and compulsory secondary education before the end of the 2020-21 year, in addition to rolling out an interim and extraordinary “PROA Covid” recovery scheme in 2021 and 2022.
2. Digital transformation of educational management consisting of modernising data processing and management platforms and likewise creating knowledge and evidence to enable informed decision-taking at different levels: system, autonomous region, town and educational establishment. The management of the educational system must be fully integrated into the digital mechanisms available in order to enhance the quality and quantity of the information available to educational establishments, teachers, parents and students and also public-sector decision-takers and research groups.
3. Physical and on-line teaching and learning infrastructures that respond to both the teaching and environmental challenges of the future, with particular emphasis on ages 0 to 3 years and vocational training. This is the main item in the budget and it includes improvements to make schools more energy efficient and ensure they are safe learning centres open as much as possible during the day and the year.
4. Training for the main agents in the system, with a view to facilitating the successful implementation of the investments and transformations to be launched in the coming years.
Reduce school drop-out rates and improve learning outcomes
“These investments will enable progress to be made in significant agendas of education policy which have either not been addressed fully by the latest education policies and legislation, or have been disregarded for decades”, said Lucas Gortázar. “In the case of Spain, to have the greatest possible impact on the education system we must increase and broaden learning opportunities for future generations, reduce drop-out rates and, above all, improve learning outcomes”.
The economic, social and political consequences of not taking action to enable this entire generation of students to recover by investing in education and bolstering equality, may be massive in the short, medium and long term. What is at stake is not only the opportunities available to those hit hardest by the pandemic and economic crisis, but also the recovery of the economy, the creation of jobs for hundreds of thousands of young people, and the social and political unity of the coming years.
“The aim of our proposal is to look beyond every-day concerns and make a commitment to enhancing the system’s ability to respond to present and future challenges. It’s not enough to continue fuelling the current system, we need reforms and investment that really make a difference in the long term”, concluded Roldán.
This article was first published on 23 October by ESADE.