Slightly more than eight million students of non-university education (from kindergarten to high school and vocational training) begin the course these days. Exactly how many will be is not yet known, as the official figure is not yet available. What is almost certain is that they will be a few less than the previous year, in which they were 8.21 million and which, in turn, were already 71,000 less than a year earlier. Thus, a demographic decline appears to the general figure in an incipient way, which is noticeable above all in nursery school: the second cycle of this stage, from three to five years, has seen its student body decrease by 16%, by 238,000 students, during the last decade. But it is also perceived in primary school (ages six to 11), with 3.4% fewer enrolled in the last three years. For now, and waiting for the omens of the experts to be fulfilled, who assure that in 10 years the demographic decline will completely change the reality of the school, the growth of the post-compulsory stages (baccalaureate and FP) is compensating a little for the trend : last year there were 113,000 more students than in 2018. The following graphs try to offer a general image of a system that this year also faces the deployment of a new educational law, the Lomloe, approved last December.
1. The student map
These are the figures of the provisional statistics of the past year, 2020-2021. While waiting for those of this year, they offer a fairly faithful image of the map of the students of the schools and institutes by communities. For example, where the majority of students are concentrated: Andalusia, Catalonia, Madrid and the Valencian Community account for 61% of the entire system, with volumes that logically increase the difficulty of management. This map also offers the image of the distribution between public and private schools (which also includes subsidized private schools in the statistics) by communities, a division that has been fracturing the Spanish educational debate for decades. For example, we can see how Madrid, with 14.8% of the student body in the whole country, concentrates 20.7% of the students from private schools.
2. The ratios
For years there has been a lot of discussion about the impact (or not) of the number of students per class on the quality of teaching. Last year, however, the forced adaptation of the school to the health situation suddenly reduced the teacher-student ratios. Teachers and parents assure that the pedagogical impact has been positive where the decrease has been significant. The data in this graph shows the average number of students per classroom last year in each community and, therefore, they hide in their statistical averages some extremes (schools, probably, well below or above this general data) that do not allow see in all its complexity a scenario of very urban or very rural communities, or of efforts, perhaps, concentrated in one place or another. However, they do show a general picture of where the public classrooms of compulsory education (primary and ESO) and the second cycle of infantile are more and less comfortable, a stage that is not compulsory schooling, but is free and universal.
3. Teaching staff and reinforcements
The ratios of students per teacher of the past year have much to do with the previous situation that dragged each territory, but also with the efforts made by each autonomous government to hire additional teachers. And, logically, the evolution of the situation this year will depend on the reinforcements that are maintained or not. Some communities have announced that they will hire more covid support teachers, others to the same and some less. In the latter, parents and teachers from the public have already made their protests heard.
4. Quarantined classrooms
The arguments of the educational community to demand more reinforcements are pedagogical, but also health, since they remember that the pandemic is not over yet and continues to threaten to disrupt at any moment a situation in which the priority is, above all, to maintain the face-to-face classes. It is true that the impact of the epidemic in schools was much less than the worst omens announced and that this year, in addition, teachers and many students return to classrooms already vaccinated. However, the evolution of the more infectious delta variant of the virus is keeping everyone on their toes.
5. Leaving school early
The ills that have been attributed to the Spanish school for decades, with more or less virulence depending on the time, range from the lack of quality and excellence to the low efficiency of school spending. But at the center of all of them there has always been a statistic: early school leaving, that is, the percentage of young people aged 18 to 24 who have stopped studying after compulsory education. This indicator is directly related with “unemployment, social exclusion, poverty and poor health”, according to the European Union, which set itself a target for 2020 to lower the average early leaving in its Member States to 10%. It succeeded (it was 9.9% last year in the 27 EU countries) and, in fact, Spain has contributed its grain of sand with enormous progress: it has reduced it by almost half in the last two decades, from 30.9% to 16%. This figure, however, remains the second highest in the EU, behind only Malta. And it also hides enormously significant differences between autonomous communities.