Before the beginning of the school year, the prevailing political uncertainty is generating great educational instability. It is not known what will become of the LOMCE, but with it or without it, the academic placement of Religion is still not well resolved, and the teaching staff is suffering from the reduction of schedules due to ideological choices that do not respect the will of parents. And the teaching staff is suffering from the reduction of timetables due to ideological choices that do not respect the will of parents. What practical recommendations should be made?
- Dionisio Antolín Castrillo
Diocesan Delegate for Education of Palencia
As I start writing this article addressed to Religion teachers and before the beginning of the school year, which is just around the corner, it turns out that Spain has already gone through two general elections, and the results and the subsequent composition and distribution of seats in Parliament show a truly complex situation: a government in office and the popular mandate for political parties to dialogue, negotiate and agree and, from the pact, give a government to Spain.
The continuity in the application of the Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality (LOMCE) will depend to a great extent on the government that is formed. The outlook is not good. And it is difficult to think that it will be maintained as it is.
There was a time when political parties seemed willing to build bridges and consensus in the educational field, thus responding to social demands. But that time has passed and attitudes vary greatly. If the Popular Party (PP) forms the government, its LOMCE is and must be the starting point, but it will have to rethink and delay its application in aspects that in some autonomies are not yet developed, in others they are being slowed down and, of course, they are being applied with many difficulties, even in those communities with PP government. If the Socialist Party (PSOE) forms a government, the LOMCE is the first thing it will repeal, as it has repeatedly announced, although it would have serious difficulties to bring forward a new law, also due to the absolute majority of the PP in the Senate,
I dislike hearing on television talk shows or reading in newspaper articles the sounding that it is necessary to eliminate the academic placement of the subject of Religion as a condition for improving the educational system. Paradoxically, from what I have read recently, the educational proposals go the other way: the countries that make up the OECD propose that the 2018 PISA test include, along with the already known tests of Mathematics, Reading and Science, a questionnaire that analyzes the attitude of 15-year-old students and evaluates the global competence of students to live in an inclusive world in which cultural and religious diversity is recognized and respected. Certainly, we must now agree on the need to equip students with the tools to manage a changing future in which scientific and technical solutions will not suffice and where clear ethical choices are required. Today, the presence of Religion in public schools makes more sense and is more necessary than ever. The school is the space in which the recognition of religious diversity must be articulated in the curriculum, in dialogue with the other subjects. It is necessary to continue claiming that it is not a better educational system the one that ignores the spiritual dimension or the one that has no academic space to welcome cultural and religious diversity.
Calendar of application of the LOMCE
On the other hand, the LOMCE is moving forward and fulfilling its timetable with the missing courses.
We already know the state and regional regulations for all levels of compulsory education and, therefore, the different teaching load for each of the courses. The very different treatment given to the subject in each of the Autonomous Communities has led teachers, professors, parents, diocesan delegates and bishops to a disheartening bewilderment. The appeals before the courts have been numerous; and the sentences have been favorable. But we must continue denouncing so that, from the Ministry, the law is complied with, demanding from the autonomous regions a worthy teaching load and that Religion is taught with the pedagogical quality required for the other subjects.
Teacher-teachers who teach religion, workers in the public sector like the others with equal preparation and involvement., cannot become dispensable on the basis of unilateral ideological choices, not agreed upon with the community, and clearly not shared by so many parents who, as statistics show, choose the subject of religion for their children every year.
In the middle we are the diocesan delegates of Education, to whom the departments of human resources of each Autonomous Community communicate the educational needs for the schools of that diocese and ask them for their proposals for teachers. With real sleight of hand and great heartache, we look for ways to make the reduction of teaching hours in primary schools compatible with the number of teachers we have on staff. Sometimes, retirements have been the solution. But it has really been the solidarity among the teaching staff, losing everyone so that no one is left without work, which has paved the way. All this with the danger of having only part-time professionals.
We already have a Catholic Religion curriculum for all educational levels (Primary/Secondary/ Baccalaureate), which fits perfectly into the pedagogical framework of the LOMCE. A curriculum that underlines the legitimacy and foundation of Religion within the framework of integral education and its educational contribution (this perspective is more pedagogical and is not based so much on Church-State agreements and the right of families).
It is a curriculum that assumes the curricular framework of the LOMCE, by linking the contributions of the teaching of Religion to the School's own purpose, by presenting learning by competencies and by affirming that Religion assumes as a starting point the objectives set for each stage in the development of the various skills.
A curriculum that structures the contents in four blocks that gather the Christian anthropological knowledge accumulated throughout the centuries. It is explained that the four blocks include concepts, procedures and attitudes that are oriented to the achievement of the objectives of the stage.
By the way, in the ministerial resolution of February 13, 2015, which orders the publication of the new curriculum, it is stated that the students of Bachillerato who so request have the right to receive the teaching of Catholic Religion; that it is up to the hierarchy to indicate the contents of such teaching, as well as the determination of the curriculum and the evaluable learning standards that allow the verification of the achievement of the objectives and the acquisition of the competencies corresponding to the subject of Religion; that Catholic Religion will be included as an area or subject at the corresponding educational levels; that it will be obligatory for all centers and voluntary for students; that decisions on the use of textbooks and didactic materials and, as the case may be, the supervision and approval of the same is the responsibility of the religious authority.
The teacher's turn
The task now falls to the individual teacher. He or she is the last step on which the curriculum takes shape. On him and his dedication falls, to a great extent, what the subject represents in the educational centers. It is, therefore, necessary to make the pedagogical update that the moment demands. This is where the diocesan delegations of Education should be attentive. And I propose some possible tasks:
-I think it is necessary to know the new curricular framework of the LOMCE because of the consequences and significant impact on the didactic programs and on the way of teaching classes from now on. Specifically, Order ECD/65/2015, of January 21, 2015, on the relationship between the components of the curriculum, will help to understand the place of the subjects, Religion included, in the new pedagogical framework of the LOMCE, where all of them appear linked to the achievement of the stage objectives and key competencies.
-The new Religion curriculum for the three stages in which it has been renewed on the occasion of the LOMCE tries to justify the reasons for the teaching of Religion in the educational system. I think it is convenient to read or reread the 1979 Episcopal document on the school identity of the teaching of Religion. It is a key document, elaborated at a key moment.
-As is logical, a challenge that is always essential in the formation, both initial and ongoing, of teachers of Religion, is to keep in mind a good theological synthesis of the Christian message.. There are some very good materials; besides those of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, already known, there are others that open new perspectives of access. I think the one published by Verbo Divino is very good, A God who acts in history (there are three booklets: Old Testament; Jesus Christ; Church. It approaches the subject from the texts, in simple language, in the perspective of group work, etc.).
In short. I am convinced of it. Over and above political uncertainties, legislation, pedagogical neologisms with which reforms are justified, cutbacks, so many things... what the religion teacher finds are students, lives under construction that demand the best of them, and I know that most of them -if not all- do their best to give it. And they are convinced that education serves as a prelude, accompaniment and sowing, to be able to later reap a personal and mature response to transcendence or adherence to Jesus Christ.