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Reforms outrage the right

Spain

The Socialist government last week announced a draft education reform Bill which has outraged Conservatives, who claim the widespread changes in policy will only lead to more classroom chaos.

Confidence in the school system fell to an all-time low after a poor showing in international comparative tables of performance among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In 2003 Spain came in the bottom third of OECD countries in maths, science and reading tests for 15-year-olds.

The most controversial measure was the new regulation under which 12 to 16-year-olds can fail three subjects and still continue through to the next year, if teachers decide to let them. Previously two failures meant an automatic repetition of the year.

Students can now only be made to repeat the year twice, instead of four times as previously. The Socialists have also promised help for problem students, with smaller class sizes, extra classes and special teachers, although the details of such measures have not yet been formalised.

Students will also have to take fewer secondary school exams - only at the end of the fourth year as opposed to every year from age 12 to 16.

The controversial revalida exam (equivalent to an A-level) brought in by the previous government to replace coursework but never implemented, has also been scrapped.

Other liberal innovations which have outraged the opposition include the announcement that the state will lose control of the election of school principals. Teachers, parents and students will now determine selection.

Centralists are unhappy that the bulk of decisions on curriculum content will now be decided by the education departments of the autonomous regions rather than by central government.

Religious education, however, has hardly been touched. Every school must provide Catholic doctrine, as well as Muslim, Evangelist and Jewish if necessary.

The government has delayed the announcement of which subjects will be available to students who do not want to study religion. All measures are scheduled to be implemented at the start of the 20067 school year.

Meanwhile, debate will be fierce.

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