The dispersion rates? We are a country that does not believe in mass education (23/09/2022)

Why are we losing so many students to the streets? The answer of Professor Elisabetta Nigris is very harsh: “Because our school does not really believe that everyone can get a quality diploma. Many – just look at the persistence of the last twenty years about excellence and merit – basically have the idea that schools identify excellence and only train excellence very well: for everyone else there is work “. Nigris is a full professor at the Bicocca University of Milan, where she teaches “Didactic Planning and Evaluation” and is the Rector’s Delegate for Teacher Training. Mass education in Italy is almost a cause for recrimination and not the great opportunity for society that in other Countries has led to an increase in the cultural levels of the population and the number of graduates and graduates. The teacher is one of the voices that led us in the analysis of a phenomenon – that of early school leaving – so deeply rooted that it no longer appears in the news: but with 100,000 children leaving school every year, more than 82,000 students fail because they have so many absences that they did not invalidate the school year and a 9.7% implicit dropout is impossible to ignore to close. The September issue of VITA is on newsstands and can be downloaded here.

Where to start, professor?

There is a level of macro-analysis that must not be forgotten and that, on the contrary, helps us to contextualize data that in itself does not make us aware of the problems. The first is that we are one of the countries in the European Union that have invested less in schools in the last 20 years – since the mid-1990s. It may seem like a generic fact or a slogan, but it is the framework in which all issues take shape, so much so that the only period in which the social mobility of students occurred in the Italian school, that is, the worked at school. as an instrument of the emancipation of citizens, in accordance with articles 2 and 3 of the constitution, between the 80s and the end of the 90s. Then we came back to a direct correspondence between academic success and the socio-cultural origin of the to have children Maybe before the correspondence was socio-economic in itself, now it is not, it is socio-economic cultural: academic success is linked to the graduation of the parents, yes above all to the fact that both parents have graduated. It’s killing. There is a lot of rhetoric about the school of excellence, but the plans are confused: often those that are stated as such are excellences in the entrance, not in the exit. They have incoming students with homogeneous basic tools, which are a condition for academic success. But I assure you that among these “high schools of excellence” – I know the Lombardy region well – there are some that turn out young people who then show strong skills at university: skills that the school could not recognize .and empower.

And speaking specifically of abandonment and dispersion?

In the specifics of dispersion, an important but almost never mentioned fact is that research indicates the transition from primary school to high school as the moment of origin of dropouts. The high school – the old middle school – is the first step that reinforces the inequalities between students. In primary school, the school manages to contain inequalities and strengthen those who arrive with inadequate basic tools, but already in middle school we have discrimination between those who have a family and cultural side behind them, who support the school path , and those who have not. it.. From here the gap is accentuated and becomes definitive, so much so that we talk about the legacy of school success or failure. In short, the school not only fails to remedy the gap, but it accentuates it.

If there was a period in which the school functioned as a social elevator, then what led to the fact that it is even an element that reinforces the difference between children based on their socio-economic and cultural origin? Is it just a matter of sales and resources?

One aspect concerns the professional figure of the teacher, the loss of prestige, the decline in the quality of the teachers’ work (and not the teachers’ fault). There was a time when the teacher’s identity was strong, the teacher thought that his profession was useful for the society and the citizens. But little by little, the national training plans were taken down, which transmitted a certain school design: full-time, for example, were empty and dismantled due to the fact that there was no longer co-presence and were not expanded to the territories where it was don’t Full-time became full-time school and ceased to be a daily educational project for children. Government measures such as the prevailing teacher in primary school, the Moratti programs that returned to the school of content and mnemonic / frontal learning, all the reform of the technical institutions that were the flagship of our school… have a School dismantled, which for twenty years he had pursued a different idea of ​​education. Minister Bussetti then authorized the entry of 45 thousand without titles in 2017: but a school made up of people without qualifications and without education is a school of chance and improvisation. You can also be very lucky, but the truth is that often the school, in everyday life, is reduced to executive activities associated with very reductive content, without focusing either on the processes with which learning is built or how to various uses. Methodologies for producing learning or how learning is related to learning. This is for students who have adequate basic tools, let alone those who don’t.

Why are we losing so many students to the streets?

Because our school doesn’t really believe that everyone can get a quality degree. Many – just look at the perseverance of the last twenty years on excellence and merit – basically have the idea that schools identify excellence and only train excellence very well: for everyone else there is work. In fact, in the background in recent years the narrative has grown that no one wants to do manual labor anymore… When commentators speak of the “school of the past”, they refer to times when very few in the High school went and for many it was school average start-up to work: it was a situation that cannot be compared with the current one of mass education. But mass education cannot be the reason to stir, because it is a great opportunity for society and in other countries it has led to an increase in the cultural level of the population and the number of graduates and graduates. Not with us. On the other hand, I assure you, there are contexts of high didactic quality that have nothing to do with the excellence of the students who come, who manage to remove obstacles and do not lose students.

What are the indicators to recognize the most active, most interested, most involved schools to not lose children?

First of all, I would say a manager with a strong pedagogical role, able to motivate the teachers, not only to rely on the small group around them, but able to create communities of practice in the school, something that the teachers are proud of can be and in which they participate because they feel themselves. They are schools that often collaborate with universities, which have in mind an educational project in which everyone contributes, with a very strong peer tutoring between teachers, where newly hired teachers are accompanied to enter the new context. Schools where the teaching staff is not only frontal, flat on content: where one understands that to learn content and concepts, to differentiate the teaching methods. Children are passionate and to be passionate you need communication methods but also a sincere interest in children: a teacher must know what makes sense for them. They are teachers who do not blame the children for not learning.

It is now said by many that the school cannot do it alone in the challenge of education and training of the children: the whole community is needed. What do you think?

The school cannot do it alone, because the task of educating the new generations must concern the whole society, that is the first reason. The second reason is that at the moment the informal learning contexts are so superior to the formal ones that I can no longer ignore them: until recently TV, the Internet, museums, science centers, which can experience infinite situations with children and are sometimes more effective like the school. There are experiences and themes that exist – from museums to scouts, from sports to entertainment contexts – with which the school must find a way to interact. Also because the connection with the school could democratize access to these experiences and help increase the educational quality of the offer. But it is not only this: even for those who have many training opportunities, without the systematization of these experiences through school, they risk remaining impromptu experiences. Indeed, schools deliver formal learning precisely because it shapes learning experiences. In other words, the school cannot and must not do it alone, but the extracurricular can also do it alone. The third sector, precisely where there are more inequalities and where additional resources are needed, has skills that can interact very well with those of teachers, and which together with the work of teachers can be turned into a virtuous circle. What must be very well established are the weights and roles that the different subjects must have. The school is the department in charge of didactic planning, so teachers who can collaborate with the third sector are welcome, but the third sector does not think of the school as a field of conquest. The school is not a land of conquest, it is the place where different subjects of society compete for the education of the citizen.

What do you think of this first 500 million made available to schools with the NRP to fight early school leaving?

Unfortunately, I am concerned: there are a huge amount of resources that have been allocated without design and an educational project that goes in the desired direction to reduce dispersion. They were given without a school and social development project, but in a fragmented way. The ability to go in the desired direction or not, to build fruitful partnerships depends on the ability of the single school or the single third sector subject… there is no real direction and times are very short. I think it would have been useful to have some guidelines or the possibility to synergistically coordinate the forces in the game.

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