Fundació Jaume BofillUniversitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

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We are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Debats d’Educació by giving the educational community the opportunity to air its views

Anna Pons
Anna Pons
Public policy analyst at the OECD

Anna Pons has been a public policy analyst at the OECD since 2010 and currently advises various countries on implementing education policies. Anna is co-author of the publication Equity and Quality in Education (2012), which examines strategies to combine fairness and quality, based on an adaptation for Asian and North American countries, and individual reports for some OECD countries. She has taken part in various conferences in Spain and abroad about fairness and is a member of the European Commission’s working group on dropping out of school. Anna has also contributed to a report on social stratification in State and private schools and has revised various OECD publications. 

The three things I’ve learned

Focusing on the early educational stages, rethinking policies that act against fairness and giving support to schools and pupils from disadvantaged environments.
1

Investing more in the early educational stages

The countries that manage to combine fairness and quality in education emphasise the early educational stages and early diagnosis and action in the case of learning difficulties. It is fundamental to forge a solid base to prevent differences widening at future educational stages, which can result in pupils dropping out. In particular, the early stages are crucial for equipping pupils from unfavourable backgrounds and raising their expectations for future educational stages.

However, prioritising the early educational stages does not mean ceasing to invest in pupils with severe deficits at latest stages or not providing support for them: the cost of school failure for the individual, the economy and society is still very high.

2

Rethinking policies that do not contribute to reducing differences in performance or are even making them worse.

Evidence shows that certain education policies can have negative effects on the fairness of the education system. One example is repeating years. The evidence is clear: it is not very effective, it can lead to pupils dropping out of school and, moreover, it is very expensive. Repetition must therefore be rethought as a strategy for managing learning difficulties. Increasing numbers of countries are adopting more effective alternatives such as, for example, detecting and acting on learning difficulties in a structured, intensive way during the school year or allowing students to move to the next year with specific reinforcement. However, schools need to have sufficient resources to be able to offer these alternatives and for teachers to be properly prepared to teach them in classrooms with more heterogeneous levels. 

3

Giving more support to pupils and schools from disadvantaged environments

Paradoxically, the problems presented by pupils from disadvantaged environments tend to be more complex, but, in these environments, schools’ capacities to tackle them are usually lower, resulting in a high risk of low performance. Breaking this vicious circle requires specific policies for disadvantaged schools. For example, it is necessary to ensure that management teams are capable of leading change; incentivise the best teachers to teach in the schools where they can have the greatest impact; create school environments that facilitate learning; promote the learning techniques best suited to pupils and develop strategies to achieve greater involvement from the parents who tend to be least involved. 

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