The head of Education maintains that a good part of the cost containment measures would be “reasonable” to adopt even outside the objective of fiscal consolidation
Madrid. (EFE) .- The Minister of Education, Culture and Sports, José Ignacio Wert , says that savings in education and health is not “a whim” that the Government wants to impose on communities, but a question “of survival” of the central pillars of the welfare state.
“Here we are talking about the urgent, not the important,” according to Wert, who differentiates between the urgent need to save and the academic reform that the Government is preparing to combat school failure and dropout.
In an interview with the EFE Agency, the minister said that the package of measures approved by the Government pursues a greater efficiency of regional spending, but recognizes that these measures “are not the educational reform” nor will they contribute to overcoming the problems of the education.
Wert says it is “impossible” for communities to meet the mandatory deficit target if they do not adjust spending on health and education, which account for 70 percent of their budgets, but is convinced that these adjustments will not affect coverage nor the quality of services.
The main problems of education, such as school failure, will be addressed in the reform of the Organic Law of Education (LOE), which will begin to be processed after the summer.
The head of Education maintains that a good part of the cost containment measures would be “reasonable” to adopt even outside the objective of fiscal consolidation, and points in this sense to those related to university education and post-compulsory secondary education.
She believes that during the last few years an educational culture of “total free” has been extended “far beyond” compulsory and free education (from 6 to 16 years), and points out the importance that the future “Charter of Basic Educational Rights “.
The minister also defends the importance of all communities sharing a “common philosophy” of how to finance educational stages that are neither compulsory nor free, such as the university, and warns, for example, that bulky differences in university fees could lead to ” avalanche “of students to those who have the lowest.
“We want the communities have a margin to adjust their education policy to the requirements of fiscal consolidation, we can not create increasingly unequal systems,” said the minister when asked about the increase in university fees from the next academic year, that will cover between 15 and 25 percent of the effective cost of the studies.
According to Wert, a “flexible” system of hairpins is established to allow communities that are closer to meeting the deficit target to raise rates less than those that are farther from the target.
The increase in enrollment in public universities will mean, says the head of Education, an average increase of 540 euros per year (45 euros per month).
Wert does not doubt that this amount can cause economic difficulties in some families, so the Ministry negotiates with ICO the granting of loans for students who are not exempt from paying the fees for rent reasons.
In this sense, he insists that the economic thresholds to access the scholarships will not be revised, so that more than 20 percent of the students will remain exempt from tuition.
The minister relates university fees to the need to reduce spending by communities in universities, but also to reflect on how public higher education is financed.
“Without a clear, viable and sustainable funding scheme, we will never have a university with the capacity to compete internationally (…), with the model of governance and funding that we have, neither will foreign students or teachers come,” he maintains. the minister.
Asked about the announced student demonstrations, Wert recalls the British case, when the government of David Cameron arrived and placed university fees at 9,000 pounds (€ 10,500), which “burned” the streets.
“Today, all (British) universities are working, the university population has not been reduced, and most of them are in economic equilibrium and public spending on that subject has been drastically reduced,” he says.
This also relates to a system of loans that already existed but that has become “more generous”.
Apart from the economic requirements, students will have to obtain more than one fair pass from the next selectivity to have a scholarship (between 5.5 and 6) and, for its renewal, pass each course 85 percent of the credits ( now it is 80) of most careers or 65 percent in engineering and architecture (now it is 60).
Wert argues that 40 percent of the scholars entering the university with a grade lower than 5.5 leave the course in the first year.
The minister prefers not to make a diagnosis about the university until he knows the report of the group of experts appointed by the Government, but he does see “obvious” some dysfunctions such as the high unemployment of university students or the “underemployment” of many of them, to which adds a “very sharp deficit” of intermediate technical professionals (graduates in vocational training).
The minister dismisses as “childish and absurd” the calculation of the unions, which estimated 100,000 interim faculty positions that will be lost due to adjustments such as increasing students per classroom and teaching hours.
He warns that dispensing with so many teachers would save about 4,000 million euros, but that the Ministry has proposed an adjustment of 3,000 million euros among all the saving measures.
Finally, and on the possibility that the central government resume powers such as Education, the minister is conclusive: “communities may or may not assume powers, but when they assume the Constitution does not establish any procedure to return them.”