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From grassroots: What does quality education mean? ODS4. Spain EN

by | Dec 15, 2020 | Gente | 0 comments


From grassroots: What does quality education mean? ODS4. Spain

Lourdes Tabernero Pérez

Physics and Chemistry Teacher (Secondary Education) 

The community of Madrid. Spain

Lay Claretian

Agenda 2030, in its ODS 4, proposes:

“Ensure inclusive, equitable, and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.


Go ahead; there is no universal concept of quality education. Today, the dominant idea is that the quality of education is determined by students’ school performance and, at the same time as schools. Thus, the school or education system will be of quality if it achieves good academic performance. This, in principle, seems reasonable. However, it hides many factors that need to be taken into account. 


First of all, it is necessary to consider what kind of students each school has. Even when dealing with a homogeneous student body, other qualitative factors must be analyzed which respond to a concept of education in which, since the knowledge acquired by the students is essential; particular emphasis is placed on aspects such as respect, responsibility, equality, solidarity, tolerance, etc., favoring learning and coexistence relationships, in short, an education in values.


We cannot forget that education is much more than teaching knowledge whose transmission can be measured quantitatively. It is not a question of training workers and consumers for a globalized world but of training critical, participatory citizens capable of collectively tackling society’s problems and building a fairer society. A distinction must be made between what is compulsory and what is essential. In this sense, a fellow teacher, a maths teacher, commented: “…the second-grade equations seem to me to be accessory compared to teaching respect for those around you”.

On the other hand, to say that schools must be inclusive forces us to analyze the term INCLUSION, and this leads us to the discourse of “attention to diversity,” to “personalized teaching” to “compensatory education” which arose to offer students with more difficulties a place to improve themselves. 


All these terms are present in the official documents of any educational school: Educative Project de Centro (PEC), Program General Annual (PGA), the various Didactic Programs allude to all of them. However, sometimes these measures remain on paper and do not reach their natural destination, i.e., our schools’ students. Sometimes the statements are too general: “the Centre will articulate the measures necessary to…”, other times they are not detailed enough: “what, how, where, who and when they will be carried out.


After 33 years of experience as a teacher, going through several secondary schools in Madrid, I have seen that in the schools. However, not all of them with the same intensity; there is a diversity of students. The range of profiles is wide. On the one hand, there are those who, whatever happens, will achieve the objectives and will take advantage of compulsory secondary education and the Baccalaureate. We enjoy them, but our teaching work must emphasize other types of students with different kinds of difficulties: dysfunctional families, economic challenges, street children, victims of abuse, addictions, mistreatment, urban gangs, immigrants (I have known some who had arrived in Spain on a boat).


When a school receives such a diverse student body, it is necessary, out of necessity and out of conviction, to get down to work on the two battle horses of an educational school: coexistence and school failure.

The school is a meeting and relationship between diverse people and, therefore, space where conflict is a natural process. Hiding it or ignoring it is not an educational response. It is necessary to tackle the conflict in a dialogical way and learn from it, seeing it as an opportunity to accept diversity and understand the other’s reasons and experiences.


In my last years of teaching, I have had the privilege of participating in the “Team for Coexistence and Mediation” of an IES (Institute of Secondary Education) in Madrid, located in the Vallecas district. This team was created with the primary objective of resolving conflicts through formal mediation and thus improving coexistence. Subsequently, the goals and actions were extended and enriched in response to the needs of the Centre and following the proposals of the team members. I believe that the key to the success of teams like this one is in the students’ active participation. 


It is very educational for them because it instills in them concepts such as responsibility, commitment, help among equals, and the habit of cooperation. Participating in the establishment of the rules of the Centre or the classroom, reflecting and taking decisions on the consequences of their failure, intervening (after training) in conflict resolution, and being protagonists by acting in various situations (low self-esteem, discomfort, loneliness, academic difficulties, etc.) undoubtedly contributes to their personal growth and maturity. And the results are usually surprising for everyone.


I remember one occasion when a group of students from the team decided to call a student. They were convinced that he was causing suffering to a colleague, whom he was systematically bothering, so they let him know. I don’t think I will ever forget the face of the boy, who was surrounded by his peers who conveyed to him in exquisite ways – whatever they said – the concern they had for his attitude. Neither the greatest of threats nor any other preventive sanction could have been more effective. 


All this requires the teaching staff’s initiative and, of course, the support and leadership of the management teams to create the necessary structures in the Schools for the development of the project.

The main objectives must be:


– To promote the right environment for the teaching-learning process.

– To prevent conflicts and propose ways of solving them when they arise.

– Encourage dialogue as a common form of relationship.

– To offer a positive and enriching vision of the conflicts, managed in a dialogical way.

– To establish channels to prevent bullying.

– To form and maintain a team of students with the necessary skills and abilities to resolve conflicts.

– To offer help to students in situations of personal or social disadvantage.

– To propose constructive measures when it is necessary to apply sanctions.

– To ensure that cultural diversity is experienced as a value that enriches coexistence.


Logically, each school should emphasize what it considers most necessary, according to its students’ characteristics.


In my experience as a teacher, I have set two guidelines that I have always tried to follow: never lose hope and maintain the desire to learn, both colleagues and students. We must not forget that the school is the place where the women and men of tomorrow live together today, and we must be aware of the great responsibility that we have in our hands. Being an educator is a great profession; we help train our students, above all as people, and this deserves great respect, which, although it is not always recognized, we teachers know this. We must make ourselves worthy of it.

To sum up, educating is a task of great complexity and responsibility, but it is also exciting and rewarding.

And I end with a sentence by Karl Menninger: “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.”             

                                               Lourdes Tabernero Pérez

Physics and Chemistry Teacher (Secondary Education) 

The community of Madrid. Spain

Lay Claretian


Translated with (free version)


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