One unexpected consequence of the current economic crisis is that more teenagers are staying on at school. Until now, Spain has had one of the EU’s highest school drop-out rates but youngsters are beginning to realise that the more qualifications they have, the better the chance of finding a job. The unemployment figure for October – 2,818,026 – was the highest since April 1996 and some gloom-and-doom merchants predict it could top the four-million mark by the end of next year.
Retirement beginning to bore you? Liven up you life by going back to school at the U3A – University for the Third Age – in Fuengirola. Registration is now open at the Ark Christian Fellowship Hall, Las Rampas, from 11 am to 1 pm, on September 30th and October 2nd and 3rd. You can also register on Enrolment Day on October 6th. Courses range from Scrabble, Poetry, Health and Your Body, Computer Improvers Workshop, Spanish for Beginners, Patchwork, and Golden Age of Spain, just a few of the 40 courses on offer. One novelty this year is a series of talks on the Spanish Civil War, to be given by Muriel Pilkington from the Town Crier. Membership of the U3A costs 25 pounds and entitles members to participate in as many groups as they wish. More details are available on U3A’s website: http://www.u3acostadelsol.org.
The case of the St Javier’s International Nursery in Marbella, whose owner was recently arrested for running it illegally in unsafe and unhealthy conditions, has led the authorities to take a closer look at other international schools in the area. A local newspaper reported last Saturday that there are at least 12 international schools are operating in Malaga province, mainly in Mijas, Marbella and Estepona, without permission from the local authorities. They are generally nurseries but some teach up to the bachillerato level. The owner of St Javier’s, a 40-year-old Spanish woman, had been running the school for 12 years without the regional educational authorities knowing about it. Police said that, among other things, she had not been paying social security or respecting the rights of the workers.
Figures show that the Basque regional government has spent €126 million euros so far this year – 4% more than last year – on promoting the Basque language when only 11.5% of the population speak it as their first language. The number of Basque speakers rose slightly between 2001 and 2006 but according to the company that carried out the survey, the Basque government’s determination to impose the use of Basque in all government offices, hospitals and other public buildings, has created a rejection effect. A company spokesman said people are studying the language because they are being forced to do so, but they don’t use it. Another problem is that there are several dialects which the Basque regional government has merged into one known as Batua, and many of the older people don’t understand it. The spokesman said: “You can’t go against the fact that we already have a communication tool, which is Spanish, a language that we all speak.”
Members of the Alberto Diaz de la Quintana theatre company in Malaga have come up with a novel way to encourage people, especially the young, to read more. This summer they will be visiting the city’s beaches dressed up as characters out of well known books. They are currently masquerading as Captain Nemo and Neptune to get people to read Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Actress Sandra Segura said: “You’d be surprised at the number of kids who take a book with them to the beach.” People who can show the actors a book will get a small gift. Julia Luque, who coordinates the project, said: “The idea is to award readers and encourage the rest of the public to read on the beach.”
The Junta de Andalucia’s Education Department announced last week that 80 new bilingual centres will come into operation across the region this coming academic year. In Malaga province, 16 primary and secondary schools will take part in the new bilingual education scheme, the so-called Plurilinguistic Development Plan, which will benefit some 40,000 students. Another 115 bilingual centres will join the plan the following academic year. English has been chosen by 70 of the centres, but seven have opted for French and three for German.
The University of Malaga (UMA) sends fewer students abroad than it receives from other European countries under the Erasmus student exchange programme. In the 2006-2007 university year, 419 UMA students studied abroad, while 580 came from the rest of Europe to study in Malaga. This university year, the figures were 460 and 600 respectively. UMA is also a popular choice for students from Latin America, the US and Canada. UMA’s vice-rector for International Relations, María Cabello, said Malaga was a popular destination because of “the city’s welcoming ambience, the hospitable nature of its people, UMA’s academic quality and the fact that the number of students opting to study Spanish as a second language is growing year by year”.
The spokesman for the Malaga provincial government’s intercultural affairs department said last Friday that British children have the hardest time adapting to local schools, because of the language barrier. He said this was because they are a “closed” group, who talk only among themselves and speak English at home. The 4,599 British children in schools in the province are the biggest group of foreign students, representing 17% of the total.
The Madrid regional government announced last week that it will not be able to make a good a promise by regional president Esperanza Aguirre to open a Catalan school in the capital because of a lack of demand. Regional education councillor, Lucia Figar, said only 11 families had requested that their children be taught in Catalan next year. She said that as the requests corresponded to different levels the regional government would try to give the families an option by opening a section in an established school so that those who wanted to study in Catalan could do so. Sra Aguirre made her promise in response to plans by the Catalan regional government to make Catalan the main language in schools there, with Spanish being studied as a foreign language.
Finding a good state school can be very difficult for parents, some of whom appear to be going to extreme lengths to get their children into the school of their choice. Family Court Judges in the city of Seville have noticed that the divorce rate has increased significantly and suspect that parents are faking divorce to help get their children into local schools. A change in the law, effective from the beginning of last year, means a child receives extra points if they live in a single parent home. In most cases, the children in this category have either divorced or officially separated parents. During March 2007 – the cut-off month for entry into state schools – court officials said the number of separations compared to other months rose by 50%. They said the same rise has occurred this year and are currently investigating whether these divorces were genuine. The Andalusian Regional Education Department said that since the change in the law they are receiving complaints that parents are divorcing to secure school points. A spokesman said: “There are some cases of this actually occurring, but they are very few and where there are cases reported to us we investigate and if found to be true the child is not allowed into the school.” He added: “Most parents who commit this type of fraud do it by providing false information about their home address or income, not by divorcing.” However, the so-called “quickie” divorce law passed in 2005 is contributing to the fake divorce phenomenon. Couples can now officially separate within three weeks, and Court officials said they have seen couples who have recently divorced, back in court after the school entry date, seeking a reconciliation. Faking divorce is not an offence in Spain.
Two old blanket factories in Antequera are being used to give training and language courses to foreigners and also house a catering school. The factories were reformed and converted by the 48 students currently studying there. A spokesman said 90% of the students are aged under 17 and more than 80% find jobs very quickly after finishing their courses.
Alora Town Council hopes to build a students residence near the Renfe station, if Malaga University agrees to the plan. The residence would provide students with cheap accommodation and all kinds of services, just 20 minutes down the line from the university. A council spokesman said the students would benefit economically while bringing new life to the town.
Representatives of the Junta de Andalucia and Cártama town council signed an agreement last week ceding 12,000 square metres of land in Cártama Estación on which the regional government plans to build a new secondary school. Mayor José Garrido said the plot is close to the rapidly growing Chaves urbanisation which will soon need a new school. Currently, there are only two secondary schools in the area – the Jarifa school in Cártama town and the Valle del Azahar in Cártama Estación.
As part of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the uprising in Madrid against Napoleon’s invading army, students at the San José de Carranque secondary school in Malaga have reproduced Goya’s 82 drawings of the episode. Known as “Los desastres de la guerra (The disasters of war)”, the drawings depict all the horror and savagery of the uprising but as one student pointed out: “We see worse things on the telly every day.” The drawings were unveiled on World Peace Day last week. The May 2nd uprising was one of the bloodier episodes during the so-called Peninsular War which started in 1807 when Napoleon’s army invaded Portugal, occupying Spain the following year. Britain entered the fray and the war ended with the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.
One of the less extravagant election promises was made by opposition leader Mariano Rajoy last week. If elected in the March general election, he has vowed that all Spanish schoolchildren will be speaking English fluently within ten years. He also said it would be compulsory to teach all subjects in Spanish in all schools in the country. Currently, many schools in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands are teaching most subjects in Catalan, treating Spanish as a foreign language.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported last week that Spanish schoolchildren had registered a big drop in reading comprehension, that is, the capacity to understand and analyse texts. In this area, Spain obtained 481 out of 570 in 2003, down to 461 in 2006, below the OECD average of 492 and just above Greece. Within Spain, Andalucia scored the worst points – 445. Spain did better in Science and Mathematics although it was still below the OECD average. Critics of the education system blame this on the fact that it changes radically after a new government takes over.
As of next month, the National Police and the Guardia Civil will be making their presence felt in schools around Malaga province in an effort to combat violence in the classroom. They plan to give a series of talks to get the message across that bullying fellow students and attacking teachers will be punished, even though perpetrators are under age. In a recent case, a judge split up a group of three bullies, sending them to different schools in Malaga city. The security forces will also warn students of the dangers posed by the Internet, and be on the look out for drug dealers inside and outside the schools.
Valencia’s High Court has banned a fiesta involving ducks which is held in Sagunta every year. It involves throwing ducks to swimmers in Sagunta port who then catch them, causing them considerable damage in the process. The National Association for the Protection and Wellbeing of Animals (ANPBA) told the court that the ducks are domesticated ones not used to swimming or flying and cannot save themselves from the swimmers who handle them roughly. The ducks usually have to be put to sleep after the fiesta. Sagunta Town Hall is supposed to get authorisation for the fiesta from the Valencia regional government. It failed to do so last year and was fined 45,000 euros for a “serious infraction of the law on public spectacles”. This year the Town Hall planned to go ahead with the fiesta, with fewer ducks and swimmers, until ANPBA convinced the court to put a stop to it.