School, State Cinderella (by L. Azzolina)

Did anyone really believe in the many (too many) promises made about the school in the last year? Today a newspaper that had triumphantly presented this government as the only one in the position – finally! – to prioritize school, do you have the courage to say “sorry, we went wrong”? I do not think. But I am an incurable optimist, and I await the seraphim. The emergency has been declared over, and the risk is that the pious illusion of having understood and learned something of this frightening season has also been removed. Good intentions melted like snow in the sun. The numbers say so. In the new Def, which has just been approved, the expenditure forecast for education will fall from 4% in 2020 to 3.5% in 2025.

One would say: the law made, deceived found. Ok, Def is not a law. But it is a strategic document that provides direction for economic choices. That is, it contains the vision, including the political one, about the things and goals of economic policy. It is not yet time for the barricades: the economic and financial document is linked to the next budget law, and that is where we can / will have to intervene to set the course. But it is clear that the signal is worrying. Is there a war? Yes, is GDP falling relative to forecasts a few months ago? Yes. Are these legitimate justifications? No. The school goes back to being the state of Cinderella, and sorry, but there is no prince on the horizon. In fact, it’s a huge dejavù. When it comes to making money, make no mistake: public schools have always been very generous. Not even the theme of the birth rate, used as a partial motivation for the cut, can be a valid argument. The decline in births and thus the lower number of students enrolling is a phenomenon that needs to be reflected on a lot and which deserves decisive intervention for the benefit of the families. In the light of ambitious social policy plans, however, any action must be evaluated which, on the basis of an obvious difficulty, provides opportunities such as to allow for with the same expenses, ie. with unchanged resources, to act on the reduction of the number of students distributed by class. Simplify as much as possible: fewer students are enrolled, but the same number of teachers. The problem is that expenditure is not unchanged at all, and as mentioned, a significant decline is expected.

By 2020, it was estimated that we had spent 3.9% of GDP on the education chapter. In fact, the current Def confirms that the investment was even more significant: 4%, 0.1 more. Now let’s go back. In Europe, the average public expenditure on education is 4.7%. Italy had approached, today they decide to say goodbye to the company. I’m also a little tired of repeating that it’s a myopic vision. Of course it is, but how many months have we already said that? How can you have already forgotten that the school system, like the health care system, if not worse, has come totally unprepared for the deal with the pandemic? Crowded classrooms without the slightest distance, often unsuitable institutions, a poorly trained class of teachers, insecure and low-paid staff, almost non-existent technological equipment. What was done in just over a year was not only thought of as an emergency. We have invested enormous resources, in different directions, also with reference to the deviation from the determination of the number of students per year. class, with a view to the future of the school and thus the future of the country. What is missing today is the willingness to invest in the long term. That is, to make the system grow and develop.

During the pandemic season, an entire community clung to the passion of teachers and school leaders, ATA staff, who perform their subjects with self-denial, with an extraordinary sense of duty, and the often almost touching commitment of families. Once the pandemic is over, everything is in danger of returning to what it was before. Is this really the legacy we want to pass on to the new generations? Is this how we want to reject the highly inflationary notion of resilience? And do not remove the PNRR. I am well aware of the education chapter of the European Recovery Plan, it was written under my guidance and approved in full by Brussels. There is $ 30 billion in structural investment, but it is not an instrument that can intervene in current expenditure when it is fully operational. To understand: the staff. Instead, that’s what we need now: More teachers, more and better educated, recruited seriously and not the “cross”, more paid, with real prospects for professional development, to have fewer classes and more involved students. To imagine learning environments and teaching methods that are innovative and in step with the times.

I had already written, also in this newspaper, that the post-pandemic school would have to start again from the reduction in the number of pupils per year. grade. “No more chicken farm hours, it’s not a dream: there are resources and there are ideas,” I wrote a year ago after leaving the leadership of the Ministry of Education. I have to correct myself. The ideas would still be there (and there are) (I have been talking about them for at least four years, others have actually used the topic as an election club and today they are back to indifferent), but now the resources are also lacking. And without money, nothing will be done.

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