SCHOOL / Competitions & rankings, a mockery of families and students

At this time of year, there are inquiries from parents and students at the school administrators’ desks that Prof. Rossi or Professor Verdi will be confirmed in the chair for the following year. It is often heartfelt letters, usually very beautiful, that tell of a school year spent with satisfaction and the desire to continue a learning path and a pedagogical relationship that has given satisfaction to both parties.

So far, everything is normal. If it were not for the fact that we are in Italy and, as is often the case, Prof. Rossi and Prof. Verdi belong to the large group of teachers, the so-called precarious, who teach with an annual contract awarded in September on on the basis of bureaucratic mechanisms that have nothing to do with the merits of the issues: the rankings do. not at least accommodate the teachers ‘professional competencies, the schools’ educational project, the didactic continuity. Faced with these letters, the poor headmaster finds himself with a dejected soul in answering that “his hands are bound” (true), that “he can not intervene in the process of appointing teachers” (true), even when , “as in this case”, the stay of Prof. Rossi or Prof. Verdi would be in everyone’s interest.

These days, Parliament is debating the conversion of the Legislative Decree of 30 April 2022, n. 36, which in connection with the reforms linked to the NRP also intervenes, among other things. on basic and continuing educationas well as on the recruitment (terrible words, but patience) of high school teachers.

The ingredients are those already seen, differently combined with each other, in the various attempts to legislate on the subject that have taken place at least since the time of SSIS (Schools of Specialization for Secondary Education) set up by law of November 19, 1990, n. 341 and started in 1999 by the then Minister Luigi Berlinguer. At this stage, the reform opens up the possibility of establishing a university course for basic education, including a period of education and qualification for teaching. Qualification should be followed by participation in a national public competition on an annual basis for the purpose of filling vacant professorships. After the competition a trial year in service with a final evaluation and, if passed, employment on the role.

We can certainly agree on the principle that supports the initial part of the road: learning what you need specific training and not just disciplinary, a period of experience that allows observation in the field and reflection (practice), verification moments that ensure the acquisition of professional skills. On the other hand, what is not convincing is the bureaucratic rejection of the principles in reality, especially for the other part of the path outlined.

Once again, the path to be followed by the aspiring teachers to their future workplace is entrusted to the seemingly unshakable myth of national competition, which is apparently to be conducted every year to cover vacant professorships. A purpose that is, in fact, unattainable. This should have taught us the last three decades: National competitions are never annual, they never guarantee the coverage of vacant chairs, and in their nature as a mastodon bureaucratic machine, they do not allow a reliable selection of the best teachers.

National competitions respond to other needs that have nothing to do with our schools functioning properly and therefore with the quality of the training courses offered to students. The only raison d’etre for national competitions is to guarantee the greatest possible distance between real needs – for example, the duration of prof. Rossi or Prof. Verdi, who is doing well in the school they go to – and the decision on teachers’ career paths, in the name of a presumed impartiality of the state, which is in fact indifference to the quality of education service and training.

In other words, through the national competitions – those that are able to collect over 400,000 applications, as happened with the last ordinary, currently underway – and through the equally bureaucratic and impersonal mechanism of the provincial rankings, avoids the state to assume responsibility for deciding whether Prof. Rossi or Prof. Value can not better continue their work where they already are, and in that school go to continuously occupy the vacant chairs that generate didactic discontinuity, undermines the school’s ability to build a solid educational project ultimately make students’ growth and learning path more fragile.

The solution has long been under everyone’s eyes and has been proposed by many on several occasions, but it seems to be an insurmountable taboo when it comes to legislation. The level of competition must be brought much closer to the schools, for example with the possibility of establishing competition procedures at the level of territorial networks or groupings linked to specific fields of study.

Firstly, because it is the educational institutions that have a direct and immediate interest in the completion and stabilization of their staff: the direct and immediate interest that the State lacks, with the consequence that the competitions never maintain the desired cadence annually and, also due to their oversized size, they regularly fail to fill vacancies and vacancies.

Second, organizing network-level competitions will make it possible to identify teachers in some cases already known and experienced in the field, in other cases newcomers, but equipped – at least on paper – with characteristics and skills that are more responsive to the specific needs of the institutions concerned ..

Third, but on closer inspection, this is the key issue, competitions at the network level will be a responsibility on the part of families and students: schools – and those through the state – would take responsibility for identifying through open and transparent public procedures, the best possible teachers for the specific reality, for the specific situation, for the specific need. In other words, the misunderstanding between the impartiality that should be the basis of any public administration’s conduct and the indifference that prevails where bureaucracy is issued as justice would be dissolved.

We know the objection that awaits us: With competitions at the territorial level, the headmaster puts his nephew, the neighbor’s friend, the trump card friend in the chair. It is a sticky but weak objection. If the schools and – inevitably – the leaders themselves become responsible for identifying the most suitable teachers for their education project, parents and pupils will finally be able to ask for an account of their teachers’ possible inadequacies, without anyone being able to answer them. “I can not help it. with something, the teachers come from competitions and rankings. ”The approximation of the choice of teachers to the level of the individual schools would basically create greater transparency in the processes and would lead to a degree of responsibility that does not exist today.

Those who choose to defend national competitions and rankings choose to protect a system that year after year proves to not work, and defend it for fear of the abuses that could come from a more responsible management and more linked to the real schools function and respect. for prerogatives, autonomy. In other words, one prefers to be sure that everything continues to fail, but remains beautifully uniform and impersonal, so as not to take responsibility also entails a certain degree of inadequacy.

Courage and visions are needed, but overcoming national competitions and provincial placements is a necessary step in the system if we really want to unleash the potential of our schools. Sorry to note that even this time around, we are choosing instead to keep alive a system that has been dead for some time. It will at least be necessary to question the reasons for this so many missed opportunity.

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