Los colegios públicos madrileños reciben alumnado multicultural. Muchas familias de origen británico o, mejor, anglosajón, en un sentido más amplio, eligen la enseñanza pública como el mejor sistema para escolarizar a sus hijos. Muchos de ellos, como en este caso, son profesionales con un nivel cultural alto al que han accedido gracias al sistema educativo público del que disfrutaron en sus países de origen. Este sistema les dio acceso a las mejores universidades del mundo pero no tienen la certeza de que la educación pública madrileña, cuyos centros están copados por el falsamente denominado “bilingüismo”, esté ofreciéndoles a sus hijos la formación y oportunidades que ellos tuvieron en los años 70 y 80.
A continuación compartimos el testimonio de una madre que se ve expulsada de la educación pública en un barrio en el que no hay alternativas públicas no bilingües en la educación secundaria. La libertad de elección de centro es asimétrica. Y el bilingüismo no debe ser tal bilingüismo si los verdaderos bilingues huyen alarmados. Agradecemos el testimonio a esta madre con el convencimiento de que la educación pública es el mejor sistema para educar ciudadanos críticos y rigurosos como ella.
A foreigner’s view of bilingual education in Madrid
When I was at university in the UK, I spent a month in Holland on a student exchange programme which included two weeks’ work experience at an international company. To my vague surprise (I was young and naïve), everyone in the office appeared to be American, which I put down to the fact that the company in question was headquartered in Chicago. It was only towards the end of my first week that I discovered that nobody was actually American. They were all Dutch and I had been fooled by their perfect English (complete with American accents).
How was this possible? I have since asked many Dutch friends and acquaintances this question. They smile and shrug their shoulders modestly and invariably say it’s because they don’t dub television or cinema in Holland. Really? Is it not perhaps that they have good English teachers and teaching methods? Maybe. Expensive summer courses in England or the US? Not necessarily. Bilingual schools? No way!
I now live in Madrid and have two young children at a local state primary school. I am a strong believer in public education (after all, isn’t private education practically illegal in Finland, a country admired for its education system?) To my deepest regret, seven years after my first child started school, I find myself forced to send him to a private school, all to escape the so-called “bilingual” system in Madrid (there is one concertado in the neighbourhood which is not (yet) bilingual, but it’s religious and we don’t believe in God).
I admit that our circumstances are unusual – our children are already bilingual, having been born to two native English speaking parents and having been brought up in Spain. This is seen by other parents and teachers as an advantage. In fact it is a disadvantage as our children are bored out of their minds at school. OK, that’s our problem. That aside, I do, as a native English speaker, feel qualified to comment on a number of aspects of the bilingual system:
- It’s compulsory. There is virtually nowhere to go if you don’t like it.
- The standard of the teachers’ English is generally poor (not their fault). The curious thing is that nobody seems to notice or care about this.
- The native language support teachers are not necessarily qualified teachers. One support teacher my son had could hardly spell English herself.
- It seems to be compounding the huge levels of stress that pupils and parents already suffer in a homework and exam-obsessed environment.
It strikes me that there is a far simpler way of improving Spaniards’ English. Kids in Spain start school very young (2 or 3) and we all know that the younger you are the easier it is to learn other languages. The school day is so long that many hours of Infantil seem to be spent in front of the TV (I can’t blame the teachers). Why not take advantage and have the little ones watch films and programmes in English? It seems to work in Holland….