30 Oct 2008

NEWS: Education for citizenship in English

Everybody knows that "Education for Citizenship" is the name of the subject designed by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for ESO and Bachillerato students, in Spain. In this subject students learn about how our society works, to respect the others, about human rights. I mean, it promotes human values. However, not all society sectors are happy with the introduction of this subject in education, among them the President of the Valencia government, Francisco Camps, who has decided that all high schools teach this subject in English. Therefore, there are two teachers in the class, one Philosophy teacher, and an English one, but the students have to express their ideas in English. This is meaningless since 12 years old children, for example, has not a so high English level to express complicated ideas. In my opinion, they are victims of an educational system ruled by political ideas. Teachers, students and students parents are really angry because of this Francisco Camps decision. They have done an exam and 199 of 201 students have failed it in three high schools in Valencia. This was the exam (Taken from El Pais Newspaper):

1. Read this tale carefully. What is it trying to tell us? Do you think that human life can be limited to this? Why? Establish an imaginative relation with G. Klimt painting. What does it mean? What does it mean to you?

“A young king of ancient Persia ascended the throne full of great wishes. Willing to learn, he summoned the wise men of the Court and asked them to write a summary of the history of humanity. This took them thirty years. Once they had finished it, they loaded their five hundred volumes onto twelve camels and went to the palace. But the king, who was already in his fifties, said: “I won’t live for long, I will die before having read it. Write a shorter version”. The wise men started to work again. Ten years later, they brought the summary to the palace. This time they only needed three camels to carry the volumes. But the king, who was already in his sixties, did not feel like reading so many pages and asked them to write a shorter version. This new version took them ten years, and they needed just one camel to carry it. However, during this time, the king’s sight had been getting worse, so he needed something even shorter. After five years of work, the wise men reduced the work to one volume. However, by then the king was ill in bed. He told them sadly “Am I going to end my life without having learned the history of humanity?” The eldest wise man leaned towards the headboard and whispered “Majesty, the history of humanity could be summarised in three words: Humans are born, suffer and die”. Then the king nodded and died. A Persian tale.

Lee este cuento cuidadosamente. ¿Qué nos trata de decir? ¿Crees que la vida humana puede reducirse a esto? ¿Por qué? Establece una relación imaginativa con la pintura [Die drei Lebensalter der Frau] de G. Klimt. ¿Qué significa? ¿Qué te dice?

Un joven rey de la antigua Persia ascendió al trono lleno de grandes deseos. Deseoso de aprender, convocó a los sabios de la corte para que escribieran un resumen de la historia de la humanidad. Les llevó 30 años. Una vez lo hubieron finalizado, cargaron los 500 volúmenes en 12 camellos y fueron a palacio. Pero el rey, quien estaba ya en la cincuentena, dijo: “No viviré mucho. Moriré antes de haberlo leído. Escriban una versión más corta”. Los sabios empezaron a trabajar otra vez. Diez años más tarde, llevaron el resumen a palacio. Esta vez sólo necesitaron tres camellos para llevar los volúmenes. Pero el rey, que estaba ya en la sesentena, no se sentía con ganas de leer tantas páginas y les pidió que escribieran una versión más corta. Esta nueva versión les llevó 10 años y necesitaron un solo camello para llevarla. Sin embargo, durante este tiempo, la vista del rey había ido empeorando, por lo que necesitaba algo aún más corto. Después de cinco años de trabajo, los hombres sabios redujeron el trabajo a un volumen. Pero, para entonces, el rey estaba enfermo en la cama. Les dijo con tristeza: “¿Voy a acabar mi vida sin haber aprendido la historia de la humanidad?”. El hombre sabio más anciano se inclinó al cabecero y susurró: “Majestad, la historia de la humanidad podría resumirse en tres palabras: los humanos nacen, sufren y mueren”. El rey cabeceó y murió. Cuento persa.

Would your 12-13 years old students be able to do this exam? Not mine. It is clear that Camps purpose was that this subject was a spectacular failure. He is not really interesting in the students learning process. I don't know if this is happening in other Spanish communities or European countries but it is really sad to see how Politics can be a tool to manipulate Education. In the following link you will find the didactic units for this subject. There is no reference to the level.
You can also watch this video about the topic but it is in Spanish.


I'm an English teacher in the Valencian Comunity and I have to help the philosophy teacher because she can't speak English.
I have to say that the concepts involved in that subjects are so abstract that they are difficult even in Spanish. I had to adapt everything to the low level of my students.
If the valencian authorities want to do something about the English language, they should provide us with the necessary tools for the English class, no introducing a new subject in English without improving the teaching of the English subject. I have 27 students per class and no a proper English class with tools to teach a foreign language.
I think some of those politicians should really spend some time with us to know the reality of the situation.

I agree with you, Gloria. I think authorities should visit schools and high schools to know the reality and look for solutions to the problems that teachers are having nowadays.
On the other hand, I think that the purpose of Francisco Camps is to boycott the subject which Zapatero has carried out and which has caused so many reactions!!! In my opinion, Francisco Camps wants parents take a stand against this subject and becomes cancelled from the curriculum.

This is perhaps the reason why a lot of students do not develop interest at school because the culture is not pro-student in the first place! Why not consult the student then proceed with the necessary things.

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