Academic journal article International Education Studies

Parent Participation in the Spanish School System: School Councils

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Parent Participation in the Spanish School System: School Councils

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The current Spanish education system is the outcome of a series of social and political events whose origins can be traced to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Since then there have been many changes in the field of education, and the pendulum has swung constantly between liberal and conservative perspectives.

In 1809, Jovellanos presented to the Supreme Central Junta the Bases for the Formulation of the General Plan of Public Instruction [Bases para la Formación de un Plan General de Instrucción Pública], which served as a reference point for subsequent liberal administrations; in it he called for education free of charge for all citizens. Three years later, the Constitution of 1812 was adopted, the Title IX of which called for schools to be set up in all towns of the monarchy for the teaching of reading and writing, arithmetic, and the catechism. Children should also have explained to them the rights and duties of the citizen. In the Regency period, Manuel José Quintana presented to the Cortes an Opinion and Draft Decree on the General Reform of Public Education [Dictamen y Proyecto de Decreto sobre el Arreglo General de la Enseñanza Pública] (1814), in which equality was sought for all Spanish citizens in terms of type of education, and methods and language employed; at the same time it called for the existence of State-supported public education, parallel to private education.

With the restoration of Ferdinand VII came the publication of the Decree of May 4, 1814 by which measures taken in the earlier period were repealed and education left largely in the hands of the Church. Liberal principles in the field of education were reaffirmed in the Royal Decree of August 4, 1836, which exerted a considerable influence on the Pidal Plan of 1845 and the Moyano Law of 1857 (Pozo, 2005). This latter law embodied the traditional "moderantismo" in education: among its salient characteristics were limited freedom of education, secularisation, primary education largely free of charge, and a centralised administration. In addition, compulsory education was established for children between the ages of six and nine, with fines to be imposed on parents who failed to comply.

Freedom of education was enshrined in the Decree of October 21, 1868. The Constitution of 1931 stated that primary education should be compulsory and free of charge and established the principle of a single and secular school system. In 1970 the General Law regulating Education and the Financing of Educational Reform was passed (BOE, 1970), which opened up new horizons and constituted a novel way of regulating the structures of the education system that had been in place since the time of the Moyano Law. Thus a compulsory, free and unified elementary education system was legislated for in Spain, one conceived as a public service for which the State was responsible. However, although a number of its articles are still in force, the law was a failure as it had not been fully implemented on account of a lack of political will on the part of successive governments.

In December 1978, the present Spanish Constitution was passed, Articles 16, 20, 27 and 44 of which address the field of education. After acknowledging the right to education and academic freedom (Art. 27.1), the Constitution states that the essential aim of education is nothing other than the full development of the human personality with due respect for the democratic principles of coexistence (Art. 27.2). It reaffirms furthermore that elementary education should be compulsory and free of charge (Art. 27, 4), and encourages the effective participation of the sectors concerned in all matters relating to general education programming (Art. 27.5 and 27.7).

The public authorities guarantee the right of all citizens to education, by means of a general study plan in which all the sectors concerned participate. Equally, the right of individuals and legal entities to set up educational centres is recognised provided they respect constitutional principles (Art. …

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