A young woman studies in her bed to prepare for the Selectivity exam in Madrid
A young woman studies in her bed to prepare for the Selectivity exam in MadridDAVID EXPOSITO

In six years the percentage of students who arrive at the Selectividad in June with an average of outstanding (between 9 and 10) in the Baccalaureate has skyrocketed. It has almost doubled among those who have studied in public institutes ―from 12.75% of those approved in 2015 to 22.9% in the 2020/2021 academic year― and in subsidized centers ―from 15.5% to 29.5 %―, and it has also risen, although proportionally less, in pure private schools, where maximum grades were already more common (from 19.25% to 31.9%). The war to enter the desired career is waged to the thousandth in the degrees most in demand ―such as Medicine, Biotechnology, Mathematics and Physics or Translation― and the competition begins in the educational center itself, since in the final access grade, the transcript the Baccalaureate account for 60% and the results of the tests common to all applicants of that autonomous community 40%; Therefore, the future employment of young people remains in a very important part in the hands of the cloisters of their schools and institutes.

The upward trend of the outstanding ones has been observed in the graphs of the Ministry of Universities for at least six years (the series begins in 2015) ―with Mariano Rajoy (PP) in power―, long before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus and, with it, the decision to raise a hand when evaluating to compensate for the difficulties derived from the crisis. This decision by the Ministry of Education (PSOE), endorsed by the autonomous governments, was the subject of much criticism from those who considered it an outrage against meritocracy. The fact is that, in terms of approvals, although the jump from the pandemic was very important, the upward process also came from much earlier. In the public sector, the percentage of high school graduates grew 10.8 points in a single course: from 79.8% in 2019 to 90.6% in 2020, but between 2007 and 2019 it had already been growing, slowly but inevitably, other 9.1 points, from a percentage of 70.7% approved. In the private sector, although to a lesser extent, the same process can also be seen: it went from 86.6% in 2007 to 92.1% in 2019 and to 97.1% in 2020.

Returning to the Selectividad, in the average qualifications of the playoffs -the second chance for those who did not pass in the first call-, there is also a huge rise: in the paying school, since 2015 the outstanding ones have more than doubled (from 2.8% to 6.7%, and two courses ago they reached 10.2%) and also in the public (from 0.7% to 2.5%); while in the concerted one they have multiplied by six (from 1% to 6%).

Xavier Bonal, Professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​offers various hypotheses to explain this trend. “It has always been said that the private one qualifies higher for a clientele issue, if you pay it is the solution”, he explains. But he believes that the outstanding ones could be rising, in addition, because “the demographic fall coincides with an increase in competition, and having high grades is a good incentive for public, subsidized and public centers.”

Bonal, who directs a research group on globalization, education and social policies, does not rule out that students make more effort than before because they are subjected to great pressure if they want to enter certain degrees that are unattainable for the majority. And he does not want to ignore the effect of the pandemic, which has led to open his hand when it comes to approving. “If the rise in grades is widespread in the centers, the effect is neutralized.”

Invariably, year after year, the majority of these brilliant students later see their grade drop several points in Selectividad compared to the average they had from the Baccalaureate. In the general phase ―the applicant can be examined if he wants to in other subjects to raise his grade and try to get as close as possible to 14― the grades between 9 and 10 drop sharply: 6.5% of the students of institute, 9% of private centers and 7.3% of subsidized ones.

This gap between the grades of the transcript and those of Selectividad especially benefits the private school when the mathematical formula of 60%-40% is applied. In the final entrance mark, 19% of the private students get an A+, 16.2% from the concerted one and 12.8% from the public one.

The public school starts with the disadvantage that nine out of 10 students from families without means enroll in its classrooms, but also its teachers are the only ones validated in some oppositions. The quality of education is at least the same if the Socioeconomic and Cultural Index (ISEC) is subtracted, which is measured by the educational level of the parents and their profession, by the number of books at home or domestic resources (own room, computer, internet access…). In the PISA educational quality tests, the ISEC is subtracted and the differences by center ownership vanish.

A recent study by the Complutense University, based on the approvals of its 8,660 high school graduates enrolled in the first year of their career, has revealed that a student who graduated from an institute has 63% more chances of getting good grades than one who comes from a private center (subsidized or not). The authors point out three hypotheses: a higher quality of education, a better adaptation to the university (in the paying schools they are highly supervised) or that in the private one the grades are falsely inflated.

Until October 1999, the grade in the Baccalaureate record weighed 50% and the Selectividad another 50%, but Mariano Rajoy, then Minister of Education of the PP, announced that the grade placed in the centers would count more, 60%. This measure was highly contested by the universities. Saturnino de la Plaza, who was president of the rectors’ conference (CRUE), assured that these changes would “discredit” the test. He feared that the private one would inflate the note. In addition, the campuses unsuccessfully proposed that the Selectividad be approved with a 5, not a 4, since they considered that this would enhance the test.

Rajoy argued that more importance would be given to the record to prevent students “risking the work of many years in a test.” And he stressed that the reform included “that the organizing committee of each test monitor if there are significant differences between the results of the Baccalaureate and the test of a good number of students from a center and send them to the administrations so that they can make the results public.” possible cases”. The minister did not speak of sanctioning the centers and there is no evidence that the administrations pursue these practices, if they exist.

The sociologist and professor Jesús Rogero, an expert in educational inequalities at the Autonomous University of Madrid, is clear about it: “Selectivity is essential to guarantee minimum levels of equity in access to university. Without this proof, inequality would skyrocket.” But he agrees with Rajoy that “students risk their future in three days.” Rogero is concerned, however, about some points of inequality generated by the Selectivity: “Students with more resources tend to have better conditions to prepare for the test and, if necessary, to repeat it in future calls.”

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