Debating full-time education

This was the main focus of the Aliança Educació 360 annual conference, which took place today at the INEFC in Barcelona

This year's annual conference of the Aliança Educació 360, which took place today at the INEFC in Barcelona in collaboration with DIPLOCAT, acted as a meeting point to deepen our understanding of the full-time education model. The event provided an opportunity to learn about different out-of-school educational initiatives in Catalonia, as well as to share the experiences and learning presented by three international experts. The conference included the participation of political leaders and educational activity organisers, who debated and shared suggestions for a full-time education policy adapted to Catalonia.

Laura Foraster Lloret, the general secretary of DIPLOCAT, opened the event by explaining that the collaboration with the Fundació Bofill on full-time education has resulted in three specific actions during 2023: two best practice visits and collaboration in the Aliança Educació 360 annual conference. The first trip abroad took place last March in the United Kingdom to learn first-hand about educational experiences in the out-of-school environment similar to the Passaport Edunauta. The second one took place last October in Portugal to learn about their "Tempo Enteiro" (full-time) school model. The aim of today's conference, according to Foraster, is to complement "the beneficial learnings obtained from the two visits." 

Then there was a round table with the title "The face and the cross of extracurricular participation", moderated by Eloi Mayordomo, on the role of extracurricular activities in children's development. The sociologist Sarai Samper and the anthropologist Miryam Navarro talked about the importance of these activities for schools, families and providers, and for the children's personal training. They have also referred to associated challenges, such as family representation and diversity within vulnerability. Access to these activities and the socio-economic inequalities that are often the main barriers have also been discussed, as well as recommendations to improve the connection between extracurricular activities and the territory, and the need for greater inclusion and support for vulnerable families and communities.

In the second part of the conference, on "How to build and implement a full-time policy?", experts from Portugal, Germany and Uruguay shared their experiences in implementing full-time school models. The session served to understand how these models have improved educational results in the respective countries, providing a framework for the discussion on the adoption of similar strategies in Catalonia. 

Annekathrin Schmidt, from the Foundation for Children and Youth in Germany, presented the German model, which has the main objective of extending and diversifying teaching time into 8-hour days. This model, intended for children aged 6 to 16, combines teaching and non-teaching activities and includes services such as canteens and support for school work. The model features optionality and state-subsidised universal coverage. Schmidt highlighted the decentralisation of the application of the model and the need for a unitary quality framework.

Pedro Abrantes, from the Open University of Portugal, explained the Portuguese model of escola a tempo inteiro. This model extends the school timetable with two additional hours of free curricular reinforcement activities. The model focuses on the first cycle of primary school (6-10 years), encourages high levels of participation, and incorporates sports and community activities. Abrantes highlighted the flexibility of the model, the collaboration between various social actors and the challenges to guarantee uniform quality education.

On the other hand, Lilian Strada, coordinator of full-time schools for the government of Uruguay, described the Uruguayan model that combines full-time and extended-time schools. This model, intended for children aged 3 to 11, focuses on low-income and middle-class areas, guaranteeing school days of 7 to 8 hours that include teaching and non-teaching activities. Strada highlighted the orientation of the model towards improving equity and the progressive universalisation of education.

The participants debated aspects of governance, equity and quality of their models. The importance of community participation in educational management, the need for adaptability of models to local needs and the challenge of maintaining high standards of educational quality has become clear. In particular, there has been discussion about how the different models deal with the integration of non-curricular activities and their relationship with the school curriculum.

International experts have also offered recommendations to adapt these models to Catalonia. The representative from Germany emphasised the active involvement of children and their families, as well as the need to set well-defined goals and use comprehensive databases to monitor progress. From Portugal, the importance of respecting the fundamental rights of children, the creation of alliances between various educational entities and flexibility in the application of the models was underlined. Finally, the representative from Uruguay opted for consistent educational practices, attention to the specific needs of each local community, and the importance of active listening to both teachers and members of the educational community.

The Aliança Educació 360 succeeded in positioning the debate on the right of children and adolescents to enjoy learning opportunities beyond school time, and has also succeeded in developing, based on different international policies, the bases for a full-time education policy for Catalonia, agreed with several actors. After a prospective analysis of full-time education policies in other countries, a comparative study, and a series of seminars to explore what can be learned and which of these policies can be replicated, the conference also served to debate and share this proposal for a full-time education policy specific to Catalonia.

The conference provided an enriching insight into how different educational systems face the challenges of full-time education, offering valuable perspectives for the possible implementation of a similar model in Catalonia. The debates and exchanges have highlighted the need for a flexible, inclusive and well-adapted educational policy to local needs and contexts. The debate was aimed at institutions and organisations that are members of the Aliança Educació 360 and also at those that are not. The guests were political leaders from all levels of administration (local, supralocal and regional) and, especially, organisers of educational activities outside school: cultural, community or sports facilities, entities, AFA, educational centres, edunautas destinations, activity promoters and programmers, etc.