Scholarships reach far fewer disadvantaged students than they should. A report published this Tuesday by EsadeEcPol reflects that 60% of children from the poorest homes do not receive them while, at the same time, 13% of those who live in the richest homes do enjoy them.
The study, based on the Household Expenditure Survey on Education and the Family Budget Survey of the course, both from the INE and the 2019/2020 course, and on the data published by the Ministry of Education, covers all types of aid educational, from those intended to subsidize the purchase of books to school transportation, and divides students into five groups according to the economic capacity of their families. The conclusion is that the system presents a certain degree of progressivity—the percentage of children receiving scholarships increases as households become more disadvantaged—“but not enough.” At the lowest level (the analysis includes from kindergarten to high school), 41.3% of children and adolescents receive some type of scholarship. At the next level, also made up of relatively low incomes, 30.4%. In the third group, intermediate, 22% receive them. In the fourth, 22.8%. And in the richest households, 13.2%.
The fact that there are families or individuals entitled to receive public aid who do not do so transcends the educational field. And it is not a problem exclusive to Spain, but rather an international one (as various reports from the European Commission have shown). Among the factors that explain this are the fact of not being aware of the existence of aid, or not knowing how to process it, or being afraid of being stigmatized as poor. The EsadeEcPol study mentions in this regard the latest data released by the Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility (Airef) on the coverage of the Minimum Living Income, which only reaches 35.5% of potential recipients, with an even lower degree “for the childhood supplement, 18.2%.” In the school cafeteria aid alone, Save the Children and the NGO Educo estimate that more than one million students who, due to income, should receive them do not do so.
The authors of the research, Lucía Cobreros and Ángel Martínez, admit certain limitations of the study. For example, the way in which the INE questions the families surveyed makes it possible for some to consider that making use of the book bank of the educational center their children attend – which already exist, with different developments, in a dozen territories – is equivalent to receive a scholarship, and other families do not do so.
The greatest difficulty when studying the scholarship system comes, however, from the fact that, apart from the aid from the Ministry of Education – which, among all educational stages, including university, has increased by 68% in the last six years, going from 1,493 million euros to 2,520 million, those of the 17 autonomous communities coexist. And when you begin to analyze them, “the first thing that becomes evident is the enormous difficulty in obtaining easily interpretable and comparable information.” A significant part of the aid in certain territories “does not always have the character of a scholarship or aid, so it is collected in differentiated statistics and does not allow us to capture, in a single homogeneous and precise indicator, the percentage of students who receive some aid by community. and educational stage.”
This means that the results by autonomous communities offered by the report must be taken with care. On the one hand, in the column of students with a scholarship (for the 2021-2022 academic year), the cases of the Canary Islands stand out (with 55% coverage), Castilla-La Mancha, 33.7% and Castilla y León, 32, 8%. Next, to try to give a more precise picture, the authors include another column that covers the percentage of students with book financing other than scholarships for the same course; In this case, Cantabria (98.1%), Andalusia (96%) and the Valencian Community (82.9%) stand out. The authors ask that the data from Navarra be taken especially cautiously (in which only 2.3% of the students are awarded scholarships), which in their opinion “shows the difficulty of extracting conclusive results about the students who receive any type of scholarship or aid for educational purposes” based on public data offered by the Ministry of Education.
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The investigation, titled X-ray of families’ spending on school supplies and the scholarships that help compensate for it, includes a part dedicated to how much it costs for children to go back to school, with conclusions similar to those that EL PAÍS published on September 1 with data provided by Ángel Martínez. The resulting average amounts, based on a fusion of the two aforementioned INE surveys, and with prices updated with the CPI, are significantly lower than those published in September by companies and other types of entities, such as the OCU. And they are the following: first cycle of infant education, 100 euros; second cycle of infant education, 210; primary, 328; ESO, 398, and high school, 474. By territory, spending is significantly higher (55%) in Madrid than in Andalusia. The authors attribute this especially to the savings in textbooks that the Andalusian book bank model represents (although in Madrid a similar system has grown rapidly in recent years, so, if the study were carried out with current data, in instead of those from the Household Education Expenditure Survey for the 2019-2020 academic year, the latest available, could show a lower difference).
The Esade report proposes several measures to improve the system of public aid for study, among which is the generalization of the book loan system in public and subsidized centers, which, although it implies a “relatively high initial outlay for the administrations, “The maintenance cost is reduced in subsequent years.” This model, in its Andalusian or Valencian version, contains an element of progressiveness, by leaving out students from private centers, which are usually attended by students from families with higher incomes. And, by recycling the manuals and demanding that the kids take care of them during the course, it promotes their “environmental awareness.” The authors also propose that educational aid be directed more intensively to students from families with lower income, granting it ex officio – that it be, for example, automatic for the children of recipients of the Minimum Living Income. And they propose that, to prevent the different requirements established by the autonomous communities from leaving out a part of the vulnerable students, “some common thresholds and minimum amounts for all of Spain that each territory could increase” should be established (as in the case of the IMV). .
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