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CULTURE AND EDUCATION IN BARCELONA: THE LATEST TRENDS
by Marina Subirats
TOWN COUNCILLOR. PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION ON EDUCATION AND CULTURE. PRESIDENT OF THE MUNICIPAL INSTITUTE FOR EDUCATION

In the sphere of culture, as in many other fields over the last years, democratization has produced very interesting changes that present new challenges to our city. (...) If only briefly, I would like to comment on some of these changes which, in my opinion, we should keep in mind as guiding premises when drawing up a plan for educational and cultural policies. (...)
However, when discussing culture, we have to distinguish between various aspects. In these notes, I shall refer to three types of culture: (...) first, culture viewed as a system of symbolic representations that serves to legitimate the set of beliefs held by a given community and, at the same time, to confer prestige on the social groups that institute such a legitimating role; second, culture viewed as a stock of knowledge necessary for the reproduction of everyday life; and, finally, culture viewed as a set of learned skills, knowledge and qualifications required to gain access into the labour market. (...)
Which are the most notable changes that we can detect with reference to the first aspect of culture in its role as a symbolic and prestige conferring element? I would say that there has been a very deep transformation in this field: the figure of the "cultivated" person, understood as someone who strives to discover the truth, that reality which lies beyond outward appearances, and to build up a stock of systematic knowledge in different spheres of learning, is now becoming obsolete. (...) Even if, on the one hand, the recognition of the figure of the professional with a university degree as a model of social excellence is becoming generalized, on the other hand, it is no longer universal knowledge but rather technical, specialized knowledge which distinguishes such a figure nowadays. (...)
Where the second aspect of culture is concerned - i.e. the transmission of the fundamental knowledge on which the reproduction of everyday life is based -, the changes that have taken place are even more significant, even if people do not talk much about it. Traditionally, it was the family that handled the transmission of such knowledge. However, for diverse reasons, more and more families are no longer able or prepared to assume that social role nowadays. (...) The truth is that there has been such a significant change in manners and customs over the last years that the families themselves no longer have a clear idea either of the criteria they should apply or of the patterns of behaviour which they are meant to transmit. (...) The fact that the manifestations of violence among young people are steadily increasing in frequency tends to show that the traditional mechanisms for transmitting patterns of behaviour that would foster peaceful coexistence and civility are no longer working. (...)
The third aspect of culture worthy of further consideration (...) refers to professionally orientated knowledge. (...) In spite of a notable increase in schooling among the younger generations, professional training does not seem to satisfy our society's requirements. (...) The changes in production processes are so swift that many of the technical subjects introduced into school curricula are very rapidly becoming obsolete; at the same time, drawing up plans regarding the future requirements of the labour market in terms of specific qualifications proves to be an increasingly difficult task. (...)
In this brief account, I was not aiming at exhausting such a wide-ranging subject as today's problematical education and culture situation and the constantly altering variations it is experiencing as a result of all the economic, political, technological and social changes that are presently taking place in our world, but I mainly wanted to comment on some of its aspects which are often ignored but which we, from the perspective of the "Institut Municipal d'Educa-ció" (Municipal Institute for Education), nevertheless consider as important enough to be used as guiding frames of reference for the city's educational and cultural policies. In that respect, we place particular emphasis on the second and third of the aforementioned aspects of culture: we shall have to work out new solutions to ensure our younger generations' primary socialization, so that we won't end up with a population which would boast a high level of academic qualifications but would have failed to acquire the basic knowledge necessary to guarantee adequate urban coexistence; and, at this point in time, this implies that we have to work on the construction of a collective code of ethics to be transmitted to the younger generations, as well as foster a public-spirited sense of responsibility that would place emphasis not only on the citizens' rights, but also on their duties. (...)
We have therefore to start to reflect and think about the characteristics of the city viewed as a community of people who share a common territory, with as much care as we have planned the city in architectural terms, which means that we ought to construct a set of collective norms that would allow individual initiatives to find legitimate expression while ensuring that such initiatives fit together in a harmonious way so that they contribute to create a kind of community. (...)