‘Spain has too many unmotivated teachers’

Spain should motivate its best teachers with higher pay and greater autonomy, says the director of the OECD's International Student Assessment Programme (PISA).

'Spain has too many unmotivated teachers'
Carlos López, director of Spain's Educational Workers Union ( FETE), doesn't believe staff reductions will improve standards. Photo: USAG- Humphreys/Flickr

German statistician Andreas Schleicher, an expert researcher in the field of teaching, gave his views on Spain's education model during talks held at the International University of Menendez Pelayo.

"There are too many teachers in relation to the number of students," Scheicher pointed out.

The best educators, Schleicher argues, should be drawn in with better wages and more incentives.

But Carlos López, director of Spain's Educational Workers Union ( FETE), doesn't believe staff reductions will improve standards.

"There have already been lay-offs and those who have kept their jobs are working longer hours as a result," he told The Local.

"PISA's director is right to point out there is a skills deficit and a lack of incentives in place, but I don't believe Spanish schools are unnecessarily overstaffed."

López also admitted there is a lack of motivation among Spanish teachers partly because teaching isn't deemed a professional career, with the social and financial benefits that it brings in other European countries like Finland.

"Teachers in Spain rarely get credit where credit is due," Lopez told The Local.

"Nor do they achieve the salary increases or ease of mobility within the educational system (moving from a primary school teacher post to an admin one, for example) that are more readily available in other countries in Europe."

López also agreed with Schleicher's view that teachers in Spain are "isolated" from other teaching institutions and their methodology.

"We have to work on building a network of schools and give greater support and attention to teachers' needs," López stated.

Not all of Schleicher's views on Spain's education model were negative though, as the German statistician praised the fairness and equality Spain's model offered students of all backgrounds in achieving success.

"The fact that more than half of second generation immigrants say they feel Spanish proves we're an equitable system," López told The Local.

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Meet the Brit behind the app that is changing the way Spaniards learn English

Madrid-based English teacher Simon Sternberg hit upon a revolutionary idea to improve Spaniards’ grasp of English.

Meet the Brit behind the app that is changing the way Spaniards learn English
Simon Sternberg is the Brit behind Wannalisn. Photo by Zoe Sternberg

After more than a decade teaching English to Spanish students in the capital, Sternberg came up with an idea to help them understand the fast English of native speakers that so often proves to be an obstacle for listening comprehension.

“I realised that there were certain combinations of English words that were just very hard for non-native English people to grasp,” he told The Local.

“I looked at different studies and identified that there are around 50 words that represent about 50 percent of spoken English, and that are very difficult to break down and understand when said quickly”, he explained.

“These so-called clusters represent the difference between the spoken and written forms of the language, and without mastering them it’s very difficult to understand first language English speakers,” he said.

Phrases such as “but it was” and “and I didn’t want to” sound like “badih woz” and “ana din’ wanna” in everyday informal speech.

Sternberg teamed up with entrepreneur Luis Morgado and lead developer Ramiro Blazquez to come up with “Wannalisn”, an app that offers free interactive listening and vocabulary exercises using short clips from movies and television series in a game format they call “edutainment”.


“It’s designed to help you train your ear to understand English as it is spoken in the real world ,” and is proving hugely popular.

“It encourages people to become comfortable and familiar with the fast natural English of native speakers that we hear in movies, TV series, and, of course, in real life.”

The app was launched in May, and is now operational in over 100 countries with 80.000 users worldwide.

And it is already a tool that English teachers in Spain are recommending to their students.

Its popularity comes at a time when Spanish learners of the English language seemingly need all the help that they can get. 

A new ranking places the Spanish as the worst in the EU at speaking English, below even the notoriously bad-at-English French and Italians. 

Unlike their neighbours in Portugal who rank among the best, thanks in part to the custom there of not dubbing over all foreign television and film productions.  

“Watching films and TV can be a very valuable way to learn a language and especially hone listening skills, but watching with subtitles does almost nothing to help that skill,” argues Sternberg. “However, watching the short clips and then engaging with the interactive exercises is hugely helpful and also lots of fun.”

For more about Wannalisn and to try out the app for free CLICK HERE.