An infinite building site. This is what we could - or rather, perhaps we must - define the compulsory school in Ticino. As is right and proper, an institution created to transmit knowledge from one generation to the next, to raise the boys and girls of our Canton, must by its nature keep up with the times, evolving with the very society it helps to produce. And so, on a regular basis, the debate on the «school I would like» is reignited and stirs everyone’s spirits: politics, teachers, parents. A debate that is often above all an ideological one. It is inevitable that, in wishing to design the school of the future, and therefore the society of the future, the parties concerned try to direct it along the ideal tracks in which they reflect themselves most.

Among the many themes that make up the idea of the «school I would like», one of them has been highlighting this unavoidable ideological clash for some time: that of the so-called «A and B levels», that is, the basic or aptitude courses that from eighth grade onwards set the first real bar in the educational pathway. And this is where the two sides split: on one side (right) there are those who want to accentuate the selection process in order to enhance the differences between students and, at least in their intentions, to produce excellence in all fields; on the other (left) there are those who do not want to hear about selection and point out that often at the base of the «gap» between those who attend A or B courses there are socioeconomic differences between one student and another.

Where should we place this first important bar? Perhaps we should send everyone to high school up to the age of 18, as in the USA, to prevent too early a selection? Or should we start as soon as elementary school to select those who are better suited for an internship and others who will go on to university? Among these two (impractical) extremes, there are a thousand variations. And it is precisely among these differences that the debate will take place that the Department directed by Manuele Bertoli will shortly return to launch in order to «overcome» the system of A and B levels. A project that has always been dear to the socialist «minister» and on which DECS has been working for months.

It’ s not difficult to imagine that, regardless of the direction it takes, Bertoli’s proposal will face a challenging political terrain. To succeed in getting everyone to agree on an issue that divides public opinion in two is a difficult mission. But while we wait for news from Palazzo delle Orsoline, it is perhaps a good idea to concentrate on an issue that could find more fertile ground for agreement between the two sides. In other words: wherever the bar is set, it is important that it does not represent an impossible wall.

It doesn’t take an expert in education to understand that a student’s destiny cannot be written in stone from the age of 12. And this for two reasons at least: first of all, because there are a thousand reasons (family, personal, social, etc.) why, especially at that age, the student may temporarily find himself in the condition of not being able to access the academic courses. Everyone should be given a second chance. Secondly, because nowadays - compared to the days of the «major» and the «grammar school» - we no longer live in a world where the job selected at 15 will be the same for life. The examples are endless: each of us has known someone who, sooner or later, has decided to completely change profession or education. This is a passage that the Ticino school system allows today, and that perhaps should be more valued. In any event, whether the change takes place at the age of 18 or 30, the crossroads at middle school should not lead to a dead end. School doors should be neither closed nor wide open. Let’s leave them smartly half-open.

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