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During the economic crisis, families stopped buying clothes, gave up restaurants and rationed visits to the supermarket. But they did not dispense with private classes, which 24% of Spanish students use and which involve an average disbursement of 751 euros per year for families. "It has gone from a luxury good to a basic necessity product," says

Juan Manuel Moreno

, principal specialist in Education at the World Bank and professor of Didactics and School Organization at Uned.

Moreno is the author of the first study that estimates the weight of non-formal education in Spain, an unregulated private sector that does not issue diplomas and is often part of the shadow economy. The work, published this Thursday by the

think tank

EsadeEcPol, shows that this spending is growing steadily, even during the crisis, and that it has more and more weight in the family budget. In a decade it has tripled: from 246 million euros in 2006 it has gone to 732 million in 2017.

We are not like in China, but "the trend seems to point to a growing demand in all households, reflecting an increasingly general awareness in all social classes that investing in private classes could work as a condition to ensure access to opportunities of the future of the children", indicates the investigation.

Moreno has been surprised that where spending grows the most proportionally is in households with medium and low-middle income.

Why?

"Families may be lowering their confidence in formal school and turning to private tutoring because it gives their children an added advantage that they don't find elsewhere. Rich families think so too, but their starting point was higher because are the ones who spend the most on classes," she says.

Among the factors that may be accelerating demand in Spain are "the growing perception that the quality of schools has dropped" and "the growing mistrust of public institutions, including schools, in a context of growing politicization of the education sector and of democratic recession.

Also the "high rates of failure and repetition", a "general climate of competition to enter university" and the fact that families have fewer children, which "allows them to invest more in each of them" and, above all, everything, make up for the time they don't have "to help them with their homework".

"This work confirms that the authentic educational revolution is that families are taking charge of their children's educational itineraries. School continues to be an important place, but its role is diminishing. The sources of knowledge are changing and, if the family they don't find what they need at school, they turn to private initiative", reflects Professor

Gregorio Luri

, who recalls that parents' associations "have more agility than other institutions" when it comes to observing social changes. He cites, for example, the case of Robotics: the AMPAs were the first to make it extracurricular, long before the schools did.

Moreno's study recalls that there are more and more agencies and search engines for private teachers.

Mathematics accounts for 65% of the sector, which focuses on "recovering and reinforcing rather than expanding and perfecting".

Luri says that extracurricular activities are already offered exclusively focused on organizing the child's agenda.

"If parents are willing to spend money on this, it's because their children need it."

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