Saturday, September 14, 2013

A School Comparison

Last week on facebook I made a comment about my presentation being a comparison between Spanish and American schools.  Many of you asked for the details.  So here it is - a comparison (public to public) - but not an evaluation.  There are good things in both systems and things that if I was in charge of the world would be different.  But definitely interesting to consider.

When do you have to begin school?

Spain: School attendance is mandatory at age 6, however there are optional schools from ages 0 to 3 and optional free schools from ages 3 to 5.
United States:  School attendance is mandatory at age 6, however there are optional schools from o to 4 and optional free schools at age 5 (kindergarten).

How are the schools divided?

Spain: Grades 1 to 6 are in one school and 7 to 12 are in another.
United States:  Normally the grades are divided into three schools:  kindergarten to 5th grade, 6 to 8, and 9 to 12.

When can a student drop out?
Spain: At age 16
United States:  At age 16

Who provides the books?

Spain: In most cases, the students buy the books and they can cost more than 200€ ($250) per year per student
United States:  The schools provide

Can parents visit?

Spain: It is very difficult for parents to get to the classroom.  Parents drop their children off at the gate and the students (even the kindergarteners) walk to the classroom alone.  Usually if you ask for an appointment with the teacher it will be in a conference room.  Parents usually do not even volunteer in the classrooms.
United States:  Parents are welcome to visit and volunteer in the classrooms.  More than once a year there is an opportunity to visit in the classroom.

The last two yearsSpain: The last two years of school are optional and are not guaranteed.  Acceptance to the last two years are based on your grades and in some instances based on attendance and behavior.
United States: Although you may not graduate, all students are allowed to attend school through the 12th grade.  You will receive either a diploma or certificate of attendance.

Who is responsible for remediation?

Spain: If a student fails a class, it is his responsibility to get remediation - either through a private tutor center, help of friends, or just studying.  All classes must be passed and thus if the fail the class they can retake the exam at the end of the year or again in September.  The students may move on to the next grade, but to be admitted to the last two years of school they must have passed all classes from the last four years.
United States:  If a student fails, there is summer school and the teacher helps with remediation.  Most school systems have a standardized testing program.  If the scores for a teacher or school are low, the teacher and school are held accountable.  In fact, some systems even award pay differences based on test scores.

High school options?
Spain: You may choose a tract - such as science, literature, vocation - but within that tract there is no flexibility or choices.
United States:  You may choose from a wide variety of classes and you will have students with different work goals in all your classes.  For example, you can take an accounting class, an art class, and a physical education class all at once.


Spain: Scale of 1 (low) to 10 (perfect).  Passing is a 5 and acceptable is a 5.
United States:  Scale of A (perfect) to F(failing), skipping the E.  Passing is a D and acceptable is a C.  Although you need much higher grades for college.

Who changes classes in highschool?

Spain: Teachers
United States:  Students

What is the purpose of the teacher?

Spain: What you know.  Most exams are giving back a ton of facts.  Exams are based almost solely on memorization and very little writing.
United States:  What you think.  Most exams are based on processing information and putting in a new form.  In high school it isn't unusual to even have a written composition on a math exam.

What happens when you finish?

Spain: You take your final exams and wait on your scores.
United States:  A big graduation ceremony, gifts, and often parties.

Monday, September 2, 2013

First Week of School Lessons

We have survived the first week of Alex's new school (yep, 3rd school in 3 years).  You would think that since my first child started school in 1995 and since I taught school for more than ten years I would have this adjustment down to a science.  Uh, no!  So here are a few of the lessons I have learned in the first week...

  • It does not matter how early I go to bed my body does not like 6:30 AM.  As the culture here is a late night culture, my bedtime is usually 12 or 12:30.  I went to bed at 10:30 last night just to see if it made a difference, and nope, my body didn't like 6:30 AM any more than the other nights.  Apparently, my teenage son's body doesn't like 6:30 AM anymore than mine.  Our mornings have been quite interesting!
  • No matter how hard you try, school supplies will cost more than you expect and you will always forget at least one thing on the list.  At least this year I only forgot index cards and they weren't needed yet.
  • I should ask Alex if he has his lunch before we leave the house, not as we are pulling into the school yard an hour away from our home.  Yep, Alex is gonna be one hungry boy when he gets home today.
  • Laundry left in the basket for a week will need ironing.  Being just too tired to worry about it and Scott not being here to give me "that look," Alex and I have been living out of the clean laundry pile.  Uh oh - I might just have to find the iron.... or should I just rewash it or wear it wrinkled?
  • Transitions like this go so much better with a spouse.  At least he could have gotten up at 6:30 some of these mornings and made the coffee.  :)  He has been in the states for a conference since last Tuesday.
  • The rest of life doesn't seem to acknowledge that school has started... the floors still need cleaning, bills still need paying, dinner still needs cooking (and oh wait, that means I should have gone to the grocery store), and ministry still happens.  Did I mention that I start language school tomorrow?
  • And the lesson from today.... the numbers on the calendar are just as important as the name of the day.  In my mind today was Monday, September 3.  In several correspondences from last week I referred to Monday, September 3 and made my schedule for today as if it were really the 3rd.  Well, apparently today is the 2nd and nope, I didn't have a breakfast meeting after that test that I didn't actually have.  So tomorrow, the real 3rd, I will do today's schedule.  Does that mean I am already behind or ahead for this week?
I am hoping we find our groove this week, but if not - there is always another week since the school year is about 36 weeks long.