After 3 years of working at the Win-Win School of English, which was an after-school academy, I have officially changed jobs. Starting in September, I will began full-time at The English School, an actual school, working in the 1-year old classroom. At that age, it's more like daycare in English, but I will officially be part of the Spanish Education System, which is a bit different than ours. Some of the differences between our system and this one are understandable but some really throw me off, so I thought that in light of my job change, I'd share a bit about the education in this country with you. Also, putting up a few photos of the place I will work - a great big villa :)
For starters, the similarities are expected - free education and more or less the same breaking up of the age groups. From 6 to 16, public school is free for all children and required. From 6-12, kids go to Elementary School, just like us, but here, it is called colegio, which you can see how easily translates to 'college'. This creates a lot of confusion with Americans when we say we went to COLLEGE somewhere. They kind of look at you like, 'why do I care where you went to Elementary School?'. Next students must go to Middle School, which holds kids from 12-16. This cycle of schooling is called Educación Secundaria Obligatoria and is shortened to ESO. At 16 though, kids can either start working, study at a vocational school or continue thier studies at our version of High School - called Bachillerato here, which also gets confusing with our usage of Bachelor's Degree (which here would just mean you finished high school).
My part in this scheme will be the Pre-School part, which is not required, but free for kids from age 3 on and is considered an integral part of the education system. Seeing as The English School is a private school, this program isn't free, but probably has a pretty steep price. If you want your children to learn in a different language, you need to be ready to pay the price. In Basque Country, the public schools are mostly taught in Basque. Spanish is taught like a foreign language. So, at the school where I will be working, the classes are taught in English and both Basque and Spanish are requiered subjects just like math and science.
Moving on from Basque and Spanish as required subjects,I was suprised to learn that philosophy is also a required 1-year class, something that never was offered at the good old Kelso High School (Go Hilanders!). Upon entering high school, students select a 'track', which is sort of like a major but at the high school level. This are normally divided up into Arts, Nature and Health Sciences, Sciences and Engineering, Social Sciences, and Humanties.
After studying the Bachillerato, students take a version of the SAT test, here called the Selectividad. Admission to Universities here are determined by a cutoff grade - which is a combination score of the grades the student earned at 'high school' and thier exam scores on the selectividad test. If you don't meet the cutoff score, you can't even apply for the program. Harsh no?
Something a bit unharsh about the schooling here to me though are the grades. Throw that A, B and C stuff out the window. Here they do it with a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the highest. But here's the thing...you can pass with a 5! Only knowing 50% of the class, you can technically pass. Can you pass an American class with a D? Here a 10 is excellent, 9 above average, 8 and 7 average and 6 and 5 are passing. You only fail if you know less than 50% of the coursework, earning a 4 to 0. I find that strange.
Another oddity for me is that here the student don't call thier teachers Mr. or Mrs. Just first name basis here. I told my older students that in the States I would definitley be addressed as Miss Gonser (or I guess Mrs. now), which garnered quite a few laughs.
I guess in the end, students here also get a good education, just take a different route. Although I doubt I will be changing lives at 1 year old, I will be an active part of the education system. I chose the job change mostly based on the working hours, the closeness to my house and the benefits. As the year goes on, I will let you know how my decision goes...fingers crossed it's good!