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The Educational System in Argentina: Differences, Similarities and the Challenges Ahead

The educational system in my home country is at times very different from the American system but there are still some similarities… In order to give you a general picture, I will include the briefing I found in the EducationUSA website which may be of great help.

General Information provided by educationusa.org.ar

In Argentina, the education system is a responsibility shared by the national government, the provinces, federal districts and private institutions. The Ministry of Education is in charge of setting basic national guidelines, while curricular decisions are generally made at the provincial level.

The education system is composed of four levels: Early Childhood Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education and Higher Education. Early Childhood Education includes Kindergarten (ages 2-4) and one year of Pre-school (age 5). Elementary education is from grades 1-6 or 7 and secondary education is from grades 7 or 8-12, depending on the province.  All students are required by law to complete 13 years of schooling, from pre-school through 12th grade. Higher education includes universities and tertiary institutions.

The academic calendar is from March to December, with a short winter break in the month of July.

Public, Private or semi Private?

In all three levels there are state-funded and privately-owned schools. In the case of elementary and high schools, they can be state funded, which is completely financed by the government and free and open to anybody. Semi-private are schools are partially funded by the government. That means that the government contributes in part with the funding the school needs. The government can give from 20% to 90% of the total amount the school needs to function and generally these funds are directed towards the payment of salaries. The other part is collected through the tuition fee parents pay on a monthly basis. The last category corresponds to the schools which do not receive any kind of financial help from the government. Despite that, these schools still have to comply with the requirements and guidelines specified by the provincial Ministry of Education. These 100% private schools tend to have bilingual and trilingual programs and they differ from the other two categories in that their schedule includes 7 hours of classes instead of 4 or 4 and a half hours. The tuition fee is generally much higher than semi private schools since the whole functioning of the institutions depend solely on these tuition fees.

In the case of higher education, there are universities and tertiary programs. Universities can be state funded or completely private. Those which are state funded are completely tuition free (but generally they don’t have residence halls on their campus, so often you don’t move out from your home town). Tertiary programs include 4-year courses but are generally dedicated to teacher training and technicians in different fields. The Universidad Nacional de Cuyo is the biggest state funded university in the Argentinian midwest.

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Dean’s Office at Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina.

Undergraduate programs

Undergraduate programs are very specialized and center on a specific area of study from the very beginning. The student has to decide his area of training before starting the program. So, for example, if you want to be a lawyer, you have to decide that as soon as you finish high school. The basic undergraduate degree program, called the Licenciatura or Profesorado (some universities also offer teacher training with an undergraduate degree and it generally differs from the Teacher Training Colleges in that students graduated from a national public university can teach at any level, including universities) requires, on average, 5/6 years to complete (in addition to one year of introductory courses required at some universities). The Licenciatura degree allows students to apply directly to doctoral level programs without any other additional degrees.

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Central Library at Universidad Nacional de Cuyo.

Graduate degrees

Until 15 years ago, graduate studies, except in a few subjects at the doctoral level, were virtually unknown in Argentina. However, in the last years there has been a tremendous growth in the number of graduate degree programs offered by Argentina’s public and private universities.

Major challenges

One of the major challenges in the Argentinian educational system nowadays is the inclusion of the new trends and the use of ITs in the classroom. Even though there had been great efforts from the government to set up an updated atmosphere in the classroom there are still some impediments that don’t allow the full disclosure of the programs. The program “Conectar Igualdad” has been a pioneer in the inclusion of ITs in the classroom since it has provided free basic laptop computers (AKA Netbooks) to almost all the students who are in public schools of high school level. It failed in its very foundational principal: only a small number of those public state schools have internet access. So, why would you give students and teachers a laptop which is specifically designed to work in the web (hence its name NET-book) when most schools do not have a internet access? The answer to that question hasn’t been found yet. The other difficulty that the program faces is the training in the new ITs. It has been difficult to find human workforce to train teachers in this field and there has been some reticency as well from some senior teachers who are not interested to include new technologies in their classrooms. In those schools in which all components of the program work properly, the results have been satisfactory.

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Another challenge that the educational system has to deal with is the low percentage of high school students who enroll in university. According to the a research published in educationusa.org.ar, only 63% of the students graduating from high school choose to attend a university. That number does not include the drop out rate, which is also high, and the time it generally takes for a student to graduate. Only a small percentage of those who started in freshman year will graduate according to the planned schedule. The reasons for not attending university are varied but the most common one is the search for independency. Due to this urge to “leave the nest,” many young adults get jobs for which skilled training is not needed and very rarely pursue a university career afterwards. There are many young people who work and study in order to have funds for books, transportation and living expenses while living with their parents. One part of this group attend private universities and they work to pay the tuition fees (on that note I can say that the average tuition fee per year is around 7% of what an american student have to pay) and self finance their university career.

*The text in italics is taken from educationusa.org.ar

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