Willamette World News

Willamette World News

RSS Feed for This PostCurrent Article

Public Education Rules!

By Norma Fernanda Oliver

Education sets us free, education is a universal key to infinite doors.

In Argentina, the obligatory education starts at the age of 5; however, I started attending school at the young age of two. Both of my parents worked and there was not child care or nurseries where I lived, so they had to leave me under the care of my grandparents. I spent most of my childhood at school where my grandmother was the principal (la directora). So, while my parents were at work my grandmother left me in the school kindergarten with the 5-year-olds to draw, play, or share whatever they were doing. Then, when I turned 5 years old and I had to attend kindergarten officially, my family was living in a farm that was 40 kilometers away from the nearest public school. So, I took a bus to the nearest town (Malargüe, Mendoza) to get to school every day. My mother asked the driver to keep an eye on me and usually a teacher was waiting for me at the school bus stop. I remember playing with my friends in the swings or in the slide, drawing my house and my family in a horizontal sheet of paper and writing my name in an uneven handwriting. That year, I learned to share, to socialize, to make sense of the world beyond my family.  

After kindergarten, I was introduced into primary school which goes from ages 6 to 12 or from first to seventh grade. The first two years and a half I attended a private school in San Rafael, Mendoza. But when I was in third grade we had to move to Malargüe, Mendoza (a small town in the south) because of my father’s job, and there I was accepted in a public primary school that happened to be located right across the street from my home. There were not any private primary schools in town.

So, my first steps into the educational system required lots of adjustments. In a matter of four years, I changed schools, houses, and towns three times. But when I was finally in Malargüe, that beautiful and peaceful town in the south, I was able to complete my primary education. Along with public school, I was sent to a private English school. It was (and still is) very expensive to have access to learning a foreign language and especially English, since it was (and is) considered a language of privilege. In public primary school, there is a basic English class in seventh grade but it is not enough to be able to talk. It is more a set of random vocabulary taught by the teacher who tries her best to introduce the language into our lives. Then, in public secondary school we also have English classes, but the time allotted to them is usually enough to learn grammar rules and vocabulary but not enough to produce the language. So, if you want to be fluent and learn properly, in Argentina you have to either attend a private bilingual school (which there were none in my hometown) or a private English school or institute. The importance of learning English was not out of luxury, but rather a necessity to have more opportunities in the global world. English is considered a language of privilege as it provides people the necessary tools to succeed in the globalized community.

Even though it was easy to make friends everywhere I went and I managed to have a good childhood and adolescence, Argentinian educational system was changing all the time. When I was about to graduate from primary school, in an effort to improve education, the government decided to reorganize the entire system trying to merge primary and secondary school extending the basic education to the ninth grade and introducing the modes or polymodal (sistema polimodal). So, the first two years of secondary school (8th and 9th) were also part of primary school but they were taught by professors and were intended to give students general knowledge about different disciplines. And then when that was completed, students had to choose which specialty they would like to pursue. Each specialty corresponded to a different mode (polimodal). That is to say, that by the time students were 14 or 15 years old they had to choose if they wanted to study humanities, economy, art, communication and then have three more years of specialized education. But if you were in a technical school and your specialty was related to chemistry, physics, maths, or biology you needed four more years of specialized education. And at last, after that, students could apply for university.

Universities in Argentina are another interesting topic of discussion. Public universities are thought to be more prestigious than private ones. However, even though public university offers free education, you need to be able to pass an admission exam to be accepted. While in private university you only have levelling or induction courses.

Once I had to make my choice in polymodal, I decided I wanted to stay in the humanities track and within that, in the education path. I specialized in education during secondary school and at the same time I studied English in a private institute. After I graduated from secondary school, I decided I wanted to be an English teacher (professor), so I gathered all my things and moved to the capital city of Mendoza, Mendoza (400 km away from home). There, I sat for the admission test and passed; and after 5 years of intensive education in public University (Universidad Nacional de Cuyo – UNCuyo) I graduated as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher

Nowadays, I am an EFL teacher working in public secondary schools, an institute of higher education, university, and a private English school. By becoming part of the system, I want to show students that education – and most importantly free, public education – scan provide a world of opportunities for everyone. In Argentina, compulsory education goes from kindergarten until secondary school. University and higher education is optional. Some of my students do not have the family support to pursue further studies as I did. One of the most important duties of an educator is to encourage them to become better and do more. So as a teacher, I intend to help them become part of the global community and show them how powerful education can be in that matter.

Click here to watch an interview with Fernanda Oliver!


Trackback URL

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.