To be able to choose to emigrate to another country as an adult, not because of war and misery but simply because you want to, is a fantastic and exciting experience. It is not only a new language that needs to be learned, but one must also learn to understand and adapt to a new culture, with new habits and ways of thinking. If you, like us, move together with children, it is also a whole new world that opens when you are to learn to understand how the Spanish school works…
Felicia Sanchez Hermansson is married to a Spanish man and they have two teenage children. She was born and raised in Sweden and has lived in Spain for several periods and years, most recently here in Almuñécar. Felicia works as a teacher and teaches i.a. Spanish.
Here we get to take part of Felicia’s thoughts on the Spanish school.
There are a thousand things to write about this topic, it is an eternal debate back and forth but I will reproduce our personal experience around the school in Almuñécar. As a mother, but also a teacher, I may have more to compare with, but that does not mean that my thoughts are in line with everyone else’s. This is a text based on real events.
My children went to Swedish independent school until the spring term in the fourth and sixth grade respectively. The older one got his first grades just before we moved to Spain, where they get grades from long before. The queuing system in Andalusia looks a little different than in Sweden because there is no queue. You apply and depending on how many points (siblings, address, etc.) you have, you enter a school, or another, whereupon ours entered where there was a space open. For little brother the first semester went well, for big brother it was quite hard.
The Spanish municipal school is “free of charge”. The first day the children got an A4 with a list of what was needed and we went to buy everything from crayons, scissors, dictionaries, paper and one booklet per subject. A cost of about 100 € per academic year. In addition to this cost, a lot of other things are added such as special clothes (mandatory) at school graduations, carnivals, Halloween and more. Excursions are made several times per academic year and each time a small note came home for signature and payment.
After a month we had a meeting with little brother’s tutor who questioned that we said he was a good student because he wrote one number per page and had no structure in his booklets. He knew everything, but did not know how to take notes or structure his tasks. We explained how this works in Sweden, that it is not a knowledge requirement and that the pupils do a little as they wish. This is not the case in Spain, so little brother had to learn to take notes, dictate, write in order, etc.
We had a meeting with big brother’s school where we handed over an investigation of dyslexia and they ask “What should we do about this?” We wondered if they had a Reading Service or something, but there was none and if you wanted help, you could go to a speech therapist privately or pay for private lessons. They have no adjustments to children with dyslexia. They often threaten the children with various reprimands and big brother took this hard, he who has always been so correct now got more anxious than ever. He came home crying several times that semester, for example when the teacher used Spanish proverbs that he took literally, for example “I will decapitate you”.
Different, in point form
Over time, you adapt to the fact that the Spanish school is different, compared to the Swedish, you do not always have to understand or agree, but it is different. Below I write in point form some of the things that I consider different than in Sweden, and frankly incomprehensible:
- IF you perform at a dance show, you get extra points in language.
- IF you do not do your homework on two occasions, you must write 50 times “I always have to do my homework”.
- Children do ugly things, mothers do them better.
- At the party at the end of school, soft drinks and beer are sold for 1.50 € and different grogs and mojitos for 5 €.
- Grades in English are based on 60% test, 30% “good looks at work” and 10% behavior. By good looks is meant that it looks nice in the booklet and in the right color.
- You do not summarize but copy the text, word for word because many can not summarize.
- If you copy incorrectly, the teacher tears the paper out of the book and you have to redo it.
- It is raining, then you do not get a break because you could get wet.
- Students are trapped behind high fences, or others are locked out – still wondering which.
- Students are threatened with “Later in the studies you must not ask so much so we start practicing it now”.
- If you talk during a test, the teacher can tear the test into two parts.
- One day it was so cold that the physical education was canceled, you can not play basketball then. It was probably 8 degrees…