School Snapshot: Teaching EFL in Argentina
Yay! This is our first ever installment of the School Snapshot Project. We’re so excited to launch this series because, well, isn’t it just fascinating to see what schools in other countries are like? We think so!
To start with, I’d like to mention that in Argentina most English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers work in more than one school.
Our students have 2 hours of foreign languages per week, which means a teacher needs to have around 20 classes, of 25 to 30 students each, in order to have a 40 hour, full-time position.
Since schools in Argentina generally are not very big (unless we’re talking about a big city), most teachers will go from one school to another, even during the same day.
Teachers’ schedules are quite unique; each teacher will have a different schedule depending on how many courses s/he teaches and in how many schools s/he teaches.
One year, I had 16 classes and worked at 11 different schools. That is not the rule, but it can happen. Right now, I work at four different schools, and I am so happy there I hope I can continue teaching there for many years.
photo by Pamela Arrarás
Overview of my 4 schools
I presently work at these 4 schools:
- a middle school in a very small town called J.A. Pradere
- and a high school in a town called Villalonga
- two middle schools (we call them ESB, which means Escuela Secundaria Basica) in a big city called Bahia Blanca
Middle school in J.A. Pradere
The school in J.A. Pradere, called ESB 7, is very small; only 90 students attend 7th to 9th grade from 8 am to 12.30.
The students come from the area around J.A. Pradere and are bused to school. A van picks them up if they live in a farm and not in town.
The trip is sometimes an hour and a half, and for that reason, many students eat breakfast and lunch at school before going back home.
High school in Villalonga
The high school in Villalonga, which is called EEM 1 (Escuela de Educacion Media), is bigger, with over 300 students attending.
It’s still in a rural area, so many students get special driving permits to be able to drive to school if they live in a farm. They have to do this because in Argentina we are not allowed to drive until we’re 18.
This school has an afternoon shift, from 1 pm to 6.15 pm. In the morning the same building is used for the ESB students in Villalonga.
The town has only one high school, so most students spend a lot of time together and have known each other since they are children.
Two middle schools in Bahia Blanca (EET and ESB)
The schools in Bahia Blanca are located in two very different places: the Escuela de Enseñanza Técnica 3 (EET 3) is downtown, and the ESB 53 is located in a small neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.
EET 3 is a very big school; there’s over 1500 students attending on three different shifts, and the reason why the school is called “EET” and not “ESB” is because it is a technical school; students can continue their high school in the same building once they finish the ESB on grade 9, but to do so they need to complete a certain number of extra classes since technical schools require a double shift in order to complete all the workshops.
So students in technical schools generally attend classes in the morning, then go home at 12.30 or eat in the school’s cafeteria, and then come back at pm and have classes until 6pm.
It is a very long day, and technical schools are generally very big since they have workshops, cafeterias, etc.
ESB 53 is very different from EET 3; the school is very small, only 120 students, and the building is very simple.
Only students who qualify to get free lunch eat at school; everybody else eats at home, therefore students arrive around 8am and go straight to classes, and leave at 12.30pm to go home for lunch.
photo by Pamela Arrarás
Students in Argentina do not have school buses; we either walk to school, or ride the public buses at a very small fee (around 10 cents).
Parents also take their kids to school, or in some cities, parents hire a transportation service for them we call “transporte escolar” (you can identify them because they are generally white and have an orange stripe on the side); it’s generally a small van, with a driver and a person who looks after the children while the driver makes his route, making sure the children stay in their seats and behave properly.
In Argentina there are a lot of schools, small ones but spread all over the country. Families can choose which school they want their children to go to, they are not limited to the school that is nearest to their neighborhood; but if you cannot travel far, there will generally be a school within a 10 minute drive from your house.
Only students who are in the free breakfast and lunch program eat at school; for that reason, not all schools have a cafeteria area, and in some cases, when a new free lunch program is implemented in a school that has no cafeteria the students eat in the commons or in a similar area where tables and chairs will be arranged for that purpose.
The rest of the students eat breakfast and lunch at home, and arrive some minutes later than the students who eat at school.
The food is cooked at each school’s kitchen, it is generally home-made and varies according to the skill of the school’s cooks. I love the smell in J.A. Pradere’s kitchen, for example. Those ladies are so good!
photo by Pamela Arrarás
Check back next Monday for Part II of Pamela’s School Snapshot…
Pamela Arrarás has been working in the field of EFL/ESL for over 11 years. Originally from Argentina, she is currently living in Greensboro, North Carolina as a cultural exchange teacher with the Visiting International Faculty Program (VIF). In addition to teaching EFL/ESL at the middle and high school level, she is currently pursuing an M.A. in English and Spanish as Foreign Languages from the Spanish Universities of Jaén and León.
What else would you like to know about schools and education in Argentina?