By Janoc Gou Arribas
Spain and the United States are two very different countries with different cultures and ways of life. There are also vast differences between the education systems of both countries.
Before we start diving into the differences between these two countries’ education systems, let’s talk about some of their similarities. The number of years that students are required to study are almost the same. In Spain, you can start studying at three years old in grades that range from P3 to P5. These years are not obligatory, though. Mandatory education starts at six years old. This time is called first of primary, and it goes from first to sixth of primary, at which point students are 12 years old. Following the primary grades, students continue to high school, when they are 12-16 years of age. Then, students study from first of “ESO” to fourth. ESO represents the initials of “Secondary Obligatory Studies” in Spanish. Following this stage of education, students can study first and second “Bachiller” before attending a college or university.
The US’s years of study are similar, but the years that aren’t mandatory until six years old in Spain are mandatory in the US. First and second Bachiller are obligatory in the US, too. These two years are the same as 11th and 12th grade, or junior and senior years.
Besides the years of study, there are many aspects of both education systems that are worth exploring. Like the types of classes, the classrooms, the schedules, and the learning activities.
One major difference is that in Spain, students sit in the same chair the whole week; they always stay in the same place, while the teachers move from class to class. The exception is when students occasionally go to the laboratory. In the US, students move from class to class and the teacher usually remains in the same classroom.
More importantly to note, though, is the way students learn. While exploring this aspect of education, I’m going to focus on 7th through 12th grades, or 1st to 4th ESO in Spain. Spain has a more conservative mindset, so they tend to keep old traditions of teaching. Therefore, schools progress slowly. It’s typical for students in Spain to sit for six hours in the same chair, copying what the teacher writes on the board. Students don’t usually like this mundane teaching style, so many of the students have a bad attitude in class. However, in the US, the classes are shorter and more interactive. Lessons contain more practical activities, so students are more engaged in their learning, and, as a result, they usually have better attitudes.
Another big difference is that in Spain, the system doesn't place an emphasis on who tries the best; it only values those who obtain the highest grades. The system also sometimes fails to pay proper attention to students with difficulties, such as learning disabilities and social emotional problems. In the US, the educational system allows for more opportunities to succeed. If students try hard, they can still achieve good grades without necessarily mastering all stadnardized assessments.
Overall, the US has a strong education system. It incorporates new technologies and adapts teaching styles to help students learn. Instead, Spain sticks to older, traditional ways of teaching. The US makes more of an effort to support all students. In Spain, students with difficulties are often told not to go to college or to study something easy because they’re likely to fail. The system often fails to pay proper attention to them when they need it most. Although the education systems in Spain and the US certainly have their flaws, it’s important to compare how students are learning in different countries. It’s even more important for both countries to continue to progress and adapt in order to best serve their students.