Education is one of the most complex topics that you can ever write about. Maybe the main reason for the complexity of the different types of education is the differences people have had in their past. This makes society think about the real meaning of education and which educational system a society should follow. But a common idea between is that there is a big gap between US education and other countries educational systems. Both Bronner and Brempchart in their articles agree with this idea, I found this to be true after interviewing Emily Olmstead a 19 years old freshman student that graduate from the Oyster River High School in Durham, New Hampshire. When I interviewed her I noticed from the beginning that we have had not only two opposite and different backgrounds but also education.
In my country, Colombia, children around 2 years old start going to a kinder-garden, where they start their pre-school life, with friends, teachers and classes such as music, art, creativity, numbers (Math), etc. Children learn the elementary things in order to get into a good private school. Although it’s not hard work for the children it’s a good and unforgettable experience that we have to face in our childhood, and in some ways it affects our behavior in school, as your experience in Pre School forms the roots of your future education.
When I told her all about my private pre-school (Mi Pequeno Mundo) she looked interested and surprised as she had never thought of a pre-school before in that way. However she told me that what she remembers from her childhood, when she was around 3 years old, that everyday while her parents went to work, she was taken to a “big and old house” where an old lady called “Linda” babysat her and other little children as well. She stayed there until her mom came to pick her up. That was the beginning of an enjoyable conversation that we had in the Lower-Cafeteria.
The Oyster School is a public school in her town. It has all the grades from elementary to high school, and Emily studied in that school all her life. Although it is one school, with the same name the whole school is not in the same place. There are different buildings all around the town, and people from the other two nearby towns; Lee and Madbury attend school there. In that way there is a mixture of people, from different social status and different types of backgrounds and religion. This creates a variety of different “little groups”. There is the “preppy group” which consists of boys and girls that are always well dressed and worried about what other people think about them. They are part of a big common group in the whole school, that is where “everyone wants to fit” she exclaimed.
There is the group of the “bad boys” that are always causing trouble, such as the time Emily remembers they set a fire in a classroom. And finally the “normal” group who don’t care about anything that happens with the school, or anything around them, they just go to class and do what they have to do. This group makes up the majority of the students. She thinks that she didn’t belong to any of these groups, but if she had to choose one she would probably belong to the “normal group”, as she doesn’t really think she cared about what happened in her school.
She was aware that the school always faced some very “bad conditions; as the ceiling was always almost falling down”, and there was a concern that the dust that came from the ceiling could cause cancer. These were the typical things that she had to face in her school. The parents of all the students were always trying to improve all these problems, but although the daughter of the governor of the state was in the school, nothing was done. As years passed, the poor conditions continued to the point that in her senior year the school was almost listed as non-accredited, as the buildings “were almost falling” and nothing was done. Unfortunately this was not good for the seniors, as good colleges don’t look at the applications of students that are graduating from these types of schools.
When I spoke with Emily I was surprised, because my education and my school life was completely different from hers. I felt lucky for being part of my school where I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible people, who I am sure will always be part of my life. I graduated from a Private School in Bogotï¿½ -Colombia. The Anglo Colombian School is a British school that has been there since 1940. The people that go to my school are privileged people that have to pay for being educated. The public schools in my country are very bad not only academically for the lack of good teachers but also because they have really poor conditions.
The taxes are not even enough to buy pencils, and maybe that’s the reason that people that have enough money pay to have their children go to a private school; they don’t even think about putting their children into a public school. When Emily refered to her school’s “poor conditions” I didn’t understand what she really meant, because the conditions of the public schools in my country are really bad. From what she told me, though I can deduce that Americans think that they are not going to school for free because they think that they are paying for it in taxes. It is completely different in my country (maybe because it is a poor country), as people do not assume that paying taxes includes the education of their children.
I don’t know if a private school or public schools make a big difference, but we don’t have in private schools, such as the one I attended, things such as fights, and crazy people that set fires in school, in the public schools however you do see similar behaviors as to what Emily told me about her school. In my school students go to study and enjoy the day at school. We also have very good teachers, and the conditions in my school sound very different from what she describes. There are not different types of groups, maybe this is because we had to wear an uniform every day, and people come very similar backgrounds. Despite this we still had students who did not behave properly, and they were punished with detentions or suspensions.
In the elementary Oyster school there were around 500 children, and classes were very big, around 45 students per class. So it was not as if the teacher could put much attention to each student. Although the school had a very good reputation, and everyone in the town went to that school, she thinks that this is because it is the only big school in the area, and people that have been there for years are accustomed to that school. The elementary school, consisted of two years of pre-school where they had only one teacher for all the subjects, and then elementary continued for 5 more years, where they started to learn the typical subjects, as Math, Sciences, Social Studies and English. Then in Middle School they had one teacher for each subject, and they continued learning the same subjects, without any special requirements to fulfill. In High School many things started to change. All the students had to complete some credits to graduate.
They could focus their diploma on two options the “College Track, and the Vocational Track”. As the name states, in the vocational track they learnt things that if a student didn’t want to go to college after graduating and instead wanted to go directly to work, they were going to be able to do jobs such as carpentry and mechanics. And although they are consider the (low class jobs), almost 25% of the students choose to do this track. Then there is the College Track where they had to complete 4 years in English and Math, 3 years in Sciences and Social Studies, and had to do a sport, and take electives classes such as music, drama or art. They had the same schedule in High School as they had in elementary school. The classes started at 7:35 am, and finished at 2:30 pm. She went to school by bicycle in summer, and in winter she took the bus. Then in her last year she drove to school. Every day she had lunch in the cafeteria of the school, and she personally thinks that the food was good.
My school had a beautiful green campus, surrounded by trees and small buildings. The Anglo is divided into three sections. Pre-School, primary and Bach. Pre-school lasted for two years, and almost all the students are 5 to 6 years old, then there is primary from 1st grade to 5th grade, and then Bach which is from 6th grade to 11th grade. The schedule of Pre-school and primary are the same; they start classes at 9 o’clock in the morning and finished at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. And the Bach students start classes at 7 o’clock in the morning and finish classes at 2 o’clock. Maybe because the school is very big, and there is not enough space for all the students on the buses or in the cafeteria, that they divide the schedule. Although the subjects we cover are alike, I think that the process of education is completely different.
In my school the classes are smaller, around 20 students in each class and that creates a good relationship between students and teachers, a personalized education. The grading system in my school changed many times. In my elementary school they graded us in numbers from 1 to 10, and in Bach they graded in letters (A B C D E) and in my senior year they graded us as passing or failing the objectives. But although some teachers graded subjectively, it was not easy to get an A or a 10 if you hadn’t done your work perfectly. We don’t have the (track option) as all the students have to do the IB diploma in their senior year (10th and 11th grade) and in the junior year they have to take the IGCSE exam, both of them are British exams. So the education that we have is almost as if we were going to a British school, as all the teachers we had in primary and Bach are from Britain or Scotland. The exception was our Spanish teachers.
The grading system in Emily’s school was always the same in high school, they graded in letters, and computed it into a GPA, from 1 – 4, and most of the students always got an A. The teacher’s grade was very subjective, so if you put in effort you would always get the maximum grade, and that’s a big difference from my school. She had to do 2 hours of homework each night, but as she was part of the volleyball team, when she did not do a homework, it was a perfect excuse, because she always had to stay and train.
They did not have to be part of extracurricular activities or do any sport, but she enjoyed playing volleyball. In her high school years she was member of the yearbook committee, and the prom committee. Only juniors (11th grade) and the Seniors (12th grade) could go to the prom. It was a very big event; they rented a place in the town and danced all night. But she remembers that at her prom many of the seniors got drunk before going to the prom, so they were punished the last week of school. The punishments, and the reasons for being punished were very much like the ones I had in my school, as it was the typical detention after school. The typical things that people were punished for were skipping classes, fighting or smoking in the bathrooms of the school. When things were more serious, they suspended them.
The students in my school were divided into four different groups from the moment we entered the school until we graduated. We had the choice of participating in extracurricular activities such as sports, dance, theater, art, and other activities. It was not mandatory to be part of this but I think that this was one of the best opportunities that my school offered. I was a member of many activities throughout all my school life. I played soccer, basketball and Volleyball and when I was in elementary I participated in the gymnastics championship. In Bach I also participated in many extracurricular activities such as dances, drama and choir. This was not a normal attitude for the students of my school, but I loved to do all this things, and I could still be responsible and do my 2 to 3 hours of homework every day, although I had to study some days until late.
After comparing the different things that I have discussed we can conclude that both writers Brunner and Brempechat are right in saying that US and international education have different educational focuses and values. Therefore I have proven my thesis by interviewing Emily and concluding by observational means that her education here in the US and my education in Colombia although may be similar in academic content it is extremely diverse in their social organization.