La Educación

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Well, it’s finals time! Time to cram!

Only not really. I actually already had one this past week and I only really have two more to worry about. In being here and taking classes, I’ve started to notice the differences in the education systems. My course load this semester in La Casa de las Lenguas is easier than a normal semester at Temple and, therefore, much easier than the course load for full time students at the University of Oviedo. I’m not complaining – not having to study six hours a day after class has given me the chance to explore, get to know people, travel and enjoy myself. The difference between the classes is just interesting to note.

The traditional course load in a university here is rough. A major is about 90 credits, while a minor is 30ish, and a student, or at least on the Milán (Humanities) campus at the University of Oviedo, has to choose one of each. They don’t have Gen Ed classes or electives. Just the number of classes required for a degree here seems to be so much more than that required in the U.S. I can take 1.25 Spanish classes every semester at Temple and get a degree in 4 years. Here, my friends getting a degree in “English Studies” have to take four classes in their major EVERY SEMESTER. That equates to 32 classes for a degree, and a humanities degree at that, which is more than a lot of the majors I’ve looked at in the U.S., and I’ve looked at A LOT when trying to decide what to study. I’ve also asked them about having jobs while studying and I get looks like I’m crazy. “Working while studying? That doesn’t happen.” It’s because there are relatively few part-time jobs here, so teens need to decide whether they want to try to find work or study. Doing both tends not to be an option.

I know some people studying engineering here – ingeniería de minas, or basically energy engineering is very common. Although that is a very intensive major in the U.S. too, they’ve told me here that they usually have classes during the morning, every morning, and have internships during the afternoons. Now, I’m not going to say that getting any degree here takes more work than getting a degree in the U.S., but it seems like in general, it’s harder to do well here and the sheer amount of work required seems to be much more.

I’m not exactly sure why this is, but the educational focus seems like it starts early on. In high school, students can start choosing the track they’ll follow around 14 years old, and at 16 they do their bachillerato, a two year program after high school in which they specialize in a broad subject before they start college or trade school or whatever. They they get to college and the real fun starts.

While there are programs like that for us, they seem less common and less intense. I was allowed to take a couple of AP science and math classes in high school, but I didn’t jump into an intensive two-year program at 16 years old. I also didn’t have to choose a major as soon as I started college. I actually just did it a year ago when I was 21. And I came to Spain and finished half of my major here.

Again, I’m not saying that studying getting a degree in any area here is harder than in whatever other country, but in hearing what my Spanish friends have to go through in their classes, part of me feels thankful that I don’t have to do that while another part of me feels annoyed that I’m not being pushed more in the classroom at home.

I’m not really sure where I was going with this. I guess I’ll wrap it up by saying that both Spain and the U.S. (and many other countries, I’m sure) could do things to improve their education systems and could learn from other countries.

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