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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How the Spanish Culture is Reflected in the School

The Spanish culture is reflected in the school through numerous ways, which include class subjects, classroom layout, class schedules, and lesson plans. To begin, the class subjects offered at my school in Madrid, Spain are influenced by the fact that Spain is surrounded by a multitude of other countries that speak a different language. Thus, there is a necessity for speaking language besides Spanish in a way that is different than the emphasis placed on foreign languages in secondary and elementary schools in the United States. In my school, San Rafael, students have English language c classes everyday as well as French classes. In addition, the school is preparing to teach the subject of history in English in the near future, which shows how the geographical culture of Spain demands knowledge and an emphasis on foreign languages.

Furthermore, the classroom design in my Spanish school reflects the more laidback atmosphere and attitude of teachers in Spain. My school has students from infancy until when they graduate the American equivalent of high school. The kids younger than approximately 7th grade and the students older than freshmen in school sit in rows in the classroom. Those students in the middle grades sit in groups of threes or fours because they are part of an experimental learning technique called cooperative learning, according to my cooperative teacher.

Moreover, the schedule of classes is built around when the Spanish people eat in their culture. For example, in Spain breakfast generally consists of coffee and bread. The main meal of the day is lunch or “la comida”, which can occur anytime between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Then, dinner is a smaller meal that occurs at 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. This focus on lunch as the main mean is part of the culture and reflected in the class schedule because school starts at 9:00 a.m. and there is a break in classes for breakfast at around 11:00 a.m. After this break the students go back to class until 2:30 p.m. when they all go home for “la comida”.

So far I have also noticed that lesson plans and class activities are less structured than they are in schools in the United States. There is an expression in Spain, “mañana” meaning tomorrow. This expression describes the general Spanish attitude. There is not an intense value placed on the end result of “grades” and assessments. For this reason, teachers are not as receptive to individual students. I have also noticed this general attitude in my professors at the university I attend in Madrid. This trait of the Spanish school reflects the attitude of the Spanish culture, which is less focused on results and is more laidback. In essence, success is defined in a different way. The Spanish schools are not as focused on results-based success and do not place the same emphasis on test scores and grades and what colleges students get into as the United States does. Spanish students take public examinations in the last year of their secondary education to determine what they are best at and go to university for what they want to study. The less intense emphasis on what school students get into or what they grades they get seems to influence them positively as they all the students I have encountered in my class are interested in learning just for the sake of learning. In conclusion, many aspects of my Spanish school are infused with elements of the Spanish culture whether it is in terms of geography, eating schedule, or societal attitudes.


  1. Hi Erin!
    I find it interesting that Spanish schools are less interested in the end results/grades. In the U.S., I feel like students and teachers are often focused on test performance and the final grade. Do you think that less emphasis on final grades helps the students to learn better since they are not necessarily focused on learning material "just for the test?" I think it's great that the students are learning just for the sake of learning but do you think that it would be better if they placed more emphasis on grades like we do in the U.S.?

  2. Hi Kelly!
    I have definitely noticed that students are more interested in learning of their own accord instead of just for a test here at my school in Spain. For example, when they are going over homework or answering questions in class, generally everyone volunteers and raises their hands to give the answer. Also, tests are not as often or emphasized, thus students try to learn just to learn. For example, the students in most of my classes are learning English because they want to speak it and not really to perform well on the test. However, the less value placed on the test means that teachers are not as aware of how each student is doing in each class because they have less assessments with which to measure their learning, so students could easily fall behind. There are definitely some disadvantages and advantages to the way that the Spanish and American school systems view the purpose of school and the test and I think a mix of these two perspective would be best.


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