Though this does not answer any of the reflection questions directly, I want to take some time to explain what I have learned about the education system here in Spain. My placement is a Cathoilc school in Sevilla called Bienaventura Virgin María Irlandesas de Bami, and it is a school founded by an order of Irish nuns and located in a barrio of Sevilla. Every Monday I observe three Spanish classes taught by a secondary teacher named Prado. Though the school educates both primary and secondary students, Prado has told me that there is much segregation between the primary school and the secondary school in terms of its schedule, methods, etc. On my first day in Bami Prado explained how the secondary education system works in Spain, as she noticed my bewilderment and confusion at the terminology she was throwing around, obviously forgetting that I was one of the two Americans in all of Bami.
In Spain, once students complete primary school at the age of ten, they move onto the secondary program called Obligatory Secondary Education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria) or ESO. There are four “grades” or levels of ESO, which are aptly called first, second, third, and fourth levels. Students complete ESO around age 15. At that point, they can choose to continue their education or leave school. At this school, the vast majority of students continue onto the program called “Bachillerato,” which consists of two more years of schooling. The Bachillerato program is a pre-college study of sorts.
In a student’s second year of Bachillerato, when they are 17, they take a test in June called “Selectividad.” This is a university entrance exam similar to the SAT’s, but Spanish students take the test at the end of their final year. The Selectividad seems to be a very fair conclusion of a student’s secondary education, an observation I made based on Prado’s explanation of the exam’s grading process.
There are two parts of the exam: the “General” section and the “Específica” (Specific) section. The General section covers four subjects: language, history, philosophy, and English language. These are the four most commonly completed subjects for this section. As expected, language in an obligatory subject. The Specific section is slightly more confusing to me, but Prado explained that it assesses more specific subjects that students want to be tested in. The exam scorers factor the two best scores of the completed subject sections into the final Specific score. The Specific section seems comparable to SAT II exams because students can choose subjects they are passionate about and prepared to be assessed in.The scoring for the Selectividad is slightly confusing. Half of the score consists of 40% of the General section score and 60% of the students’ grades from the two years of Bachillerato (the equivalent to a GPA in the US). The maximum General score is 10, and one can score up 4 points on the Specific section even though the summation of the 2 best Specific section scores is always greater than 5. Now the confusing and incredibly unique aspect of the Selectividad comes into play. A student’s final score depends directly on the career they are planning to pursue! I was completely blown away when she explained that because it is incredibly rare that American students know EXACTLY what they want to devote their lives to at the end of their high school careers. The scores from the Specific sections are multiplied by one of two coefficients, which is determined by the rigor, value, and need of the student’s desired career path. The coefficient 0.2 is applied to the scores of students that intend to pursue “more important” careers.
Finally, the General score is added to the strikingly calculated Specific score. The maximum cumulative score for the exam is 14. With this score, students begin the university application process. Unlike in the US, where students now regularly apply to anywhere between 10 and 20 schools, Spanish students are limited to 5 different choices. By that I mean that they are given 5 “slots” to fill with their top 5 choices for university. Admissions depends solely on the students’ Selectividad scores and the number of spaces they have available for incoming students. A student’s first choice is obviously the best and hardest to get into, but they are turned down if their score does not reach a certain threshold. This is similar to university admissions in the US, but the analysis is based on much more than a single score on a single exam! I can only imagine the horror and stress that would ensue if this were the system in the United States!
I am thoroughly enjoying learning about the different systems and levels of education in Spain while at my placement, which is reinforced by discussions with my high school age host sister. These two aspects of my life here in Sevilla give me great insight into education in Spain!