Up until December the last we heard on schooling for Joni was that there were no spaces available anywhere in San Francisco. And then everyone went on holiday for two months. And came back again. And there were still no spaces available anywhere in San Francisco. The news from the inspectorate was a grand silence. Ditto the various schools where we’d put Joni on the waiting lists. We became accustomed to the idea that he was probably going to nursery for another year, which the director of the nursery was fine with, reassured me that they would happily cover the pre-school curriculum with him so he didn’t miss out. I had an internal debate with myself as to what I would do if one of the sink schools offered him a place at this stage; would it be better to accept a place in order to have him “in the system”, or would he actually be better off at nursery anyway?
Except that the school which phoned at the last minute turned out to be one of the ones on our original preferred shortlist. No debate needed, and the next few days spent spinning around San Francisco doing paperwork and gathering kit. The week started with a bank holiday followed by a teachers’ strike; two key features of a normal academic year. But finally here he is at his new school in his new uniform;
It is supposed to be a smock, but having opted for the “he’ll grow into it” size, it looks more like a dress. Luckily he loves it anyway. The director informed us that she jumped the waiting list in order to offer us a place. We will probably never know whether that was at the behest of the Inspectora “get these parents out of my hair…” or for some other undefined reason. On balance I think it is probably mostly good that we don’t understand the half of the wheeling and dealing which goes on behind closed doors, and on this occasion we are more than grateful that it has gone in our favour.
Meanwhile I on the other hand finished my secondary school exams this morning. Exams are graded from one to ten, of which six is a pass. I scored a nine in language and literature, a ten in geography, another ten in citizenship, and an eight in history. So I am now officially a fully fledged teenager, qualified to go to university, or to listen to loud music and stay in bed till lunchtime (Wotever…).
Without wishing to detract from my own or anyone else’s achievements, I was surprised at the standard of the exams. While I didn’t expect that they would be up to A-level (given that secondary school here is six years rather than seven), I did think that they might resemble an extended GCSE, whereas actually the written papers most closely reminded me of the kind of tests I would have invented for my bottom set year 10’s. In Argentina this is your entrance to university, whereas in the UK a bottom set year 10 is mostly going nowhere, particularly in the current economic climate. I guess we are back to philosophy of education; is it better to aspire to mediocrity for all, or to push the few to achieve excellence, and then use the extra tax they generate to fund think-tanks to figure out what to do about the disaffected underclass? Although actually I don’t think dumbing down to mediocrity contributes very much to reaching the disaffected underclass; in my language exam the other week there were something like 120 students signed up for it, of whom 80 showed (all teenagers except me and one other foreign adult), and of those 80 half a dozen of us passed, of whom I scored the highest mark. I suspect that disaffection is caused by a cocktail of social factors and that therefore you can design education to be as easy as you like and probably still not make a great deal of difference in terms of reaching lost youth.
Wotever… For me at least the next steps now are hopefully mostly bureaucratic. Apparently it will take a couple of months or so to extract my secondary school certificate from the bowels of the Province of Cordoba’s education department, and then hopefully I can hand everything over to the Ministry of whatever it was in Buenos Aires who I am sure will be more than happy to tell me about whatever hoops are next in the obstacle course.