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9 Things You Should Never Expect From a Public High School in Argentina

by Cathy Brown Aug 22, 2016

1. Don’t expect that there will be school all that often.

Argentina has more national holidays than any other country on Earth. And for every one of them, school closes. We’re not talking just Easter and Christmas here — for example, there was no school this week because we were honoring the day some General from way back ‘passed over into immortality’. There’s lots of Generals, and we celebrate their birthday, their death, the day they started second grade, the birth of each of their children, the death of each of their neighbors… Okay, so I’m exaggerating. But not by much.

And if a holiday falls on a Thursday or a Tuesday, you often get Friday or Monday off too, just for good measure.

2. Don’t expect meetings to be efficient.

Expect parents to show up a half hour to an hour late. Expect there to be a lot of mate drinking before you start talking about anything relevant to the meeting. Someone will hopefully bring pastries. Take two hours to talk about what could have realistically taken five minutes, then expect the meeting to end by planning another meeting where you will have the illusion that you will actually resolve what you were supposed to talk about this meeting. You most likely won’t.

If you think of meetings more like ‘mate and socializing’ instead of ‘a place to get things discussed and decided’, you’ll be fine.

3. Don’t expect teachers to need a completely solid reason to not show up.

There was a lot of wind. Or rain. Heaven forbid there was snow. There was a big soccer game on. They decided to go on strike for the next month. The school cook wasn’t going to show up, so the science teacher decided he shouldn’t have to, either. It’s all fair game.

4. Don’t expect to be able to get work or tests done ahead of time if you are going on vacation.

They’ll ‘deal with it when you get back’, which translates to ‘they are way too lazy to prepare materials because they have no idea yet what they will feel like teaching two weeks from now’. And then you get back, and it’s ‘Ya fue, no pasa nada. Mas importante, como fue la vacacion’? (‘No biggie, it’s done and a thing of the past. More importantly, how was your vacation?’)

5. Don’t expect teachers to be cold and formal.

Expect hugs. Expect kisses. And lots of them.

6. Don’t expect to have high school prepare you for US standardized tests.

The only people who care about US standardized tests are US schools. Argentina really doesn’t give a crap about the SAT and the ACT.

7. Don’t expect to only run into the teachers in school.

Teenagers here, especially in smaller towns, are allowed to go out to the bars and clubs. Not much of this ‘you have to be 18 or 21’ stuff down here in Patagonia. The rules are more strict in cities like Buenos Aires, but in the pueblo we live in, when my daughter was fifteen she would often have to see her teachers drinking at the club, still rocking out at 5:30am. Somewhat awkward for everyone, I’m sure.

8. Don’t expect the teacher to not spend more than half of class time preparing and drinking mate, or looking for it from someone else in school if they happened to forget to bring theirs.

For real. It’s like crack, just more social.

9. Don’t expect most students to care much about specific grades.

In many Argentine high schools, if you get above a 7/10 in a class, you pass. Anything below, you fail. And then get a lot of opportunities to make the grade up. There’s no huge, obvious advantage of getting all tens instead of all sevens. Passing is passing, and if you fail, well, you can always pass it later.

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