By Carla Chinski, Content Marketing Manager at Vamos Academy
An Introduction to Schools and Schooling in Argentina: What You Should Know
There are many, many differences between the US school and the Argentine system. We’re talking about education levels, types of schools and orientations available, and the overall schooling experience for children. Finding an international school is no easy task, in the sense that it’s a very important component in whatever might be considered a “successful immigration”.
For instance, in an English language school a child can learn about US and British culture; in a Spanish-speaking school, the main benefit is language immersion and a mastery of the language and culture from a young age; there are intangible values and cultural expressions that would be very difficult to grasp were it not for your children socializing with others their age in a school environment.
The educational system in Argentina is essentially divided up into systems with different orientations you can choose from. One example is that education can be both formal and non-formal, and have artistic, technical and language orientations. Another thing to factor in is that there is no such thing as middle school; the grading system is very different and it plays a different part in your child’s future. In short, there are other things to take into account; new challenges and unexpected obstacles.
We’ve comprised this guide so that enrolling your children into a school, whether it’s an English or Spanish-speaking school, is as smooth and worry-free as possible. The good thing, despite an overall faulty educational system in the country, is that there are many possibilities to choose from, all of which are supported by law, a.k.a. they have a governmental approval.
Additionally, the changes the system underwent during the different Argentine governments regarding schools have resulted in a more or less chaotic education policy. But how could this affect your decision-making? Well, that’s what matters most. The public educational system (which implies free, open education for all) has been on the decline for several years, and is way past its golden age.
This isn’t to say there aren’t any quality public schools left, especially in Buenos Aires: the Colegio Nacional Buenos Aires, Pellegrini and ILSE are three well known examples of high-quality educational programs which respond to old (but still relevant) tendencies from an older Buenos Aires.
Some Main Differences Between Education In the US and In Argentina
In the US, education is not unified under national government law, but by state law. This also means schools, or one institution in particlar, rely on both private and public funding. Private, public schools in the US are not free, and neither are charter schools. However, public schools in Argentina are (these schools are usually called “Normal(es)”).
In the US schools are grouped by districts chosen by local authorities which are in charge of funding for each school district according to their needs. In Argentina, there are no districts, which is to say that schools can be found in different barrios or neighborhoods, and private schools have private funds, while public schools are state-funded. There are also semi-private schools, just like in the US.
The Educational System in Argentina: Provinces vs. Buenos Aires
Beyond the differences between the Provinces and Buenos Aires City, there are “modalidades educativas” (educational modes) which apply more generally to all schools. The most important variants are the Educación técnica profesional and the Educación Artística. Educación técnica offers “oficios” (crafts and services) that span from accounting and plumbing to business and administration. Educación artística, on the other hand (artistic education) provides workshops and hands-on arts experience for children.
Also read: Escola de Espanhol
In the Buenos Aires province–where most of the schools listed are located–the program of was put in place legally in the year 2011 after the end of the Polymodal and the EGB (Educación General Básica) which legalized, essentially, the unification of the educational system in the Provinces and in Buenos Aires City.
Take into account that in Argentina pursuing a primary and secondary school education is mandatory by law.
This new system is made up of:
- Educación inicial (from three to five years of age), informally known as “jardín de infantes”
- Educación primaria (six years), normally from ages 6/7 to 12, equivalent to “primary school”
- Educación secundaria – ciclo básico and ciclo superior: equivalent to both “middle school” and “secondary school” – six years, normally from ages 13-17/18
In the City of Buenos Aires, the NES (Nueva Escuela Secundaria or “New Secondary School”) has different orientations according to your child’s interests and preferences. According to the City Government website, the NES constitutes not only an educational curricular reform, but also a structural reform which is oriented towards evaluation, the use of statistics, and pedagogy. In short: better teaching for a better education overall.
We’re not going to get into the political disputes that surround (or have surrounded) the NES. What you do have to know, though, is that the NES is centered around secondary school students acquiring new abilities and professional skills. These are the different options for schools’ orientation:
- Computer Sciences
- the Humanities
- Physics and Mathematics
- Arts and Performance
- Social Sciences
- Natural Sciences and Biology
- Environmental Sciences
The NES also provides specialized programs and teachers. Most importantly, the teachers have the necessary academic and pedagogic background to teach the different orientations. Their being specific to each orientation obviously adds to overall educational quality. It’s important to clarify that both of these systems apply to private and public schools.
In secondary school, the grading system works on a 1 to 10 scale. In primary school, the grading system is worded using different qualifications such as “excellent”, “good”, “bad”, etcetera. It’s important to note that there is no GPA (Grade Point Average) on a 1-4 scale; however, there is a general score (promedio) that averages all the points on that 1 to 10 scale. These grades, just like in the US, appear on a final report card.
Although test scores do affect your child’s overall performance for going to university, because of public education it’s not as competitive as in the US, in all truth. If your child is to continue on to graduate school, don’t expect standardized tests or grade averages to play a big part in admission. Some schools have interviews or require special documentation like a personal statement, but some public schools don’t; similarly, public schools are free and open to anyone so there are no special admission requirements other than the regular documentation, which we have discussed in the next section.
Sending Your Child to School: Enrollment, Acclimating and Educating for Expats
How Can I Enroll My Kids Into School?
Once you have selected a school, it’s a good idea to write beforehand to look for a few factors:
- Does the school provide special Spanish tutoring for non-native children?
Here you should take into account the number of hours which are assigned to Spanish tutoring.
- Is there any pedagogical support available for immigrants?
It’s a good idea to look for pedagogical and psychological support from specialized professionals working at the school; this is a service lots of secondary and elementary schools provide.
- Are there any shared features between my kid’s former school and this one? (Amount of students, study time, facilities like libraries, labs and courts).
It’s useful to find out about how the school handles and welcomes new students. A lot of private schools have “open days”; on those open days, the doors of the school open up to interested parents and prospective students. Some schools, furthermore, will grade or classify your child’s level of Spanish to assign a tutor properly.
Necessary Requirements and Documentation
For public schools, language-oriented or not, there are different systems in place to sign up in Provincia and in Buenos Aires City. However, there are many documentation requirements–mostly legal ones–that you have to plan ahead for. For those students whose country of origin is not in Latin America (at least that’s the truth for most Latin-American countries), there is more documentation to be taken into account when signing your child up for secondary school. However, in the case of enrollment of your child in a school of “jardín de infantes” or a nursery, there is no special documentation needed.
For private schools as well as for public schools, here is all the documentation you have to bring with you upon inscription, and a brief explanation of what they’re for and what they mean:
- Start the paperwork for an “homologación de título extranjero” at the Dirección de Validez Nacional e Internacional de Títulos y Estudios by selecting a time slot at: http://www.me.gov.ar/validez/turnos. This means that your child’s middle school or primary school diploma will be valid in Argentina and can be presented to the school authorities.
- Photocopy and original copy of your child’s school diploma, apart from the copy you just legalized in Argentina.
- Photocopy and original copy of final grade report card (courses and grades for each course should be listed) from the school from your child’s country of origin
- Photocopy of up-to-date and valid ID with which your kid got into Argentina.
For public schools in Buenos Aires, you have to go through the online sign-up system, where quotas are very, very limited and you might not get you or your child’s first choice. You can complete one part of the sign-up online, but you will eventually have to validate the data you entered online in one of the locations assigned across the city, and do it in person (obviously). When completing the paperwork, online and in person, you will be given a pre-inscription number which will allow you to track all the stages in the sign-up and admissions process.
Most importantly, if this seems confusing you can resort to third-party services to handle the process for you. There are two main organizations: the Council of International Schools, or CIS for short, and the American Institutional Schools in the Americas (AASA).
Annual School Calendar (Calendario académico/escolar)
The annual school calendar is essential to keep up with the opening of inscription days for your child’s school. You can get the information online, as school calendars are subject to change from one year to the next.
The school calendar not only includes the information for inscription times; it also provides information on national holidays (which you should become acquainted with), exam times and all of the school acts that will take place during the year.
School–both primary school and secondary school–normally takes place from March to December, and school recesses go from July and the first week of August, and then include the summer holidays during part of December and up until March. Because the national holidays are stated by law by the Ministry of Education, there are no exceptions and your child will never have to attend school during the holidays.
Preparing Your Child for School in Argentina
The schools listed here (as well as other language-orientes schools, such as the Colegio Pestalozzi for German, and the Lyceé Jean Mermoz for French) have a curricular structure that’s based on international models. International curricular models, in the case of English language or English-culture oriented establishments, means that students take IB (International Baccalaureat) and IGCSE during their last year of secondary school, or during their first to last year (quinto año and cuarto año, respectively). Some schools also offer the A-Levels and a US Diploma.
The exams are graded in English by official, international institutions, and schools that do not have the required amount of hours of courses in English (or English lessons) do not provide the IB nor the IGCSE exams. This will be very convenient if your child wants to continue their education in the United States later on by studying in a graduate program.
Once your child is enrolled, they need to get acquainted with spaces, people and school culture. In Argentina, it’s likely that public schools won’t be as focused on extracurricular activities as schools in the US are; if you want to prioritize educational and personal development outside school, you might have to look at a private school. Other things that will influence your child’s experience is your proximity to school, for instance, and the types of food that are offered.
The school might also require the obligatory use of a school uniform, unlike other cultures. Tuition fees for private schools can be very expensive, and even expensive by international standards; many activities and services will probably not be included in the monthly fee (and you probably also have to pay an enrollment fee!), such as camping trips, day trips, and other cultural and social activities.
School activities and times for primary schools and kindergarten are usually divided into morning school and afternoon school (“turno mañana” and “turno tarde”). Some schools let you choose turnos and some are doble turno, as they take place both during the morning and the afternoon. This is true for some high schools as well; those that have a big student population have morning and afternoon shifts.
Best English Language Schools in Buenos Aires
It’s important to note that most English schools are oriented towards a UK education and system, not a US one. If providing US-based education for your child is an important feature, you still have plenty of options. Also, don’t be fooled by religious names, as the schools are secular (there are, on the contrary, lots of religious public schools, mostly Christian-Catholic).
St. Andrew’s Scots School
St. Andrew’s Scots School provides a UK-based education, as you can probably tell. The school has a very big campus where secondary school and primary school are separated. Facilities include a food court, a sports court and specific spaces for extracurricular activities. All these features make up for a sustainable campus. The activities your child can get involved in once enrolled are mainly artistic and cultural: a school choir, music lessons, band, theater and more.
SASS has the support of Cambridge University. Interestingly, the school was founded in the nineteenth century and was geared towards children of immigrants from the UK and the US who didn’t speak Spanish at home. Today, and after the inauguration of the Universidad de San Andrés in the eighties, the school has the main objective of preparing students for international study abroad.
Address: Atilio Betti 3199, San Fernando, Buenos Aires Province (Primary school) | Roque Sáenz Peña 601, Olivos, Buenos Aires Province (Secondary school)
Contact admissions: [email protected]
As the Lincoln School website states: “Our educational program promotes learning across all areas of development – cognitive, linguistic, physical, social, and emotional, organized into subject-area disciplines including Math, Science, TEFL in Buenos Aires, Social Studies, English, Spanish, Performing Arts (Music and Drama), Visual Arts, Technology, and Physical Education. In each of these disciplines, specific content and skills at every grade level have been identified based on the US Common Core Standards. Local Argentine standards are integrated where appropriate within our curriculum.”
Lincoln School provides high-quality secondary, kindergarten and elementary/primary school education provides education for children from 4 to 18 years of age. Most importantly, Lincoln provides student support services which include counseling and a learning support program.
Address: Federico Lacroze 2087 | Andrés Ferreyra 4073
St. Gregory’s School in Argentina
St Gregory’s is located in Vicente López, and its student body is made up of 35% native English speakers, though most are local students, from children ages 2 to 18. They offer Spanish and English as their primary curricular languages. For those who are not proficient either in English or in Spanish, the school offers Fridays Study Hall.
St. Gregory’s also offers the PET, CAE and First Certificate (the usual Cambridge examinations for testing English Proficiency). The school provides extensive education in theater, sports, music and the arts.
Address: Melo 972, Vicente López, Buenos Aires Province
Contact admissions: [email protected]
Northlands School in Argentina
Northlands is co-ed and bilingual. It offers education from K-12 to secondary school. It offers international programs and educational programs. International programs include the Primary Years Program (PYP) in primary school, the Cambridge IGCSE exams for secondary school students, and the IB diploma–for which all courses are imparted in English and include a broad range of subjects and fields of study, from literature to economics, sports and Spanish language. The IB and the IGCSE are compulsory parts of the school program.
The personal and social education program which me mentioned above includes integration, values and ethics. It “prepares our students to become actively involved in ensuring a sustainable balance in our social and civic environment as well as in our natural one. To be able to promote this learning, NORTHLANDS has developed 9 axes which drive student learning in both personal and social aspects.”
Most importantly, Northlands offers a peer program and a Spanish immersion program for expats whose primary language is not Spanish, where communication is emphasized, and there is a focus on the social integration process.
Address: Roma 1248, Olivos, Buenos Aires Province | Av. de los Colegios 680, Rincón de Milberg, Nordelta
St. George’s School
St. George’s is one of the most exclusive, bilingual schools in the country. Their admissions process involves different steps for Kindergarten, Primary School and Secondary School, but, generally speaking, it is a very rigorous process that might include leveling exams, rounds of interviews after the initial application submission: “There are no automatic admissions to St George’s College. However, priority will be given to children and grandchildren of Old Georgians and to those who have brothers or sisters already enrolled at the College. Similarly preference will be given to first language English speakers and students from the International Community.”
The international curricula in kindergarten include a bilingual teacher in the classroom, as well as the presence of gap year students from English-speaking students that join the classroom and aid in the learning process. In Prep School, “the teaching of all subjects at St George’s is approximately 50 % conducted in English and the rest in Spanish. The school successfully combines the requirements of Argentine national curriculum with the ones from international examining bodies such as the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate and the International Baccalaureate organization. The Primary has an integrated bilingual concept-based curriculum.”
A feature that stands out at St. George’s s the boarding option, which is co-ed and can be flexi, full or weekly, depending on a student’s family and social situation and needs. Learn more about it here.
Home-Schooling in Argentina
In short, no: you can not home school your child in Argentina. This is so because there are no legal systems put in place, like there are in the United States, in order to educate your child separately from the social spaces and traditional schooling experience. Because, for instance, in the US your child needs to have what in Argentina we’d call “contenidos mínimos” (minimum course contents).
In Argentina, and if you’re interested in home-schooling, the most important association you should get in touch with is the Comunidad Argentina de Educación en Casa. According to this association, “In Argentina, as well as in various regions of Latin America, homeschooling is not prohibited, but it is not expressly regulated, either. In other words, it is in a situation of ‘allegiances’. In 2006 we tried to be included in the national education review, but was unsuccessful […] it still has not been formally recognized as an educational alternative.”
- If you are really interested in homeschooling, you can get in touch with the Community via email at [email protected]
Additional Tutoring: Educational Programs and Resources
Spanish Lessons for Children
It’s a good idea to get Online Spanish lessons for your kids if you’re planning on relocating to Argentina more permanently. There are many options for schools that teach Spanish to children; it’s also a good idea to aim for schools that have experienced teachers that aim their content and learning tools towards children.
If the school does not provide Spanish tutoring–as we’ve explained, some do and some don’t–you might want to reach out to an Instituto or Academia like Vamos Academy, located in Viamonte 1516 in the Buenos Aires City center.
Useful Websites: Boards of International Education
ICANA Education USA program: https://educationusa.org.ar/
US Embassy in Argentina: https://ar.usembassy.gov/es/