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Joseph Reinckens Dr. Rosenfeld Anthropology 2 T.-Th. 4:15-5:30 Fall 1969
PREFACE Being a Spanish major, I have become interested in the Spanish educational system. Since I plan to teach at the university level, I am particularly interested in the Spanish university system. In the course of my studies, I have found several interesting differences between the university systems of Spain and of the United States, which have led me to do a comparative study of the two systems. For instance, students at Spanish universities are required to know Latin and another classical language for graduation,1 but in American universities students often have no language requirement. Why? And why is it that when Spanish students transfer from one university to another they generally receive full credit on all their previous course work, while American students often lose credit for a year or more of work? Just what are the reasons for these and the many other differences between the Spanish and the American university systems? And more important, what is the impact of these differences? To answer these questions, I interviewed Dr. Gerald Guidera of the Spanish Department at Hofstra University. Dr. Guidera spent seven years in Spain studying for a doctorate in general history, with an emphasis on social anthropology. In response to a series of questions, he supplied information about the Spanish educational system in general, and the university system in particular. I then asked him to confirm or refute conclusions which I had reached on certain aspects of the Spanish system, during the questioning. As the final step, I have re-examined the data and formed what seem to me to be logical answers as to why the differences between the two systems exist, and as to what differences in impact result. Because a complete comparison of all aspects of the Spanish and American university systems would be an extremely broad topic, I have limited this paper to academic concerns,
1. This and all other factual material on the Spanish educational system was supplied by Dr. Guidera. The opinions are my own, except where noted.
and have not discussed areas such as student housing, scholarships, athletics, student government, etc. It should be noted that in cases concerning particular programs, the liberal arts school of the Universidad de Sevilla and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences of Hofstra University are used for examples, except where noted. "State schools" refer to universities affiliated with State University of New York. Since there are no "colleges" in Spain, colleges are included among the universities when discussing the American system. Finally, "Spanish" students and universities are considered only those in Spain proper.
PROLOGUE There are several basic differences between the Spanish and American systems of pre-university education, and these must be explained before the university systems can be seriously studied. The American student generally completes thirteen years of pre-university education: one year of kindergarten, six years of grammar school, three years of junior high and three years of high school. At the end of this schooling he usually has studied several fields, and is not even fairly competent in any or them. The duration of pre-university education varies in Spain. Students study until they are approximately ten-to-twelve years old, at the end of which they take a set of exams. If they pass these exams, they enter a school called ingreso, the approximate equivalent of our junior high school. They continue to study until they are about sixteen to eighteen, and then take another set of exams. If they pass these exams they get a degree. The education of most Spaniards ends here and is approximately equivalent to an American high school education in the liberal arts and sciences. However, this education is not sufficient to satisfy the entrance requirements of Spanish universities. A Spanish student must have still a second degree, conferred after approximately two additional years of study, and more exams. This education is approximately equivalent to an American junior college in depth, but in Spain it is considered pre-university. Thus, the Spanish student who is entering a university generally differs from an American student in several ways: he is more educated, he is usually two years older, although students have fulfilled all the requirements and entered the universities at seventeen, and because of the age difference, he is probably more mature.
AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL COMPARISON BETWEEN THE SPANISH AND AMERICAN UNIVERSITY SYSTEMS As a starting point, it would probably be best to begin with the differences in entrance requirements between Spanish and American universities. American schools show great diversity in their requirements, resulting in a narrowed student attitude and potential at a particular school. The student who is accepted at Harvard is probably very unlike the student who is accepted at Nassau Community College, in learning potential. And the student who is accepted to a liberal California school is probably very unlike the student who is accepted to a conservative southern school, in his political views and social attitudes. However, this school-by-school diversity is not present in Spain. Schools require the degree for study beyond the ingreso, and entrance examinations, and the academic requirements are all very similar. Similarly, transfer requirements are generally the same. This similarity of entrance and transfer requirements in Spanish universities is not a coincidence. Unlike America, where many colleges and universities are privately owned, or owned by the various states, universities in Spain, with the exception of only a few, are owned by the Ministry of Education and Science. When one considers that Spain is a dictatorship, the reason for and the results of this seem quite obvious; governmental control of education allows the government to repress intellectual opposition to its actions and policies, and to spread its own ideas more easily. Of course, this results in education with a slanted viewpoint, which our system tends to reduce. Governmental control of Spanish universities, while it may be used tor repression, still presents two academic advantages: uniformity of education and ability of teachers. All schools teach basically the same material, which is why Spanish students can usually transfer and retain all credit. Quite obviously, uniform education probably tends to eliminate "degree waving" by graduates of inferior schools, a practice which, unfortunately, is common in America.
In Spain, just as the quality of education is regulated, so is the quality of teaching. In America, one can teach with any amount of education, if some school will hire him. In Spain, however, one must pass a state exam to teach at a university. This has the advantage of eliminating unqualified teachers, but it probably also eliminates qualified ones which the government considers undesirable because of their political views. Having seen the differences in the concept of entrance requirements and in the regulation of university education and educators, one might wonder if the Spanish and American credit systems are the same. They are not. The Spanish credit system, and Spanish class schedules, are completely different from ours, and must be considered before one compares Spanish and American academic programs. There are no semester hours; rather, "contact" hours,2 hours spent in actual classroom work, are important. Classes are conducted six days a week, and are generally an hour long; students are expected to attend all sessions. Courses are given on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, or on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and run for the entire academic year,3 starting in October and running through June; there is no intersession, but there are more holidays. There are also summer sessions, but only Madrid has evening sessions. A normal load is seven courses, the equivalent of approximately twenty-one American semester hours, but there are also part-time and independent-study programs. And finally, Spanish students study for five years, at the end of which they receive the licenciatura, the equivalent of an American Master's degree.
2. This is not the official term; it was coined by Dr. Guidera, being the closest English word for the Spanish idea. 3. When a foreign student studies in Spain during the spring semester, he either enters special courses arranged by foreign schools, or enters a full-year course at an appropriate stage. For instance, we might take History 2 here, and enter the full-year course just before the study of the French Revolution, or take a special History 2 course arranged by an American school.
The differences between the Spanish and American credit systems are probably due to tradition, and are rather unimportant in any case. What is important is the results of these differences. One can plainly see that the duration of a university education in Spain is longer than one in America: five years rather than four. This might seem unimportant, considering that the licenciatura, for which a thesis in required, is the equivalent of the Master's degree, but another fact must be considered: Spanish students carry heavier loads in terms of both class hours and the number of courses they take, than American students do. Presumably, this would allow students in Spain to cover more material in more depth, than their American counterparts, resulting in a more thorough education. However, there are no set standards as to which education is more thorough. Both the licenciatura and the Master's degree lead to doctoral programs. However, the comparative depth of knowledge between the two degrees varies with the field of specialization. According to Dr. Guidera, a graduate of the licenciatura program who majored in linguistics probably has approximately the same amount of knowledge as a holder of the American Ph.D. However, students in most fields have about the same degree of competence in comparative stages of education. After seeing the differences in the Spanish and the American credit systems, and their effects, one is likely to wonder if the academic programs are similar; for instance, are there any requirements in Spain? There are requirements, just as we have requirements, but they differ in length and purpose. At Hofstra, for instance, a liberal arts student must study a natural science, a social science, a foreign language, his native language, history, and some form of either fine arts or philosophy, the purpose of these requirements being to provide the student with a general education. Students in other fields have different, but very similar, requirements. Many students in state schools have no requirements at all. In Spain, however, all universities have
requirements, which differ greatly, depending on the school4 in which one is enrolled. For instance, a Spanish student in liberal arts must know Latin and either classical Greek, Hebrew, or Arabic for an appreciation of the classical literary tradition. However, he does not have to study natural science5 or other such subjects, because they are not considered liberal arts in Spain. The length of time required to fulfill the Spanish and the American requirements is small, but the difference in the amount of material covered is great. Spaniards take "common studies" which last for two years, but consist of the equivalent of twenty-eight American three-hour courses. We, on the other hand, take about a year-and-a-half to complete approximately eleven to sixteen three-hour courses, as well as a college orientation course. One will probably ask why the Spanish student's education is more channelled than that of his American counterpart. It seems that the Spanish student will be unfamiliar with many disciplines, but this is not so; his pre-university training is much wider in scope, and much more thorough than that of an American student. It has already been stated that university students must know Latin; most of them have learned enough Latin in their preuniversity training that they do not have to continue with it. The same is true with science and many of the other disciplines which Spanish students in a particular school do not study. The above deals with specific courses and programs. However, there are also general differences in how material is approached and what is or is not studied. Teaching methods are generally different. In America most universities emphasize concepts rather than facts. In Spain the reverse is true, and most course work consists of lecture and memorization. However, the emphasis is on theory rather than on practice. Just as there is a difference in what the course material emphasizes, so is there a difference in what one studies. In America most undergraduates major in the liberal arts or
4. School is used here to mean a division of a university, such as our School of Business or our School of Education. 5. Such subjects are offered by separate schools, and in such cases, credit is generally not transferable.
sciences, and many study to be pre-university teachers. There is also a large amount of American students who study business or engineering sciences. Many fields of study, such as law, are open only to students who already hold a college degree. In Spain, however, things are very different. For various social and economic reasons, few Spaniards attend universities, and most,of those who do study law, an undergraduate program, in preparation for careers in business, not in law. Many Spaniards do not need a university education for occupations for which such preparation is required in America. For instance, pre-university teachers do not attend the universities, but rather, special teachers' schools. The differences in the Spanish and American academic programs have important results. For instance, Spanish businessmen, because of their law training, probably know the legal aspects of business much better than American businessmen, but because they lack the preparation in business administration, economic and business theory, scientific decision making, etc., they are probably not as qualified for administration as American business administrators. In a more general view, the Spanish programs are more direct and faster in that students are not required to spend several years in a university before beginning in their field; for example, the Spanish law program is five years, as compared to the seven years required to finish college and law school in the United States. Academically speaking, Spanish students probably have stronger and broader general backgrounds than American students, for they study more subjects in greater depth for a longer time, and they would probably tend to use a more regimented, theoretical approach to problems than their American counterparts. Thus one can see that an overall look at the Spanish and American university systems reveals several big differences, each of which has important consequences. The difference in the quality of various universities in either system relative to others within the same system is one of the most important differences. All Spanish universities teach the same material, and, with the exception of only the few private universities, which are more selective and teach at a more difficult level, present the material at the same level of difficulty. This tends to eliminate the aforementioned "degree waving" but it also prevents
a Spanish student from entering the best school for which he can qualify, because if he is rejected by the selective private schools, he must enter one of the government-owned universities, which are all on the same level. In the United States, on the other hand, a wide range of quality exists among the various universities, both government and privately owned. This often allows one with inferior preparation to present a college degree, but it also permits one to attend the best university for which he can qualify. Thus, the Spanish student is guaranteed at least a minimum of education, but in most cases, he is also held to a maximum of education, while the American student has neither guarantees nor hindrances. The control of university education by the government, on the one hand, and the lack of such control on the other, is another important difference between the university systems of Spain and the United States. In Spain, governmental control sets the minimum level and quality of education, but it also allows the government to channel education for its own purposes and to control those who are involved with higher education. In the United States, although many universities are owned by the government, universities are self-controlled, which also has both benefits and disadvantages. Our universities can establish their own academic policies, but prejudices, whether local, political, religious, etc., often limit what can be taught and who is allowed to teach. Another great difference between the two university systems is the material. The Spanish system, depending on the particular school, emphasizes either the arts, the sciences, or law. The American system emphasizes both of the former and completely disregards the latter in most cases. Thus, Spanish education is more channeled and specialized. American education tends to be general with a field of specialization which may or may not be closely related to the general academic program. The American requirement system forces students to explore many fields to which they have not previously been exposed, and often, is responsible for a student's changing his major field. The Spanish system, on the other hand,
because it is less general,7 would tend more to deepen a student's background than to broaden it. Also, the American conceptual approach to course material probably tends to encourage independent thought more than the Spanish approach of lecture and memorization. Perhaps the most important difference between the two systems is not what is taught, but what is not taught. As stated previously, many occupations for which university preparation is required in America do not require such preparation in Spain, and such training is not offered in the universities. Thus, many Spaniards could not get the benefit of a university education in their fields, even if they were able to pay for it. In America, however, one can study almost anything. In conclusion, the differences between the Spanish and American university systems have several results, which may be summed up as follows: Spanish university education is more uniform and deeper than American university education, but it is also more restricted and less general. Which is better in a specific field varies, but equal levels of education in a specific field are, in general, approximately equivalent.
7. It is less general not in the sense that it covers less, but in the sense that it covers fewer distinct fields; e.g. a student must learn two foreign languages for an appreciation of the classical literary tradition, but does not study a natural science.
EPILOGUE Reading over this paper, I have been struck by several things, and I would now like to discuss these. First, I have noticed several changes in my views which occurred during my research. As mentioned previously, Spanish students have been able to fulfill all the pre-university requirements and enter the universities at seventeen. The closest thing to this in America would probably be the old practice of "skipping" grades. I was previously against this practice, but this paper has made me realize that a child who is mature enough to make such a jump successfully should be permitted to save the extra year. Another viewpoint of mine which changed was my disdain for the so-called "inferior" schools, which are fully accredited but teach on a much simpler level than other schools. I have come to realize that many students are not qualified to attend better schools, because of their performance in high school, but they should not be completely denied the chance for higher education. I have also come to realize the importance of a full liberal arts education as opposed to a limited specialized education, and the value of requirements in providing the former. In reviewing my method, I would definitely have done this paper differently. For one thing, I would have chosen a narrower topic. I was unaware of the great differences between the educational systems of Spain and the United States. I had assumed that the pre-university programs were the same and did not expect the university systems to be so different. I also did not realize that such a study would involve Spanish government and history, nor did I realize that a complete study would include student activities, administration of the university from both within and without, etc. I also would have asked Dr. Guidera more about the Spanish requirements, and about the programs of study for major fields. There are several things which I would have included if I were to do such a paper again. One is the Spanish grading system (A, B, C, F), which I forgot to include. I would also include some material which I found in a German magazine after I wrote the paper.
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