The Future Is Bright For British Children In Spain

Published on 30/06/2008 in Kids in Spain

Schools and Education in Spain Guide

Kids in Spanish schoolAnybody who thinks that the British children in Spain have an easy ride in Spanish school is completely naïve. That is not to say that they are treated cruelly by Spanish children or teachers. On the contrary they are generally made to feel most involved and treated equally.

However, that doesn’t mean that issues don’t exist. Parents tend to think that total immersion in Spanish schools is fool proof. But what we are dealing with here is not just a language issue but a cultural one too. In fact, language and culture are so inextricably linked that the issue of one cannot exist without the other. It isn’t just about your child having to master the language. On the contrary, this is a minor part of it.

The demands on children’s senses are tremendous as they are required to become so aware of the most subtle cultural nuances and expected to understand and adapt to them as though it were second nature. It must be exhausting for children to cope with at times, whilst coping with growing up in itself, which is life’s biggest challenge. It is hardly surprising that the British children seek some kind of reference point and familiarity amongst other British children in school.

But before you panic and decide to put your children into an international school, there is much to be gained from the Spanish state school experience. The most obvious benefit is acquiring the language in a natural environment but it doesn’t end there as the list of skills that are gained is endless. These are skills that they would not have had access to otherwise. An ‘umbrella’ which covers so many mini skills is the level of awareness that comes from conforming to the norms of two cultures. This makes children sensitive, analytical, open minded and gives them a balanced view perspective.

Not having the same level of Spanish as the children around them puts them under a bit more pressure which makes them determined and resourceful. Having to adapt to life in a different culture will also give them confidence about their abilities.

In a typical Spanish state school along the coast there will be a limited number of children on hand that speak English. It is true that many parents are opting for state over international but there is still limited choice in fellow expat friends. This means that they have to get on with each other and be sensitive towards each other. They are all in the same boat so they need to support each other and friendships tend to be stronger. Hopefully, they also build friendships with Spanish children.

The British population in Spain will continue to grow. As more move in the word spreads and others follow. However, knowing the Brits it is unlikely that their aptitude for learning Spanish will improve. Therefore, more and more English speakers will be needed in the service industries. In most people’s experiences, even the most fluent English speaking Spanish doctor doesn’t always quite ‘hit the spot’ and many people are forced to return to the UK, for peace of mind ,when faced with health issues.

Even today within the British community in Spain there is a demand for doctors, nurses, lawyers etc that not only speak English fluently but are also au fait with British culture. There is an element of vulnerability that surrounds expats abroad and they need to be completely understood, not just linguistically but culturally. The children of the British expats that are currently in Spanish education will have the necessary skills to bridge this gap in the future.

So our children are not necessarily destined for a life of bar work and waitressing, although if that’s what they want there are plenty of opportunities! The truth is, as parents, we do worry if we have made the best decision putting them into Spanish school. It is especially concerning for parents who do not have the Spanish language skills to support their children with their homework and general progress.

However, if we consider the long term and focus on the plethora of transferable skills that they will have gained we can be a bit more aspirational for their future. Their skills will be needed in the professions, not only in serving the British, but also as an intermediary to help Spanish companies improve their services for the growing demands of the expat community. So, if you are considering putting your children in a Spanish state school, you might not be sure of you are making the right decision. But, if you are a supportive parent and expect the best from you child, I think you can expect a bright future for your child with the opportunities that will inevitably arise.

Written by: Susan Pedalino

About the author:

Women In Spain

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