Life at school in Buenos Aires
Schools with a full-day schedule provide a ten-minute break in the morning, an hour for lunch and recess, and another short break late in the afternoon. At public schools, the half-day schedule is four hours and includes 15 minutes for recess and a snack.
Public school students are easily recognizable by the white laboratory smocks that they wear over their clothing. This garment is a national symbol of Argentine education: it symbolizes the equality of all children in the education system as envisioned by the statesman Domingo F. Sarmiento in the 19th century. Private schools, meanwhile, each have their own uniform policies, which usually include gym clothes one day a week for sporting activities.
Another issue on which public and private schools differ is transportation. Most private schools have some sort of bus system for children to commute. In lieu of buses, some parents elect to use a private chauffeur service (called a ‘remise’) for their kids, and those who live on the same block will share a remise and divide the expenses. There is no bus system for public schools. However, students can get discounted passes to ride the public colectivos, with a one-way trip costing around $0.20.
As in most school systems in the developed world, attendance and punctuality are important. Although Argentine instructors are fairly lax about absences and lateness, parents are expected to account for this and ensure their children are attending regularly. In the case of illness, a doctor or a nurse is available on school premises for consultations.
Teachers tend to instill a spirit of teamwork and cooperation in their students from a young age. Academically, there is less competitiveness in Argentine schools than might be found in other western countries. The system does value and reward academic achievement, but students are less prone to rank themselves according to good or bad grades, and bullying is not very widespread. Nevertheless, students do go through phases of depression and anxiety, and as Buenos Aires is well known for its therapeutic culture, every school has a counselor to assist students with psychological services. It should be noted that counselors rarely prescribe medication, such as antidepressants, as treatment, relying instead on therapy sessions to help students readjust to daily school life.