Northwest faculty has varied school experiences

As people go about their day, they are normally focused on their own lives and their daily responsibilities. But, what if there was an alternative. What if, for a slight moment, you could experience what it would be like to be in another person’s shoes– to go to school in a different country?

Physics teacher Caroline Stilwell went to school in England. Her experience was very different from students that go to school in the United States.

“In England, they start academic classes much earlier–they do more academic work in kindergarten, first and second grade,” Stilwell said.

Going to school in Spain is similar to going to school in England in regards to choosing their career paths early.

“Students select a ‘pathway’ of study and others that have selected the same ‘pathway’ are your classmates,” Spanish teacher Amy Kieffer said.

Not only do they begin learning earlier in England, but they also are mandated to take a minimum of five years of foreign language in middle school. As a result of taking foreign language and other academic classes earlier, students in England choose their career paths in high school.

If you are not sure what you like, it’s really difficult because you have to specialize at the age of 16. In my junior and senior year, I was only taking math, physics and chemistry.”

— Caroline Stilwell

Furthermore, report card grades are irrelevant in England. Motivated students attempt to maintain high yearly grades, but colleges don’t look at them at all.

“We don’t give any value to class grades– everything is done by countrywide assessment,” Stilwell said.

This assessment method has its positives and negatives. The positive could be that very intelligent students can get away with not doing their homework and still finish the class with a very high grade. However, the downside could be that if you are a poor test-taker, the final grade would not reflect your knowledge accurately.

“One of my friends’ fathers passed away the week before the exams,” Stilwell said. “She did not do as well as she would have if she was not in that position.”

In Spain, students are responsible for their activities and their education.

“Students buy textbooks and there are no extracurricular activities offered by the school,” Kieffer said. “Anything a student is interested in, they do on their own time.”

High schools in England are from ages 11 to 18.

“It’s seven years, like Harry Potter,” Stilwell said.

Colleges in England are three years and have students only take classes in their interest area.

“In the college system, it is far more focused,” Stilwell said. “People come out with a higher level of qualifications in a shorter amount of time because it is so specialized.”