Community Education in Spain

“Did it turn into a prince?” my sister, the Midget, asks.

“I didn’t kiss it.”

“Someone might have tried.”

If someone had tried, I would have used both of the two English words that 5-year-old children in Spain seem to understand: no and stop.

I’m all for children having fun with nature, but I don’t want to be held responsible for a child eating a live frog.

Which begs the question, what was I doing with a bunch of five-year-olds and a frog?

It started the other day, when it was explained to me that many parents volunteer at the village school. Once a week, in each class, four volunteering parents go into school and give up an hour of their day to run activities with the kids. Other times parents give talks on their professions, or people who speak different languages go in and allow the children to ask them questions.

I found myself volunteered into a class of five-year-olds, equipped with a load of magnifying glasses and pots for collecting things in, and sent out into the school gardens.

Children in Catalonia speak Catalan. At school, they learn Spanish and English, but whilst these kids could probably sing ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ at me, anything more complex was not going to happen. Their English is only a little better than my Spanish. I could have said, “In English, ant,” a thousand times to some children, and still they would just point. Other children managed to tell me that the ant was black and had six legs, probably the effect of extra English lessons and English speaking au pairs.

I lead the activity by the only method I could think of. I scrambled around in the dirt with excessive enthusiasm, picking flowers, tearing off leaves and catching ants, spiders and a single, beguiled frog.

In England, I couldn’t have done it. We have rules back home. Us English are seen as very frightened people on the subject of child protection. A lesson I learnt the first time I was in Spain.

However, here there is a different feeling about who owns the school, the families of the village have taken responsibility for making the place theirs. There are three classes of five-year-olds, because the parents demanded it. There are parents (and extras like me) who partake in maintenance work, planning, teaching and catching frogs.

Education is not just a system, but a community effort.

I’m kind of impressed.