In this post I want to give you some personal accounts and explain to you why you should enroll your children in a local school here in Puerto Rico. Although I must admit that I am a bit biased and would prefer private over public schools, there are a few select schools that I would enroll my own children.
*Full disclosure* I home-school my children but it is primarily because I cannot afford private schooling in the area and because they are not equipped to deal with kids with Celiac Disease, among other things. I will go into that and more in another post, but the gist of it is that if I could/would enroll my children in a local school, it would be a private (or one of a few select public) school. For those of you who are moving here with the armed forces, my answer is no, I would not enroll my children in either the Buchanan or Ramey schools, I am VERY familiar with those schools and their programs, and yes they are good in some ways, but I do not recommend them.
So why is that? Why do I recommend a local, mainly private school? Well, the main reason is the language. I cannot stress this enough, it would be a disservice to your children if they do not take the opportunity while they are here in Puerto Rico to learn Spanish. You think it is not all about learning Spanish? Think again. I see it over and over again, employers passing on some other very qualified potential employees graduated from prestigious schools and colleges with really good GPAs, instead they hire the other applicant who may or may not have graduated with the best GPA and from the best school, but he/she speaks Spanish. I see it all the time, and I am seeing it even more now. There are actually state government officials coming from the US for the sole purpose of recruiting bilingual teachers, police officers, and many other positions, getting paid higher wages than their English-only speaking counterparts.
I was on clasificadosonline.com today looking for part time jobs. I was surprised that there was an ad for a lawn mowing and gardening job that required employees to be bilingual! And this was no fluke, over and over again I saw just about every job out there requiring fluency in both English and Spanish! So, trust me, if you are here for a short amount of time or you are planning on staying here long term, I HIGHLY recommend that you immerse your children in a Spanish speaking school.
I generally (not always) recommend private over public, there are many very good private schools which are affordable for most families. Be careful with the “Bilingual” schools though because normally the kids in those schools know enough English to speak only English to your children on top of the fact that most subjects will be taught in English and therefore making it very difficult for you child to learn Spanish. However, those schools may be a good bridge between English and Spanish.
What about Buchanan or Ramey? Well, although my personal experience has been limited to the elementary level, I have seen kids that knew no English at all at Pre-K to knowing no Spanish at all by the end of First grade, Honest. It is because once you reach first grade, Spanish it literally forbidden from all classrooms. All the kids that knew no English learned English, but no kid learned Spanish. However, there is a Spanish class in middle and high school, but it is only one class and trust me it is not enough. I met so many people that took 4 years of Spanish and learned nothing more than “Hola” and “Me llamo John”. I have also met many kids that went from Kinder through 12th grade at those schools and learn so little Spanish that they had to go to College in the US. Not to mention, there are so many things I disagree with their system that I won’t get into here, maybe a different post, but there are a lot. Having said that, there are some exceptions, not all is bad and not all kids end up knowing only one language, I do know one girl that is bilingual and graduated from Buchanan, she however spent 6th through 9th grade in a local public school.
Your children will get a good education from just about any local private school. Even though I do have friends that went to public schools, they admitted that they felt somewhat lost once they got to college and they needed to adjust, but for me and many others who went to private schools, the transition to college was pretty seamless. If you are afraid that your child is too old to be immersed in a Spanish speaking school, there are programs that help with that so that your child can learn Spanish at a different pace until he/she is up to speed.
So please, trust me on this. Learning Spanish is imperative, and if you are here for the short or long term, take the opportunity to learn it. Your children will be much better off being bilingual. Enroll your children in a local school here in Puerto Rico and immerse them in the local language and culture. Kids here are very accepting of others and they will meet new friends and do just as well here as anywhere else.