If you’re planning to enroll in a Master’s Program at Instituto Franklin-UAH, chances are you have questions about the options for your practicum and tuition. Between private or charter schools and public schools, different timetables and age groups – there are many aspects to consider when making the right choice for you and your academic needs and goals.
Think Basics First
The Teach & Learn program consists of three parts: courses and coursework, writing a thesis, and the teaching practicum.
For the practicum, there are two main options; Option A, in which students are given a placement at a private or charter school and receive tuition remission, or Option B in which students request a placement in a public school and pay tuition out of pocket. (There’s also Option C, but most students get hung up choosing between Options A or B.)
The main differences between the two are that in Option A, students have 18 or 25 classroom hours a week as a language assistant, receiving a stipend of between 600 and 800 euros a month while tuition is covered by financial aid, and in Option B students are placed in a public school through the Ministry of Education Program in a 16-hour-a-week placement, receiving 1000 euros a month and paying out-of-pocket tuition. Another notable difference is that students in Option B must complete a portfolio during the program, as public school placements cannot be evaluated the same way Option A placements can.
A classroom at the public high school where the author is a language assistant (photo courtesy of the author)
Public, Private, Charter – What’s the Difference?
Types of schools: In Spain, there are three main types of K-12 schools: private, charter (concertado), and public schools. While in the Instituto Franklin-UAH program, there is an option to complete a practicum in one of these three types of schools in the Community of Madrid and receive a stipend.
Location, Location, Location: Some schools are in the center of the city, some are in suburbs, and others are in small towns on the outskirts of Madrid. While public school placements are assigned randomly after applying through Instituto Franklin-UAH to the Ministry of Education program, applicants can indicate their preferences regarding grade level and location. Those preferences are taken into account but not guarantees of placement or grade level.
Charter and private schools (Option A schools) are normally located in the outskirts of the city in different suburbs. Option A placements are limited, and applicants are evaluated and assigned to schools based on the student’s experience and background as well as each school’s needs.
School Hours: Typically speaking, private and charter schools have a longer school day, with the average schedule being 9 am – 5 pm, usually with a one- or two-hour lunch break in the afternoon. Most private and charter schools offer free lunch or offer assistants an additional task at school in exchange for lunch.
Public primary schools typically run on a 9 am-3 pm schedule, and public secondary schools are usually in session from around 8 am to 2 pm. Some public schools may also have a longer day schedule with a lunch break, and lunch may be available to purchase in these schools.
Who are the Students? Private and charter schools are usually made up of three parts: Infantil, which is essentially daycare and preschool (ages newborn – 4), primary school (ages 5 – 11), and secondary school (ages 12 – 18). This is to say, students in these schools stay in the same educational center from the time they are young children until they graduate high school. For this reason, in my experience, these schools can feel much more community-based, and there is often a stronger bond between teachers and students. Secondary school (in both private/charter and public) is broken up into two parts; ESO (compulsory education) and Bachillerato, which are the last two years of high school and act as preparation for university. There are some public schools that also offer vocational training for young adults (called Formación Profesional) but these placements are few and far between!
On the other hand, public schools are separated into separate schools for primary and secondary, with primary typically consisting of Infantil plus primary-aged students (ages newborn-11) and secondary consisting of ESO and Bachillerato (ages 12-18).
The content taught in public and private/charter schools is usually very similar, in my experience: most of the courses follow a pretty rigid curriculum and tend to use textbooks to structure classes.
The author with some of her previous students in a Madrid charter school (photo courtesy of the author).
What’s the Role Like?
One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed is that as a language assistant, you have a lot more responsibility (but also more freedom!) in private and charter schools than in public ones. Generally speaking, public schools truly have auxiliars serve as assistants to the teachers; aiding mostly with language difficulties and acting as a cultural mentor for students and staff.
In private and charter schools, auxiliars many times are expected to plan, prepare activities or games, or even lead full classes, with less help and guidance from Spanish teachers. Because of this, auxiliars that have backgrounds in teaching or in education tend to have an easier time adjusting to private and charter schools right off the bat.
Another notable difference between schools is the types of classes that you will be assisting in. Some schools (both public and private/charter) will place auxiliaries in solely English and perhaps a culture class, while others have language assistants in Social Sciences, Art, Music, Physical Education, or Biology (this is usually dependent on if your school is bilingual or not).
As in most novel situations, it is good practice to ask clarifying questions when you start your internship because every school and teacher you work with will have different expectations and ideas for collaboration with auxiliaries. It’s also important to remember that each school is different so even if you have been an auxiliar before (in Spain or in another country), it’s better not to assume that you know how things function! Communication is really important.
The Good and the Bad of Options A and B
|No need to budget for tuition as students receive financial aid
|Auxiliaries receive less per month (because your tuition and other program costs are deducted from your stipend)
|Schools tend to be more community-based, so it may be easier to make friends with the teachers and staff
|Placements have more hours (18 or 25 classroom hours)
|More freedom to be creative in the classroom
|Expectations of auxiliaries can be high in these placements, so depending on each school and teacher, you may not receive a lot of guidance on what to do in the classroom
|Expectations of auxiliaries can be higher in these placements, so if you’re looking to build teaching experience this type of placement can be a good fit
|Longer school days (usually 9 am – 5 pm) and weeks (usually Monday – Friday)
|Evaluations are done through direct communication with Instituto Franklin-UAH, participation in seminars, and teacher’s evaluations, and so they don’t need to complete an additional project (as in Option B)
|Placements assigned based on preferences and profile (age, experience in education, address if living in Madrid when applying, etc.)
|Lunch may be included every day at school!
|The other auxiliaries at your school will also be in the Master’s program or will be program graduates
|Shorter school days and more free time (Monday – Thursday or Tuesday – Friday school week)
|Expectations of auxiliaries can be unclear and some assistants may feel as though they do not have enough to do
|Students must budget for tuition
|“Easier” placements – because schools may have had bad/no experience with auxiliares in the past, opportunities to lead classes regularly or take on more responsibility may not be required (though you can advocate for this if you want to!)
|Typically less of a community feel in public schools, so it can be hard to make friends with teachers and staff
|Public schools in the Region of Madrid are largely bilingual, so auxiliaries can have more opportunity to be placed in different subject classes taught in English (PE, Natural Science, Art, Music, Technology, Social Science, etc)
|Students must complete two additional projects for their internship: Life Experience Portfolio for the master’s degree and they may need to complete a MOOC as part of the requirements set by the Ministry of Education (all first-year assistants in Madrid).
|Placements are less regulated, so preferences may not be taken into account
There are many aspects to consider before you choose which option is right for you, but no matter what, remember that there is no right or wrong choice. All school placements have their upsides and downsides, and in the end, your experience is always what you make of it!
Author Bio: Keara is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and has been living and teaching in Madrid since 2016. She completed a Master in International Education at Instituto Franklin-UAH in 2020, and is currently an auxiliar in a public school in Madrid. She loves teaching English but is hoping to eventually work in a university as an advisor or in an administrative role. She also hopes to stay in Spain for the foreseeable future, and explore more of this beautiful country!