Today was my first trip to a public elementary school here. I was not optimistic going in due to all the stories I had heard about public school here. Paying for a lunch tray (regardless of whether you brought your lunch or not), classes of 50+ kids per teacher, and cleaning the classroom during school hours were some of the less disturbing stories I heard. Most disturbing was a story about a fifth grade math teacher who hits the kids when they misbehave or do not do their homework. Obviously corporal punishment is illegal here but the kids told me it happens a lot. Other common punishments include grabbing kids by the hair and making them squat. While these are likely isolated cases of a few psycho teachers, the fact that it was anywhere was disturbing. The two kids we know in the class have been instructed by us and their parents to tell us immediately if she raises a hand to them and we will go to the police.
The school we visited today was actually fantastic! We were there to talk to the teacher of our godson (who had contacted his mom about him misbehaving in class). The school was clean, the classrooms were brightly painted, murals decorated the hallways, plants filled the front, and most of the classrooms we passed by had teachers actively engaging their students in learning. It was way, way better than I had expected.
We spoke to two teachers, both who seemed very happy with teaching and seemed to care a lot for their students. One of the teachers when we came in was selling food to the students but this is apparently quite common here (teacher salaries are horrible--even worse than the states). The only disappointment with the school (besides the abusive teacher who we did not meet) was the restrooms. Although we did not go inside, you could smell urine from about three classrooms away. All in all I was quite impressed. We had been to a local catholic school for a couple of events and this public school blew it out of the water in terms of facilities and staff.