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Argentina's Elite Schools Should Stop Turning Ambitious Girls Into Housewives

Article illustrative image Partner logo Changing attitudes

BUENOS AIRES - They're the daughters of Argentina's upper class, and they go to the most prestigious and traditional high schools in the country.

Today, the differences in school curriculum for boys and girls are shrinking, and the social role that girls “are expected” to meet is being tied increasingly to the values imparted to them by their families -- rather than to what their schools teach them to be.

They go to private high schools: usually Catholic, bilingual, with international exams, music recitals in English and well-manicured sports fields.

Sofia, 26, went to Michael Ham Memorial College, a girls-only school. She says of the experience: "While it's a traditional school that aims to bring different values to help form a person’s identity, it gives a lot of importance to the educational role of each family. No school defines a person completely or is the ‘definitive learning’ in life. Also, the social standing of the people who attend these schools is quite defined, higher middle class, so the families have more or less the same values."

Compared to past years, there aren't as many gender differences visible in the curriculum presented in the elite educational institutions. Sandra Ziegler, a researcher at the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLASCO) and author of The Education Of Elites: An Approach To The Socialization Of Young People From Advantaged Areas In Argentina Today, explains: "In academic terms, there are no visible differences between boys and girls. But now that we are digging a little deeper into the day-to-day life of the school, we might probably find that messages and curriculum do indeed differ according to gender.” 

Sofia concurs: "I don't feel that traditional schools are encouraging women to be obedient housewives anymore. On the contrary, these schools encourage young women to play an active role in society. It's a paradigm that is being seen now but it was the opposite for our parents’ generations."

Catalina, 17, is finishing at Carmen Arriola de Marín high school in December. "The differences between boys and girls are in sports. The girls play hockey and the boys rugby," she says matter-of-factly.

Another enduring difference is the uniforms. Boys wear trousers while the girls wear skirts, even on the coldest days of winter. Whether it’s on purpose or not, it’s emblematic of woman’s “supposed role,” which is something from another era. Although, Catalina says, in her school when it's very cold they can wear tracksuits.

University courses that are chosen at the end of school are much more varied nowadays. Sofia says: "There are economists, lawyers, doctors, designers, journalists, communicators. I’m also seeing more and more girls who chose professions in healthcare or social work. But this is not so much about the traditional role of women than it is about personal values.”

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