Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Educational Disparity

At the age of 16, an American student would be getting his driver’s license while a British student would be completing his general education. At the age of 18, an American student would be going to college with an undeclared major while a British student would be going to university with one focus. At the age of 21, an American student would be celebrating his legal drinking age while a British student would be finishing his undergraduate coursework. In this parallel timeline, we can already observe the cultural and educational disparity between two nations. If we specifically juxtapose the University of Oxford with San Diego State University, we observe complete polarity.

San Diego State University’s fierce Aztec pride has developed alongside their thriving athletics department, especially considering the basketball team’s growing success. On the other side of the Atlantic, the University of Oxford’s pride is rooted in its rich history as the oldest university in the English-speaking world. In fact, the University of Oxford, as a whole, has no official mascot and the only athletic endeavor that the school seems to regard with pride would be its rowing team  (as demonstrated by the names of their defeated painted on the walls of the residences).

While San Diego State University is home to the Viejas arena and many sports fields, the University of Oxford has its statues and courtyards. There is a stark contrast between the architecture of the two universities. With its San Diego location, SDSU’s campus is a visual indicator of the school and the city’s Spanish influence. Oxford, on the other hand, is a historical landmark in and of itself; the individual colleges were built centuries apart but many more centuries before SDSU. With buildings that date back to the 1200s and the 1600s, Oxford is comprised of stone and brick buildings with ornate accents. This is much different than SDSU’s mission-like Hepner Hall and new Aztec Student Union. While Hepner Hall is iconic to SDSU (as it appeared in the 2000 teen comedy Bring it On), the Bodleian Library is just one icon that represents Oxford’s highly esteemed academics.

The University of Oxford’s academics, as the rest of England’s, differs greatly from San Diego State University. At English universities, the students are self-reliant and responsible for attending tutorials about once a week. At American universities, the students do not practice much independent study and are expected to go to lectures and classes four to five days a week. This educational approach flaunts the divergence between Oxford and SDSU along with the grading system. Opposed to the American grades of A-F, the English receive 1st, 2:1, 2:2, 3rd, and pass. Teaching or grading style, none can be said to be better or worse. However, we can acknowledge that education in the United States is designed to serve a larger scale with its clear structure and clearly drawn line between teacher and student, whereas at Oxford and other English universities, education thrives on at more intimate nature.

Intimacy is apparent in other components of student life at the University of Oxford as well.  With a smaller student body than San Diego State University, Oxford has an average of about 500 students at each individual college. For this reason, each school’s student population edges onto the social perimeter of fraternities and sororities. SDSU is infamous for being a party school with its omnipresent Greek life. At SDSU, students find brotherhoods or sisterhoods in fraternities or sororities, but at Oxford, students find family in their school. Oxford students ordinarily achieve that familial bond in other ways than rushing and pledging. The disparity between two educational institutions, Oxford and SDSU, is evident not only on a historical and academic basis, but also, socially and ultimately, culturally.

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