Despite decentralized governance of education, students learn to read and write in a consistent manner across Argentina. They start with simplified printed letters followed by cursive writing.
The Argentinian education system has four stages. They aren’t exactly the same throughout the country, but in general, the first three — initial level (45 days–5 years old), primary (6–12 years old), secondary (13–17 years old) — make up school education, and the fourth, known as superior education, covers postsecondary and university. The Ley de Educación Nacional 26.006, or National Education Law 26.006, passed in 2005, regulates the education system and states that education is a public good and a personal and social right that the State must guarantee. It also makes education for children aged 4–18 years old mandatory.
The 1993 educational reform and 1994 constitutional reform significantly shaped education and curricula in the country. These reforms unified the education system nationwide in terms of structure, goals, and outcomes. However, the management and funding of schools were left to the provinces. As a result, provinces enjoy the freedom to create their own teaching resources for classrooms. This has created inequalities between schools across the country due to the wealth disparity of different regions.
Primary school curricula focuses on writing mostly from a comprehension and composition standpoint, rather than from the perspective of handwriting. Even so, primary school students learn how to write with joined cursive letters from first or second grade. In the initial level, students learn print uppercase letters, followed by print lowercase letters in the first grade, and finally, cursive writing. Third Grade onwards, many language and social sciences teachers consider cursive writing mandatory, but it tends to fall out of use towards the end of primary school.
Even though cursive writing is often mentioned in documents circulated by provincial ministries, publications by these governments show no letters shape samples, and provide no resources for handwriting instruction. Teachers also receive no training in this area during teacher development courses. They are left to their own devices when it comes to finding or preparing material for teaching handwriting in the classroom.
In 2021, the Ministerio de Educación de la Nación, or National Ministry of Education, launched Libros para aprender, or Books to learn, a programme which distributes millions of free textbooks in schools nationwide. Their selection of books includes volumes 1 and 2 of Abrapalabra, la magia de aprender, which appear to be the only titles distributed by the national government that provide samples of cursive handwriting.
Constructivist approach to handwriting instruction
The 1993 curriculum reform in Argentina marked a shift in educational approach from behaviorism, which emphasizes changing students’ behavior through rewarding correct performance, to constructivism, which focuses on active engagement with conceptual content and creating learning systems informed by students’ experiences. Consequently, teaching tools such as copy sheets and even handwriting samples in primers were often perceived as outdated remnants of the behaviorist past. This argument still persists today.
In this context, teachers were not provided with any material from the government and had to create their own teaching materials for handwriting lessons or gather them from other sources. They did this without any specialized training, which could have helped them determine which letter shapes are more or less suitable for teaching handwriting. Even today, materials of uncertain origin are simply copied and passed on among teachers based on availability or personal preference.
Towards the end of the 1990s, school teachers Sara Inés Gómez Carrillo and Sally Johnson started publishing their Grafimanía and Letramanía series of books (Kel Ediciones). These books featured a clear pedagogical method for handwriting education and samples of letters created by Carrillo herself, clearly based on the upright cursive styles traditionally taught in South American Normal schools. The books became extremely popular, selling thousands of copies each year and paving the way for other authors and publishers, including Hola Chicos, Letralandia by Longseller Educación, Aprendo la letra cursiva by 4Islas, Yo escribo con cursiva by Sigmar, and Abrapalabra by AZ Editora. Abrapalabra was recently included in the Libros para Aprender, the Argentinian government’s free textbook distribution program.
All of these these publications feature letterforms that are upright, fully joined, round, and with an underlying cursive structure. Uppercase shapes are also cursive, and feature an economy of strokes that results in the letters having only few ornamental features. According to local calligrapher Eugenia Roballos, cursive writing is taught by memorising letter shapes, instead of the hand movements required to produce them.