The English Speaking Scholastic Association of the River Plate (ESSARP) was originally founded in 1926 as “The British Scholastic Association” to provide a forum for interchange between the heads of the British-type schools in Argentina and Uruguay.

The heads of such traditional British-style schools as Belgrano Day School, Belgrano Girls School, Northlands, St. Alban’s, St. Andrew’s and St. George’s would gather three or four times a year at the English Club or at The Stranger’s Club to discuss Cambridge results.

In 1975, the ESSARP Committee found it appropriate to incorporate a much wider range of student activities, such as Art and Drama Festivals and General Knowledge Competitions, which expanded in time to include Student Forums, Music & Choir Festivals, Maths competitions, Chess tournaments, etc.

In 1976 it launched what was to become its Annual Conference. From relatively modest beginnings (80 delegates) this culminated in several Regional Conferences with delegates from all over South and Central America in attendance.

In 1982 ESSARP was invited by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) to take over the local administration of Cambridge “O” and “A” level examinations, as well as English Language examinations at school level. It then became responsible for the administration of IGCSE examinations, and played a most important part in promoting them. Their success was immediate so much so that, before they became popular with Commonwealth Ministries of Education, Argentina was far and away the country that presented most candidates in the world.

In 1984 after a six-week visit, Kenneth Ridley, the Dean of the University College of Ripon St. John’s, and Dave Williamson recommended setting up a Teacher’s Centre. Initially this started in rented, cramped, quarters. Expansion was such that three years later much larger premises on Av. Callao were purchased, and in 1999 the present premises on Esmeralda 672, 7th and 8th floor where purchased, more than doubling the space available for courses and incorporating a much needed auditorium.

The ESSARP Centre offers in-service training courses for heads, teachers and staff for more than 200 Member, Affiliate, Distant Affiliate schools and exam centres. The courses, seminars and workshops held at the Centre are conducted by local and international experts in different fields, as well as by experienced teachers from associated schools. The offices have a well-stocked specialist library on education, a computer laboratory and a permanent exhibition of subjects of cultural interest. For the running of the varied courses, the Centre has state-of-the-art equipment for presentations and workshops: multimedia projectors, interactive whiteboards and Wi Fi in all classrooms.

In 1991, the Association decided to admit independent schools as Affiliate Members to the Centre, thus opening up the facilities and services to the full constituency of bilingual schools in greater Buenos Aires. In time it also admitted Distant Affiliate Members from provinces as distant as Córdoba, San Juan, Mendoza, Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego and even from across the river in Uruguay.

In-service training courses for teachers and heads are in great demand: year after year the number of courses and number of sessions offered have increased steadily catering for the needs and requirements of teachers and heads at all levels: Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary school in both languages – English and Spanish. The courses cover issues related to international exam syllabuses and implementation, literature programmes, methodology, class management skills, content areas and more.

New initiatives have also been implemented: the ESSARP Goes to School Programme, the aim of which is to bring courses closer to schools and their staff by holding them at schools, thus reducing travelling time and costs for participants; and the Distance Education Programme, which started off in the year 2000 as a discussion list and has now developed into an e-learning programme. This modality of in-service training has provided teachers and heads who live away from the Centre or who have a tight timetable with the opportunity to participate in the Association’s activities.

ESSARP has also enriched its scope and possibilities by signing co-operation agreements and established links with universities and other entities highly committed to working towards building the type of education that will be relevant to the future generations. Examples of this are the joint events organized with the British Council, seminars with Universidad de San Andrés (UdeSA), scholarships for teachers and heads with Universidad Torcuato Di Tella (UTDT), seminars with Universidad del CEMA (UCEMA) and Fondo de Cultura Económica, among others. On the same lines, ESSARP has also signed an agreement with Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires (ITBA) to bridge the gap between school results and university admission standards.

Every year during the first September weekend, ESSARP organises its annual educational conference giving delegates the possibility to listen to well renowned international educators. Among the many participants that attend the conference, there are school managers and teachers from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico, most of them mainly concerned about improving teaching and learning in their schools. The ESSARP Conference is a great opportunity for educators to exchange experiences and become aware of the latest trends in the world’s educational scenario.

ESSARP was born from the initiative of a small group of school heads who wanted to share experiences and work together towards solving common problems. Over the years, the Association has grown to become a voice in the field of bilingual education. It has become known, both locally and internationally, not only for the quality of the professional development offered but for having become a model of how co-operation and efficient resource-sharing can produce benefits that are not within reach on an individual basis. By belonging to the Association, schools can improve their offer and gain a competitive advantage, participating in the pool of knowledge generated by vigorous academic activity and systematic sharing of good practices accumulated over years of experience in the field of bilingual education.

ESSARP is presentlygoverned by a board of Trustees who are Heads of English-Spanish bilingual schools. The association is a Cambridge International Partner, responsible for the provision of CIE examinations in Argentina, also administering Cambridge English examinations for schools all over the country.