Week 3. Lima, Peru.

We visit schools, met inspiring people and spent time with new and old friends!

at Ministerio de Cultura.

This week flew by because we had a super packed agenda. Peru’s independence day is around the corner, which means schools are closing and people are getting ready to take 2 weeks off.

There was something magical about this week, because we had serendipitous meetings and learnings all throughout. More about these below.

While we continue to learn about the school system and the many traditonal and emerging options available for kids to study, we are struggling to find parents to interview. This is mainly due to working hours, traffic (it is horrible here) and holidays coming up. Where we’ve been able to advance this week is in our exposure to alternative solutions in rural areas of Peru, where conventional ways of education simply don’t apply.

We are in full exploration mode but starting to develop some hypotheses that we’ll park in an “solutions parking lot.” (thanks Sally for the tip) One of them is empowering parents in rural areas with the tools and skills they need to teach their kids while continuing to attend their businesses.

Alani has created another fun video to capture the week in moving images and we have all the photos of the week available here.

Let’s get right to our learnings/experiences of this week, as we have covered lots of ground :D

Enseña Peru

I know Franco Mosso would like me to describe it properly: Enseña Peru is a movement!

A community of people who, like him, have a vision for the future of Peru, where every body is empowered to build the future they dream of.

But it’s hard to get there when a big percentage of your youth can write nor read.

Franco speaks passionately, and decisively about the urgent needs of education in Rural and Urbano-Marginales areas. His solution is to ask highly qualified professionals to commit two years of there life to teach in a school located in one of those areas; Provide them with excellent teaching training, mentoring and even better leadership skills; And once they finished their two-year term, they go on to become change makers placed in influential layers of Peruvian society.

Enseña Peru is a movement, indeed.

Franco’s promise is to give you the ultimate profesional path to become a change agent, in exchange for your commitment to never forget what you saw during those two years, so you can dedicate your life to pursuit better education for everybody in Peru.

If you can’t read you can’t be part of a modern society” You need to start from the most basic point if you want to change the world.

The purpose of education, according to Franco, is to enable people to ask themselves these 3 questions::

1- How can I build a better world for other people? 2- How can I build a better world for mother nature, and 3- How can I build a better world for me.

The purpose is that a student could act and think according to these three questions all the time.”

There are 51 members of the Enseña Peru movement right now, spread across Peruvian business, the government and society.

My favorite reflection by Franco was:

“Ya no solo se aprende en el aula” (Learning no longer happens only in the classroom)

And my favorite question Franco asked me was this: What is progress? (which I’m still trying to find an answer for.)

Escuelas de Alternancia

I think I forced myself into my interview with Fernando and Violeta.

I just wanted to meet them so badly to speak and learn about Escuelas de Alternancia. This school model were students in rural areas spend 15 days living at the school and the other 15 days of the month they go back home to be with their families.

Both Fernando and Violeta are seasoned Rural areas educators, and my conversation with them was fascinating.

Peru has three distinctive areas: La Costa, La Sierra and La Selva, and each is unique and very different form the rest.

In some rural areas, so remote and hard to access, for a kid to go to school might take 1 hour, some might walk for 4 hours, and even longer than 5 hours in some cases.

The mission of Violeta and Fernando’s job is to find education alternatives that could work in such context. (wow)

So, what to do in areas where kids are consider labor for the most part ?

First, work with the reality of their context; develop skills that will work in their environment. Then, create the school system that adjusts to that environment: Centros Rurales de Formación en Alternancia. Where 15 to 20 kids come to learn and live, using project based learning methodologies, by qualified teachers who act as mentors, tutors, and a bit of adventurers. The teacher goes to visit each kid to his or her community after they leave the 15 days at the school, to talk with the parents and guide the students on their “homework”.

As one can imagine, the challenges facing this program are multiple and complex; from infrastructure and materials in the classroom, to the nutrition and health situation of the kids.

Access to qualify teachers (Remember Enseña Peru?) who might not be qualified for the demanding needs of a rural life, and with the growing number of schools being built, a thin teacher talent bench.

The role of the school principal is critical, but even there, the program faces challenges: according to the rule, only schools with more than 6 classrooms can have a school principal, a benchmark that none of these schools meets.

Intros context, the purpose of education is bifold: if you stay in your rural community, the purpose of education is to empower you to transform your environment; build businesses with the natural resources of your area and improve the quality of life of your community.

And for those who decide to leave, the purpose of education is to give you the tools so you can survive in the big city (Lima)

When we finished talking with Violeta and Fernando, I felt like I was given access to a whole new reality, where education is not measured by small degrees of better, but by the right to have access to the right education, that works for me, in my environment and with for my needs.

My favorite quote was: “Perhaps I can’t give you food (schools can’t feed the students) but I can teach you how to cultivate food

La Casa de Cartón

“Nadie valora lo que no conoce” (no one can value what they don’t know) was the first phrase we heard.

We arrived to the school, located in Villa in Lima (an area where most of the innovative schools are planting their roots,) during a gloomy morning. All the students (280) and teachers were gathered in the auditorium celebrating Peru’s Fiestas Patrias (independence day) by singing, dancing and presenting the history of Peru. From slavery to the evolution of its gastronomy and from the Incas to the Amazon tribes. We noticed kids who were not performing being supportive and cheering those on the stage. Also, kids, not wearing a uniform — not the norm in Peru, were using their smartphones to document the moment. After the show Carlos Palacios, the principal, greeted us and spent time sharing the story and purpose of the school. Amongst many incredible stories he shared that to them the main focus is to raise kids who feel free and empowered to change the world. They achieve this via their 4 pillars:

Freedom
Solidarity
Creativity
And my [Hazel] favorite, truth seeking

From our perspective La Casa de Carton is also teaching kids to self-aware and conscious of the needs of those around them and of the world they live in. Between 8 and 8:15 kids have daily responsibilities they alternate doing which Resemble life itself. Kids, even from a very young age sweep, pick up trash, cultivate the ground (they grow their own food), check each other’s homework, fix any broken furniture, carry the various recycling contents to the designated areas, and organize the lunch-boxes from their friends.

This visit was very special because we met Tio Moi, one of the teachers who helps kids learn life’s basic skills through agriculture, gardening and biology. He spends time with kids from all ages exploring nature and its benefits and why it matters so much to care about the wellbeing of their bodies as well as of the planet.

I [Hazel] will write a full article on Tio Moi soon, but for now this was our favorite quote:

“El grupo humano tiene que solucionar nuestros propios problemas. No esperar que otros lo hagan.”

El Arbol de los Sueños (ARSU)

As we were leaving Fab Lab’s workshop Hernan, the coach and facilitator, asked if we wanted to join him at a fundraising event this super alternative “school” was hosting. By now, it was 7pm the kids were starving and we [adult gypsies] had begun the day really early at Creative Mornings Lima… But of course we said “yes, let’s go!” We can’t pass on any opportunity to see innovative ways of learning.

Now we can say we are so glad we went and spent time with the community that has formed led by Pavel Garcia, a philosopher by trade who one day woke up and decided to open a school where kids could learn to be researchers — of life that is. ARSU is designed to be a home and there are no classrooms or teachers, instead they have learning spaces facilitated by companions who accompany the children throughout their development. To highlight and enhance each kids’ growth there are no grades but rather groups of kids learning and helping each other learn. The Education Association (they do not call themselves a school) runs the whole year and kids are welcome to take vacation when they need it. Because their learning experience is through real life events (going to the store to buy food can teach them about math, nutrition, and business) kids can develop abilities to thrive in a world in constant change.

Gracias Pavel por presentarnos a Frato!

Even though the school is small, the biggest opportunity they have is for parents to be more involved. This, is a pattern we have identified in our 3 weeks in Lima.

Our favorite quote:

“If we didn’t live the industrial revolution yet, why do we have a school system that mimics it?”

Colegio Los Reyes Rojos

Walking up to el Colegio Los Reyes Rojos in the district of Barranco in Lima, you know you are at a different type of school.

Melissa Carvallo is the Director of the school, where 400 students come to “learn to love themselves, because if you don’t learn to love yourself, how significant can any other learning be?”

When most schools proudly showcase their academic accomplishments, Melissa doesn’t promise a specific methodology that will deliver high academic results. Instead Melissa speaks of community, inclusion, and the strong bond between teachers, students and parents, where everybody is an educator.

When increasing the number of students in the school is a badge of honor for many schools, Melissa is proud of knowing the name of every student in the school. “You need to know well the students, you need to give them a personalized sense of “you can”, that’s the most important thing

She also confirms a recurring theme for schools: that hiring qualified teachers is one of the biggest challenges a school faces. But Melissa values a different virtue in teachers: Serenity. In her opinion, the complete teacher will know himself really well, and will promote that virtue in the kids and their parents.

Melissa sees the school life as a life itself: fluid. Where every day you need to measure and evaluate the process of self discovery. A process that requires both, the teacher and the parents, to give the kids a fair and balanced perspective of who they are.

The purpose of education is for kids to find out who they want to become without forgetting others. When you accomplish this, kids grow up to become good people.

My favorite quote from my conversation with Melissa was:

I’m happy when I see our graduates growing up with a diverse set of passions, but always with a passion for learning.

Innova Schools

We visited one of the Colegios Innova Schools, in Chorrillos, a middle class neighborhood in Lima.

We had the chance to see first hand the impact the school has in the communities where these schools are located. They are basically education oasis in middle class-emergent districts, areas that have experienced a surge in real state investment, due to the recent economic growth of traditionally marginal neighborhoods.

Our tour host was Thais Rehder, a Peruvian student at NYU who is in Lima for the summer doing an internship at Innova Schools.

You notice something special about the school’s architecture… The school was designed by IDEO using Design Thinking principles. They developed the curriculum, teaching strategies, buildings, operational plans, and underlying financial model to run the network of schools.

Thais knows a lot about how the school works, which I admire, considering she’s been at Innova for a little more than a month.

Like all education projects, Innova is an investment into the future of the country’s youth. Where Perú is specially in need of help given its historical poor performance in global standardize tests like Pisa.

To understand more in depth how Innova Schools are dealing with this challenge, we met with Aurelia Alvarado, Innovation Director at Innova Schools.

We were specifically curious about what Aurelia had learned from her experience as head of Innovation:

1 — We need to educate parents as well as we do students. Any innovative project will raise a lot of questions, and parents are really curious about understanding the methodology.

2 — A big emphasis on teacher training, though Workshops, Coaching, Peer to Peer, and Online.

3 — Develop strong school leadership through training, which they do with the Ontario University in Canada.

4 — It’s critical to have an Innovation Area that is constantly exploring the latest education developments to adjust the original design to new learning and technology discoveries.

5 — You need to be willing to break paradigms.

6 — We need to get to know better the parents of our kids and help them feel comfortable with digitalization.

Aurelia is very clear on the strengths of the school: “We are very good in English, Math, Science and Communication, but if you are looking for a strong program in arts or sports, we are not your school.”

I (Iñaki) personally have come to appreciate those who focus on an area and do that very well, instead of trying to satisfy everybody.

We talked about some (exciting) new experiments Aurelia is prototyping to give students at Innova Schools the edge they’ll need to discover what they really want to do in life.

My favorite quote from Aurelia was:

“Our kids are learning how to be digital citizens”

Colegio Villa Alerife.

We decided to take the kids to this visit, with the goal of exposing them to different schools, and different realities.

Marco Cardenas received us and gave us a tour of the school. We noticed lots of motivational messages written on the walls, all of them in English, which is reflection of how important English has become for schools in Lima. “To compete in the global market, you need to be able to speak english, and we focus on teaching a high level of English”

Marco is a teacher and a tutor at the school, and for us it was really interesting to learn from someone who is with kids daily in the classroom. “the teacher needs to be a facilitator of knowledge for the student, where the kid himself discovers the material”

Our kids loved having the chance to interact with one of the 3 turtles walking around the school grounds.

We spoke with Marco about the creation of new curriculums that, by trying to offer more knowledge to the kids, overloads their day with subjects, creating a bottleneck of content and attention in the kid’s head. We also talked about the gap between innovative methodologies and the College acceptance test, which is wildly focus on retention. And the need for schools and universities to be aligned on the creation of a meaningful education experience that shapes and values the same skills and aptitudes.

To our question about the purpose of education, Marco believes that kids need to learn to become a good person, with themselves and with society.

My favorite quote from Marco was:

“Es didicil enamorar a esta generación de estudiantes” (it’s hard to make this generation fall in love with learning)

The challenge is that in a world where is so fast and easy (for some) to get the things they want (technology), kids fall into the habit of “instant gratification”, and in that context its harder for kids to appreciate the process, and value perseverance.

Trener School

We started our meeting with Cucha de Valenzuela by explaining our search for solutions to a system of education that was not designed to meet the challenges we face today.

Cucha has been involved in education for 23 years, and as the Director of Escuela Trener, she has a lot of interesting opinions about the challenges innovation faces inside schools.

She thinks that Costs are a factor against change; “To innovate is expensive, because you need to break old structures, create new spaces, staff more teachers, and because parents have big expectations about what and how the school teaches their kids, you need to take small steps forward.”

A second factor is the Curriculum, and how to mix creativity and problem solving within the Ministerio’s given curriculum could probe to be tricky.

Parents in Lima are very traditional in their view of what a kid is supposed to learn, and how she is supposed to learn it. “Its hard to convince them to change” shares Cucha. And when both parents work, they have less time to dedicate to their kids education, which makes it harder for the school, the teacher and the student.

And even when you finally find the right program, the money, and the support, it just takes a long time to do everything you need to do.

And the last factor of the challenge is that sometimes you need to deconstruct before you can construct, which demands a long term approach.

With all this in mind, Cucha has learned to focus on small changes that have a big impact without having to break the structures of the school.

The purpose of education, in her experience, is to develop autonomous and happy kids. Which might be an interesting contrast with what parents think is the purpose of their kids education. In her opinion parents are more driven by competitiveness: so kids can be “capaces and competentes” (able and competent) to do what they want to do in life.

Reflecting on this, I can see how the school and parents need to be completely aligned on what the purpose of education is, because every decision trickles-down from that.

My favorite quote from Cucha was this:

“El inconsciente siempre escucha” (the subconscious is always listening)

This week we are connecting with people outside of the school system: Parents, more kids and most importantly start ups questioning the current solutions.

With love and learning hearts,

The Learning Gypsies.