Hola! We have just come to the end of the first leg of our trip. This morning I hopped on a plane and flew to Cusco for the final week of studying abroad before I head back to Milwaukee! This past week went by so fast, and yet we packed a lot in. We spent time with the Casitas kids, we took a tour of a public grade school and we visited PEA, an alternative night school in El Agustino. It has been a week of learning and understanding for me, and I think there’s a lot that I can take away from the experiences that we had.
Through the visits and experiences we have had in different school settings, accompanied by the readings we have done in class and the questions Dr. Gibson has posed for us to think about, I have begun to think about educational inequalities. The schools that we have been to thus far include Colegio de la Inmaculada, Tupac Amaru, Colegio Roosevelt, and Programa Educación Alternativa. We also saw interactive schools like Las Casitas and MLK Sports Program. There were vast differences between these four schools that I would consider to be inequalities. At Roosevelt, an American school primarily for children of ambassadors, business people, and those in high power that move to Peru, there was state of the art technology around every corner. With the school being about $19,000 per year, they had the ability to build a new grade school with advanced learning classrooms, an incredible library, and more, and they have plans to tear down their high school and build a new one within the next two years. This was easily the nicest school that I have seen while here. Colegio de la Inmaculada was a very close second to Roosevelt, with very nice amenities for their students including an expansive zoo, multiple courts and fields, and very nice classrooms. We also visited Tupac Amaru, a public school that was started by the parents in that district. This school, which is not zoned for earthquakes, teaches the students many different trades to prepare them to search for a job post graduation. Lastly, we sat in on classes at Programa Educación Alternativa in El Agustino following our trips to Las Casitas. This school is for those that did not finish their high school education for a multitude of reasons and is at night so those with jobs can still attend. While this school is funded by the government, they still have little resources for their students to use. Throughout all of these schools we have seen different approaches to education. We have seen traditional, straight-from-the-book learning, project-based learning, and everything in between. I think that some of these methods work better than others, but it’s also about the individual. I find that education is sometimes presented in a way that takes away the individuality of students and that is where the inequality stems from. Even though there are these inequalities, I do think there is room for growth and fixing.
We, as a class, have talked a lot about flourishing in education. I think it can be hard to flourish when there is inequality, but I do not think that it is simply a material problem. As humans, often times we want to throw materials at a problem that we think will help without thinking about the ins and outs of using a material. For example, you wouldn’t donate Smartboards to a school with no wifi because they would be useless, and yet people still do, when really the school needs water filters and white boards. I think that educational inequalities can only be fixed by providing effective material goods alongside non-material goods like love and self-esteem and more. This is a problem with many moving parts, and it’s incredibly challenging to get them all to work together. One of the deepest issues I see with educational inequality is the political and moral problems surrounding it. There is a clear notion that the status quo must be kept and in order to do that, the educational inequalities are kept in place. There is enough money and resources in the world to get children just education but it doesn’t work that way because once you give people the power they rightfully deserve, those currently in power lose what they have.
When we look at the different educational contexts here in Peru, you can see how each experience is a little different. There is the more serious types of classroom setting, gym settings, team sports, after school and more. In each of these situations you see different types of learning being done. I think that there is not one type of learning that is more beneficial than others, but together they make a whole learner. If a student is only getting the guided-learning classroom approach without the sports than they are going to lack in the play aspect, that encourages curiosity and learning how to work together with their peers. On the other hand, if a student was only getting the interactive learning, then they would lack the fundamental skills needed like reading and math. In these different contexts there is also differing power dynamics. Often times, we see the teacher teaching and the student learning. What I find to be most beneficial in my experience as a learner is the teacher and the student learning from each other. When we as students see that a teacher can be vulnerable and is willing to learn from their students as much as they can teach them, even if it’s not about the content specifically, it makes for a healthy classroom dynamic.
Looking at my educational experience with the knowledge I have now, I can see how truly beneficial it was for me to be in multiple activities as a kid but also now as a college student. If I only focused on school or extracurriculars I don’t believe I would have had the same success thus far. I can also use this knowledge for my future career, to hopefully encourage students to try new things and take all aspects of their lives seriously because they shape us into the people we are now without even seeing it in the moment. I would encourage teachers to educate their students on their representation and on their individualism so that they have the knowledge in the future of advocate for themselves and others.
As I embark on the final week of my trip, I’ll be seeing one more school and after school program as well as hiking Machu Picchu and visiting small towns near Cusco!
“Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.” — MLK Jr.