Buenos días a todos,
My mom tells me that when I was beginning to talk as a child, my first words were in Spanish. As soon as I started pre-school in Wisconsin, the hope for being completely fluent in both Spanish and English began to slip away. At Atwater Elementary School, we began to learn Spanish in school starting in first grade. Spanish was the only class in which I was the smartest student in the room. But although I was confident in the classroom, when in Puerto Rico, I would become embarrassed or shy when speaking Spanish. In learning a new language, one must leave their insecurities behind and they must be willing to make mistakes and be vulnerable in order to master another language. Coming to Peru, in almost all the different educational settings I have observed, I have seen people trying to learn a different language. So far it’s been exclusively students trying to learn English. I like to think that this is peoples’ wish for communicating with others in order to make connections and relationships. That is the one commonality I have seen across all the different educational settings I have been in over the course of these three weeks.
This past week, we spent Monday and Wednesday going to PEA, which stands for Programa de Educación Alternativa (program for alternative education). This is a school that runs from 6:30 to 10:30 at night for people ages sixteen and older. It serves a diverse population who are need of finishing their high-school education. In addition to spending time in PEA, this past week I was also fortunate to tour two schools. The first school we saw was Túpac Amaru. This is a public school on the edge of Lima serving a very large student population. Because it is public, they are not allowed to ask for any money from the parents of the students they serve and instead they get a small amount of money from the government to keep the school running. In contrast to Túpac Amaru, we also toured Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which is an American school in Lima. At Roosevelt the population seems to be the richest of the richest children who come to get some of the best education Peru has to offer. This school is private and they accept students based on applications; English is also the primary language in which subjects are taught.
Just from this week alone, I have seen many education inequalities in terms of materials. In a school like Túpac Amaru, there are very little resources. Their library was the size of a small room, and they had very little technology but had machines and tools for a shop class, sewing class, and cooking which can be described as trades. In PEA, I saw very little technology; in fact, the one projector that I did see was something the professor brought himself to use for his lesson. In contrast, Roosevelt had everything from two big libraries, 3D printers that students could use, and each child has a laptop or an iPad made available to them. The contrast with this material inequality is extreme, but it is difficult to define education inequality as solely material based. There are so many different factors that go into educational inequalities that focusing in on the material aspect is unfair for students and communities.
In the book “The Global Achievement Gap,” Tony Wagner talks about his idea of what the global achievement gap is and ways in which he believes this inequality can be fixed. He defines the gap as follows:
“The first of these well documented, widely discussed, and the focus of education reform efforts for the past decade or so is the gap between the quality of schooling that most middle-class kids get in America and the quality of schooling available for most poor and minority children and the consequent disparity in results. The second one is the global achievement gap, as I’ve come to call it, the gap between what even our best suburban, urban, and rural public schools are teaching and testing versus what all students will need to succeed as learners, workers, and citizens in today’s global knowledge economy.”
He identifies that there is an inequality in terms of the quality of schooling available to children and later goes on to talk about how globally there is a misconception of what is taught in schools versus what students actually need to know in order to be successful in life or to flourish. In fact, the global achievement gap somewhat stems from the lack knowledge and mastery of these seven skills he poses. Just to give a quick run-down, the seven skills are as follows: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and lastly curiosity and imagination.
These skills are what I believe to be universal in the sense that they are good for almost any career one would like to pursue and are just all-around good skills to have. It is funny that I have not really seen these skills explicitly being taught in a traditional school setting. I believe that some of these skills get touched on but definitely not all. The only time I have seen these seven skills being taught was in my summer camp leadership training program. We use critical thinking and problem-solving skills every day between trying to figure out how to make a homesick camper feel better to what to do next when its starts pouring on a campout.
Collaboration across networks and leading by influence come into play when working with co-counselors or different units and always trying to “lead by example.” Agility and adaptability can be seen when counselors are constantly making adjustments to their day along the way based on their campers’ wants and needs. Counselors are constantly pushed to take initiative in starting up a game for a group of campers among other things. In order to be an effective counselor, there is a lot of training on how to communicate effectively and we also need to write camper reports as well. Also, counselors have to always assess information and analyze situations their campers provide. Finally, when working in a business of children, counselors are constantly being asked to let their creativity and imagination run wild.
I guess what I am trying to say as that, yes, I do think these skills are very important and that they can set up students for success if they master them. But maybe in order to for students to reach their full potential according to these skills, one must think to go outside the four walls of a traditional classroom. The question that I still have is how something like this can be implemented in a way that is equal or fair for all students?