Sistema Interactivo Transformemos Educando in the Department of Guainía

Country Profile: Colombia

Population

47,120,770 (DANE, 2013)

Official Language

Spanish

Other recognised languages

Quechua, Wayuu, Paez, Embera, sikuany, piapoco, curripaco, puinave, romani, among others (total: 65)

Poverty (Population living on less than 1.25 USD per day, 2000-2007)

16%

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP (2011)

4.5

Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance (2005–2009)

90%

Total Youth Literacy Rate (aged 15 to 24 years, 2005–2008)

Male: 98%
Female: 98%
Total: 98%

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 2005–2008)

Male: 93.5%
Female: 93.7%
Total: 93.6%

Statistical Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitlePilot Project of Sistema Interactivo Transformemos Educando in the Department of Guainía: Use of digital tablets and multilingual educational software for adult literacy and adult basic and secondary education
Implementing OrganizationFoundation for Social Development Transformemos (Fundación para el Desarrollo Social Transformemos)
Language of InstructionCurripaco, Sikuany, Piapoco, Puinave and Spanish
Date of Inception2013

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Background and context

Fundación Transformemos, a civil society organization and winner of the UNESCO Confucius Prize, has implemented the Sistema Interactivo Transformemos Educando in 780 official educational institutions in the last seven years. Its objective is to demonstrate that multilingual software for tablets can be used to provide pertinent, flexible and formal1 primary and secondary education through official educational institutions. The Sistema Interactivo Transformemos, which does not cost more than $300 per learner, implements educational software for digital tablets to explore the areas of study that are equivalent to primary and secondary education. This figure covers the payment of licensed teachers, the purchase of one digital tablet per learner and teacher, educational software, the setup of one interactive classroom for every 30 learners, the training of teachers, and the evaluation of the entire process. These have been the aims of Fundación Transformemos since it designed its first educational software for interactive classrooms in 2010, which has now been adapted for digital tablets.

Besides providing quality education, some of the main accomplishments of the initiative include:

These didactic interventions are designed in accordance with the standards set by the Ministry of Education and with the specific needs of the target population in mind.

In 2013, Fundación Transformemos started a pilot project with multilingual communities in the Department of Guainía, which has a significantly high school drop-out rate, as well as indigenous communities with a high level of illiteracy.

The Department of Guainía – located in the Colombian jungle area between the Guiana Shield and the Amazon rainforest – has 40,985 inhabitants, 80% of which are indigenous. Approximately 18.3% of the population, or 7,014 young people and adults, are illiterate, according to the National Department of Statistics and the Ministry of Education. Of every 100 children that enter preschool, only 11 reach the 11th grade, which represents a drop-out rate of 89%. In total, more than 10,000 young people have withdrawn from the educational system in the last 10 years before finishing their studies. Additionally, 78.8% of the population, or 30,202 inhabitants, live in extreme poverty, which is reflected in the high rates of teen pregnancy (34%) and infant mortality.

In the face of this grave social reality, the Government of the Department accepted the proposal to implement the Sistema Interactivo Transformemos Educando in its official educational institutions, which would reach a total of 3,600 illiterate young people and adults, 89% of which are between the ages of 18 and 59. The programme is based on region-specific didactic interventions which are tailored to the needs of each region, where up to four different indigenous languages are spoken, as well as Spanish. The initiative is also designed to hire and train teachers, as well as to harmonize the Sistema Interactivo with the existent frameworks in each of the educational institutions.

The starting point for this pilot project was a baseline investigation which responded to the question: “Who does the programme aim to educate in the Department of Guainía and with what purpose?” It was directed and coordinated by Fundación Transformemos, with the support of a group of local teachers/specialists in ethnic education. Information was gathered through:

  1. Interviews with regional educational authorities (Secretary of Education; The Directorate of Youth and Adult Education; principals from the educational institutions; teachers);
  2. a literature review of descriptive studies of the region, including linguistic, archeological, and anthropological studies on ethnic groups, as well as ecosystemic, economic and social studies carried out by national and international universities, investigative institutions, ministries, among others.

The information gathered facilitated the definition of a strategy that includes a multilingual educational approach and aims to:

The Programme Transformemos

Aims and Objectives

General objective: Contribute to the preservation and defense of vulnerable communities, their cultures and rights, through a learning programme equivalent to official formal education that will allow these communities to become generators of progress and peace.

Specific objectives are:

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Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

In order to ensure that the investment in human resource training remained in this marginalized area, local teachers with the following characteristics were hired: they had experience working in regular education; were licensed in basic primary and secondary education; and had knowledge of one of the indigenous languages. According to Colombian law, their salary depends on the number of hours worked in the classroom in each educational cycle of basic primary education (264 hours in cycle 1, which includes literacy training, and 264 hours in cycle 2); 400 hours for each cycle of basic (or lower) secondary education (3 and 4); 220 hours for each cycle of (upper) secondary education (5 and 6). The hourly wage is $6.

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They received continual training through the following:

  1. a three-day (20 hours) introductory workshop on methodology and basic concepts such as creating a learning environment, flexibility, and the characteristics of the learner population;
  2. an introductory workshop of two days (14 hours) on didactic interventions involving texts and digital tablets;
  3. a one-day follow-up workshop (10 hours) on classroom exercises and active pedagogical methods, with an emphasis on didactic interventions using the Sistema Interactivo, and the contrast between traditional education and the challenge of facilitating meaningful learning processes;
  4. a closing workshop and evaluation, with an analysis of the project that lasts one day (8 hours).

Enrolment of Learners

In order to determine the number of learners enrolled in the project, the Secretary of Education database was consulted, as well as the Ministry of Education statistics on illiteracy and incomplete basic and secondary education. Based on this estimate, learners were able to register for classes, which they learned about with the help of the following communication means:

  1. Ads on local stations in different indigenous languages and in Spanish;
  2. Short texts in indigenous languages distributed in different places where many people come together, with the venue and date of information meetings;
  3. Visits to the indigenous shelters, interviews with the leaders of the community, and presentations to the villagers, in different languages;
  4. meetings with the principals of the educational institutions;
  5. house-to-house visits and neighborhood meetings with the community. In each of the registration points, the translators were ready to assist any of those who did not understand Spanish.

Since this had not been done before, learners felt compelled by the invitation to register in different language courses, as well as the use of digital tablets within the classroom. Currently, they are committed to the project for various reasons. First of all, they are drawn by the opportunity to speak in their own language in the classroom and by the use of multilingual software that facilitates a classroom environment where four different languages, besides Spanish, are spoken. With regards to literacy, they are motivated by the fact that they are learning to read, write and acquire knowledge pertaining to the Spanish language, Mathematics, Social and Natural Sciences, as well as their own cultures. The educational software videos also allow them to remain engaged. Another positive aspect is that their classmates are from their same community and, in some cases, from their same indigenous reservation. Additionally, they can now support their children in the educational process as the entire family uses the digital tablet to study.

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Teaching-learning Approaches and Methodologies

The methodology is interactive-productive. The classroom exercise begins with the projection of the educational software content from the tablet onto the wall with a video projector. Each learner can view the lesson on their tablet while the teacher uses the amplified image to guide the learners. Smaller working groups are organized according to the language spoken by each of the learners. With the printed texts and the software, the learners delve deeper into the contextualized concepts presented earlier by the teachers, using examples, videos, images, and readings. From the constructivist perspective of the Interactive System, the learner’s knowledge construction should be based on understanding or, in other words, the establishment of meaningful relationships between the new information and the one he or she already possesses. In regard to information that lacks any meaningful relation to the learner because of the specificity of the subject matter, strategies of didactic intervention must be established. The collective construction of knowledge is privileged in these in-class sessions.

Using these tools, learners engage in individual and group work within and outside of the classroom. The results of these activities are then presented in plenary sessions where they are discussed and enriched by the group and the teacher. As the learners learn to read, write and do basic math, the software also allows them to study content related to social and natural sciences, civil and multiethnic culture, and human and social development. The learners can take their tablets home to complete individual assignments, study or share new information with their families and communities.

In meeting the challenge of educating multiethnic communities, the programme adopts the following intercultural ethic:

  1. the goal is not to assimilate people who have a different culture into a dominant one, but to allow them to conserve their diverse cultural identities;
  2. the goal is to ensure an authentic coexistence, since differences can be an expression of personal and cultural authenticity;
  3. the respect which a different culture deserves has its roots in the respect to the identity of the people that comprise it;
  4. understanding other cultures is indispensable to understanding one’s own culture.

Learners follow a pertinent and flexible curriculum of integrated areas which meet basic national education standards. For this reason, learners are continually evaluated based on class presentations of their work, as well as individually, based on the standardized tests that are found at the end of each thematic unit of their textbooks. Depending on their achievements, learners are then promoted by their teachers and given a corresponding formal education certificate of completion.

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Funding support

In order to develop these projects, Fundación Transformemos has signed agreements with the National Ministry of Education and the sub-national Secretariats of Education, which contribute with financial resources, and, in other cases, with international organizations and private enterprises. Given that this is a formal educational process, the entire process is completed through the formal education system, which contributes with school infrastructure and the administrative personnel.

Monitoring and evaluation

In the evaluation of the pilot project, the following is done:

  1. Classes are continually supervised through specific monitoring tools by a professional who is permanently assigned to this task;
  2. Meetings are held with the principals of educational institutions in order to get their feedback and impressions concerning the programme and its implementation, given that they are the ones who are directly responsible for each institution;
  3. Meetings are held with teachers in a second 10-hour training workshop in order to receive feedback on the methodology and to cement changes in teaching practice which are oriented toward active pedagogy;
  4. Information on the educational process, impact of technology and logistical aspects are gathered from 10% of the teachers and learners, half-way through the process;
  5. Focus groups - made up of a sample of teachers, learners and principals, chosen according to specific criteria - are used to evaluate the results of the educational process in each cycle;
  6. A statistical follow-up of learners’ achievements, including those that graduated, did not graduate or dropped out, is carried out;
  7. After all the steps mentioned have taken place, an analysis is included in a final report which is then used to adjust the educational process to ensure its continuity.

Impact

The use of educational software Transformemos for digital tablets has led to favorable results, thanks to the experience gained in the implementation of Sistema Interactivo Transformemos during the last seven years and the use of the educational software since 2010. These positive results guarantee the continued financial contribution of the State, and the support of the Minister of Education and the Minister of New Technologies. Moreover, the results obtained have also allowed the cost per learner to remain below $300 per year, with which you can purchase a tablet for each learner and teacher. For this reason, the number of young people and adults enrolled as learners has risen from 600 to 3,600, which is an increase of 600%. Another achievement of the programme was that the national and international press has been permanently covering the process. Also, according to drop-out reports of learners, since the adult learners started classes in August, the school drop-out rate of children has decreased considerably. This was a critical problem toward the end of the school year since parents would take their children to work with them. Finally, it is important to highlight that starting from 2014, Sistema Interactivo Transformemos will reach 20,000 young people and adults all over the country through the use of digital tablets.

Testimonies

Paola Andrea Cavarte (18-year-old learner from the ethnic group Piapoco):

“The programme Transformemos gave me the opportunity to study. Since I can study and do research with the tablet during the night, I have time to spend with my daughter and husband.“

Sara Miravan (39-year-old learner from the ethnic group Puinave):

Twenty-three years ago I stopped studying in order to raise my children. Thank God, Transformemos gave us another opportunity. I sell catalog perfumes, so it helps me to continue acquiring skills that can be helpful in running my business.

David Gaitan Rojas (teacher and translator):

“This is incredible. Who would have thought that the indigenous people would have been the first to study with digital tablets and even more surprisingly, in their ancestral languages. This is a stipulation found in our Constitution, but which has never been fully enacted.”

Monica Andrea Patino Lopez (teacher from the ethnic group Puinave):

“I am happy that this programme has arrived to our Department, especially to the indigenous part. The truth is that we really needed it. There are many illiterate people in this village, so it is a great opportunity for us and our families. The fact that the instructor is of their same ethnic group facilitates the learners’ understanding.”

Bernardo Betancur (principal of the educational institution Simon Bolivar):

“We were in a state of anticipation because on more than one occasion, the programme for adults was offered but not carried out. The novelty of this programme is that the learner takes modules so that he or she can work at his or her own pace using a tablet. Before, many would register and then quickly drop out. It seems that this time, however, that they are very motivated by the programme. It was never heard before that someone would teach them in their own language. The programme is ideal for our context since it helps to elevate the standard of living and the cultural level of the population.”

Challenges

Once the preparatory stage has passed, the first challenge was convincing the elders of the indigenous communities to accept local teachers specialized in ethnic education since they were younger than them. In their culture, the elders are considered “the wise”, and “the whites” know more than the natives. Dialogue was needed to help them value human talent from their own culture and region. Another challenge arose when the elders of the communities asked to receive classes in a classroom separate from the younger learners. In this case, we had to make this concession.

The biggest challenge came from the basic and secondary education groups, where the learners of some of the native languages know very little Spanish and the teachers aren’t fluent in all of the languages. Although the use of technology can help in this case, this requires that the software have a complete translation of the texts, which is not possible with some of the discipline-specific topics that are difficult to translate but are necessary to reach basic competency standards determined by the Ministry of Education. In these cases, teachers should privilege conceptualizations that are more closely related to their worldview. This is something which should be remedied with didactic transpositions in their native languages, as well as with teaching Spanish as a second language, for which it is necessary to increase class time.

Lessons Learned

A lesson learned was that teachers from these disadvantaged regions should be offered the possibility of redefining, through reflection, their classroom practices in order to replace the traditional methodologies for active learning strategies, as well as autonomous learning which is made possible through the use of educational software.

The use of audiovisual material, like videos and short films, on tablets can improve the classroom environment. It is convenient to include a high percentage of this type of material in the educational software.

Sustainability

The sustainability of this project is guaranteed to the extent that learners remained registered in the official national registry so that it becomes the obligation of the State to allow them to continue their studies and to provide the necessary resources to do so.

Sources

Contact

Rodolfo Ardila
Director de Desarrollo Social
Fundación para el Desarrollo Social Transformemos
Km 13 Vía Bogotá, La Calera
Cundinamarca, Colombia
Telephone: +571 860 95 32
rodolfo (at) transformemos.com

Last update: 17 January 2014.


1: According to the ISCED 2011 (International Standard Classification of Education) of UNESCO this would be a specific non-formal education programme leading to a formal qualification (UIS, 2012, p.11).