The private and educational sectors: possible contributions to innovation
When talking about the quality of education, we usually mean reinforcing the initial level, extending school hours in primary schools, or solving the problems of repetition, abandonment, and excessive age in secondary schools. Other pending problems in several Latin American countries are absenteeism and teachers’ training and assessment. The inclusion of technology is also mentioned. Investment is made in the inclusion of technology in schoolrooms, although not always from a comprehensive, long-term point of view.
But decisions are not justified on the basis of empirical evidence of what works in schoolrooms, on the way to develop cognitive and non-cognitive skills at the initial and primary levels1, improve completion and vocational training at the secondary level, increase continuity at the university level, and job placement.
In a respectful environment, only a few show disrespect to others. This generates a positive climate, which encourages student development and learning
I will then try to describe in this paper some elements or tools that show signs of being successful in the educational programmes that the Techint Organisation is carrying out in different countries, despite different cultures and educational systems.
Before the AfterSchool programme was designed, the Social Development department at the Techint Organisation decided to analyse and observe the extended school hours and informal education initiatives before and after school in different countries (Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and the United States). Practices and elements shared with extracurricular programmes with a positive impact were also examined.2
AfterSchool provides 3 hours of informal education outside school hours 4 days a week to primary school students. It is voluntary and is intended to develop socio-emotional skills, increase the percentage of school attendance, and improve academic results in the medium to long term.
A triangle can be used to illustrate the AfterSchool educational system. The first vertex is pedagogy, or the way to teach. The programme is based on active, practical learning by projects, involving individual and group work. In AfterSchool, children’s groups are small (up to 18 per adult), and mix ages that have the same cognitive level. Group work provides children with the opportunity to rotate roles, and with this movement, students learn to give in, negotiate, communicate, and stand in the other’s shoes. The process takes place in a fun and dynamic environment, to retain students’ attention and motivation.
The second vertex of the triangle is the content, which is not random and the design of which is controlled. The fields worked on in School are science, art, recreation, and support in tasks. The Inquiry-Based Science Education approach (IBSE3) is used, with modules provided by international specialists. IBSE is based on what children know and it guides them to create scientific notions of the world around them, so that they learn to reason and move in it. In the process, they develop not only cognitive skills but also social and citizen skills. The content is organised in modules or units comprising sequential lessons4 revolving around one main idea or topic. The programme provides the materials associated with the modules, guaranteeing the suitability and sustainability of their development over time.
The learning climate is an element that seems to have an obvious influence on programmes’ success. This point, in addition to being supported by OECD research on the PISA tests, can be verified on an everyday basis. In an orderly environment, it is only a minority that generates turmoil. In a respectful environment, only a few show disrespect to others. This generates a positive climate, which encourages the students’ development and learning.
The private sector does not have the capacity to reform or improve a country’s educational system, but it does have the possibility to innovate and test tools that can be useful for everyone
The other vertex is assessment. In the AfterSchool and the Roberto Rocca Technical School, both the staff and the project are assessed on a regular basis. Measurement of the performance of Rocca School teachers was defined on the basis of the MET (Measures of Effective Teaching) Project of the Gates Foundation, which includes 3 main tools: questionnaires for students, class observation, and student examinations. Standardised tools that measure the development of socio-emotional skills and mathematics and language skills (as the basis of academic performance) are used to monitor results in both programmes. In both projects, participants’ results are measured over time, and contrasted with those achieved by the control groups (similar populations that do not take part in the programmes). These assessments are meant to find out whether projects are having the results intended and whether their teaching systems work in the way expected.
The private sector does not have the capacity to reform or improve a country’s educational system, but it does have the possibility to innovate and test tools that can be useful for everyone.