Quality Education: Alli Bernard

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here. 

Alli Bernard

Students need to be exposed to all different skills, and school is the place where that should occur. While Fé y Alegría seems to focus more on academics, Colegio Roosevelt focuses on building a socially just person. Both are equally important, but the question that I wonder about is how would a student from each school function together, with the possible lack of information.

Sunday was a very touristy day. We walked around the center of Lima, learning about the history and culture of Peru. The tour was given to us by a history professor at UARM, which was nice because he was able to tell us what everything was, in addition to the history behind it. We also witnessed a Peruvian parade, complete with traditional clothes, music and dancing. It was an unexpected but amazing experience.

The tour was brief, as we ended in the Catacombs of San Francisco, which reminded me of the Sedlac Ossuary in Prague. The historical art tour was boring, but once we went underground and saw the bones it got much more interesting. We were not able to take pictures, but the organization of the bones was very distinct and meticulously ordered. After the tour, we walked to a chicken restaurant, where we essentially ate fried chicken and French fries. Apparently this is also typical of Peru, which I was not expecting.

From the center of Lima we ventured to Barranco, which is an upper class city in Lima. We had a brief tour from Marisol, who works with organizing all our activities and events. Barranco is a very artsy district, which has been compared to SoHo. We walked along the Pacific Ocean and took pictures along the coast. We also had gelato, which was refreshing as we were all sweaty and hot from walking. It was a good way to cool off and enjoy a cool dessert. We came across a bookstore that I wanted to go in; however it was not as exciting as I thought. There was one wall devoted to English books, and the rest were in Spanish which I thought was cool. The selection was very small, but the views were amazing.

Our tour guide and professor left after this, but we all decided to stay in Barranco and explore. We went into a very touristy, souvenir store which was mostly commercial items and not as much devoted to Peru. We then went to Barbarian, which is a local brewery while we waited for time to pass before dinner. Because Peruvians eat dinner so late, it did not make sense for us to walk over at 5:30, but rather closer to 6:30.

We went to a restaurant called Javier for dinner, which was right on the ocean. Most people had lomo saltado, which is a typical dish consisting of beef, peppers, and onions in a stir fry. I had pasta with crabmeat instead. After dinner, we went to a bar for a little while before heading home. Something that I found interesting is how inexpensive Peru is. Dinner cost 33 soles, including tip, which is only $10. After an exhausting day of touring, I was excited to put on my pajamas and go to bed.

Monday we started our classes and seminars. We began the day with a two hour language class, led by a man named Pablo. We spent most of the time introducing ourselves and outlining our expectations. My hope for this time is to become more confident in my Spanish speaking abilities, which I have never been certain in. After class, we had a short snack break before heading to Fé y Alegría (Faith and Happiness) to meet with our cooperating teachers for placement. We are there for three days in our last week; I am in an English class, an art class, and an environmental class.

After visiting the school briefly, we took the tour bus to a Chinese-esque restaurant before heading back to the university. The restaurant was nothing special, but delicious none the less. We had seminar again tonight, which was centered around privatization of schools and the different types of schools in Milwaukee and Peru. I left seminar with my head spinning, trying to make sense of all the topics we discussed.

We all went to a café called Café Sorrie to work on some of the readings before we went home for dinner. Dinner was rice, beans, and a small hamburger patty. We had a nice conversation about tourism and different countries we have all visited.

Tuesday brought more language class, which was working with adjectives and what types of qualities we would like to see in our students and in teachers. We also played a matching game, which I failed quite miserably at. After language class we had an hour break where we ate lunch and sat outside.

Then it was time for our next school visit, which was to Colegio Roosevelt. This is an American school in Lima, and serves mostly the elite population. It is where many embassy families send their schools. The campus was very large and very modern, even bigger than OPRF! We talked with the man in charge of creating curriculum, and then met the superintendent- who is from Wisconsin! Our leader told us that the school holds 90% of Peru’s wealth, which makes me a little sick and uneasy to be quite honest.

Touring Roosevelt left a bit of a sour taste for me. It was very over the top and extravagant, which did not seem necessary. Student’s families pay around $16,000 a year to attend, and there are around 1,700 students, so you can see how much money the school makes in a year. In addition, there is a $20,000 entrance fee for every student. Although it makes sense that a privately funded school can charge what they want, I just did not see the need for a school to be as large and open as this was. They had everything from 3D printers to a green field of 26 acres. Regardless, it was a nice school- I just don’t see myself working or sending my kids to a school such as this.

Now for the more “boring” (sorry Dr. Gibson!) part of the blog, my reflection for class…

After our visit to Fé y Alegría, we engaged in a discussion about privatization and how we obtain a “just” school. We compared the schools in Milwaukee and Peru, and saw an expanse of private school to middle and lower classes. We wrestled with the ideas of private education vs. charter schools, among others, and went through the history behind them. I did Service Learning first sophomore year in a charter school coupled with my field experience which was at a public charter school (Windlake Academy and Milwaukee Academy of Science, respectively). The differences between the two schools did not seem different on surface level. Both provided a culturally relevant experience for the different populations they serve (Latinx/Hispanic and black). Both wanted the best for their students and clearly wanted each to succeed. I think this a very common theme among all schools, but it often comes across in different ways. MAS was a very rigorous course load with very high expectations- students were expected to raise higher than their perceived ability. Windlake worked more with meeting the children at their level, and helping them raise their abilities from there. Both models seem to work well, because the results from each are very strong.

This is different from Colegio Roosevelt, whose mission statement is focused on a passion for learning, integrity, and forming socially responsible people. This is more of an internal job, whereas MAS explicitly works on science and technology, to the point where it is the name.

This brings me to what we talked about on Tuesday’s seminar, which was about the philosophy behind a “quality education”. We discussed about how education should only work when the two ideas of internal qualities and the actual subjects learned/taught are combined a way that allows for creativity to grow. The authors we read for this seminar seemed to be in very different positions on this idea, with one thinking that social skills and relations among the school are more important, and the other thinking that what is actually learned in school is more important.

I think for a quality education to exist, there needs to be a combination of the two. Students need to be exposed to all different skills, and school is the place where that should occur. While Fé y Alegría seems to focus more on academics, Colegio Roosevelt focuses on building a socially just person. Both are equally important, but the question that I wonder about is how would a student from each school function together, with the possible lack of information.

The intense gaps among the two schools also touch on the achievement gap, which we also talked about. This is the gap between what public schools teach and what is perceived to be useful knowledge needed for the real world.

Sitting on my bed at 9:32pm after seeing both of these schools, I am still in awe of the differences. Both are quality schools, but one has the perception of being higher quality (even some of my classmates expressed this at the very start of seminar). Each school has its positives and negatives, and I don’t think we can discount one of the other because of what is perceived to be lacking.

I have had a hard time grappling with Colegio Roosevelt, especially in comparison to Fé y Alegría, because of the inequality. Fé y Alegría has 1,500 students and Roosevelt has 1,700, but the campus sizes and resources are very unequal. Fé y Alegría is probably the same size as my middle school, but much more open, while Roosevelt is more like a college campus. I am having a hard time putting into words what I am feeling, but it is not right.

When/if I begin to sort through my feelings, I would love to share them and hear from others as to what you all think.

Thanks for reading!

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