Better Schools for Some, Quality Education for All: Emily Chang

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.  

Emily Chang

It does not help to make equal changes for every school since every community is different depending on the context they are placed in and the backgrounds their students are coming from, so it is important to understand what each school may need depending on their students.

My first hand experiences with educational contexts in Peru today have been comparing to what we’ve been reading and within our seminar discussions. Today we visited one of the schools we would be working in while in Lima. The school is called Fe y Alegria which translates to Faith and Happiness (cutest name for a school award goes to them!), and reminded me of my old elementary school days. It is similar to a charter school in the U.S. in that it is a public administration/school but it is privately funded. There are various Fe y Alegria schools around Latin America and there is one even in Cusco. The students all wear uniforms and the preschool and kindergarten classes are in a separate but close building to the school. We also had the opportunity to meet with the teachers that we would be working with which was super exciting! We organized ourselves into groups, so my friend Gabrielle and I will be working in a couple of science classes with an older male teacher named Rolando who teaches Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. We will also be working in English classrooms with 2 female teachers named Maria and Nancy. Most of the grade levels we will be working with are 3rd, 5th, and 6th graders and the school itself is structured nicely with a large open play area in the middle and classrooms surrounding it. A lot of the students seemed very friendly as the smiled and waved at the awkward American college students who would be coming into their classrooms for a week.

Our visit to Fe y Alegria led my classmates and I into a discussion in our seminar afterwards with our professor. We had previous readings from the night before that focused on the privatization of schools, the seemingly lack of quality in public-school systems, and discussing whether or not one school system was more just over another. This also led us to discuss interesting comparisons that we observed between school systems in the U.S. and Peru. Noticeably in Lima, there has been a growth in private schools not only for the upper, wealthier class, but it has expanded into the middle and lower level classes as well. It was interesting to look at various perspectives that seemed to surround private and charter schools, especially in Peru.

On one hand, privatization is demonized for its lack of regulations due to the approval of a legal decree in Peru in 1998 which allowed for a rise and expansion of public education, but with no means of regulation on the quality of education that students would receive. This was also due to the fact that many parents living in lower SES levels lacked knowledge of what should be regulated in schools and what they should expect. Looking past the practical concerns, there are also problems within public schools such as teachers frequently going on strikes, less commitment from teachers due to their low salaries and other jobs to make ends meet, and difficulty with availability for help after school. But statistics also show that academic performances in private schools were not better than in public schools around the same area. This context though provides outlooks on what is considered a high-quality education and shows that when equity and social relations are brought together along with serving the needs in relation to the community that schools are located in, they can improve outcomes for students’ performance in academic abilities. It does not help to make equal changes for every school since every community is different depending on the context they are placed in and the backgrounds their students are coming from, so it is important to understand what each school may need depending on their students.

After our visit with Fe y Alegria, we had the opportunity to visit an international school called Colegio Roosevelt. This school went from kindergarten through high school as well but was the most extra school I have ever stepped foot on, and had a campus that was 100x nicer than Marquette’s. Just the entrance fee itself to send in an application is $20,000 and then tuition is $16,000 per year! The international school actually also holds approximately 90% of Lima’s wealth which is INSANE. The campus had miles of greenery and palm trees and open areas. This school was so different compared to ones in the U.S. because it promoted a collaborative environment where students were free to work in creative spaces, had state-of-the art technology (including 3-D machines!), and had mandatory after-school activities for all students such as swimming and gymnastics. I was in awe as the set-up of the school was very modern and updated, and they recently had begun construction for their new elementary school as well. Colegio Roosevelt’s mission statement focused on having their students pursue a passion for learning, lead lives with integrity, and encouraging them to form socially responsible solutions for real world applications. Although the school was over the top and appeared to be perfect to the outsider, we discussed in our seminar the philosophy behind what actually constitutes a quality education regardless of the school setting students were placed in. Keeping these 2 schools in mind, we talked about how education is effective when learning is meaningful and applicable to the real world, when there are culturally relevant teachers who simulate students’ imagination and encourage working collaboratively, and teachers teach students to be curious and inquire about the world around them, regardless of the school setting. We talked about the global achievement gap which is the gap between what the best public schools seem to offer and are teaching vs the actual, useful knowledge that students will need to function as human beings in the real world. It was interesting to see the comparisons of this between schools in Peru and the US. and in general, the international school and Fe y Alegria.

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