Collaboration for a Transformative Education

One of the many collective challenges we have faced as a society throughout the pandemic has been keeping schools open, kids in school, and delivering quality education. What is important to note, though, is that even before the pandemic more than 260 million children and youth were out of school. This was (and continues to be) largely due to a lack of access to quality and inclusive education. Ensuring all children, especially those at the margins, have an opportunity to become the protagonists of their own future is a challenge that one organization cannot face alone.

In September 2011, IBM, the New York City Department of Education, and The City University of New York designed and launched the P-TECH school model, with its first school in Brooklyn, New York. The P-TECH schools model was developed to provide a holistic approach to education and workforce development.

The model focuses on providing high school students from underserved backgrounds with an opportunity to dream of a different future for themselves. Through academic, technical, and professional skills training, students earn the credentials they need for competitive STEM jobs. Students who participate earn both their high school diploma and a two–year associate degree linked to growing, competitive STEM fields.

Through public-private partnerships, each P–TECH school is the center of a relationship between a high school, a community college, and an industry partner or partners, who work together to ensure students have the support required to graduate high school and college–and be career-ready. The model combines rigorous coursework with workplace experiences that include industry mentoring, worksite visits, paid internships, and first–in–line for job considerations with a school’s company partner.

In 2019, this model was expanded to Latin America as Federación Internacional de Fe y Alegría (“FIFyA“), the Asociación de Universidades Confiadas a la Compañía de Jesús en América Latina (“AUSJAL“), Magis Americas (“MA“) and IBM Corporation (“IBM/P-TECH“) joined forces to bring P-TECH to Fe y Alegría schools in five countries: Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. This partnership was a natural fit, as all four institutions share a common perspective on human dignity, education, and workforce development in the 21st Century.

“Fe y Alegría has worked in education with community groups for many years, and P-TECH is a great initiative that promotes social inclusion through STEM learning,” said Carlos Fritzen, S.J., FIFyA General Coordinator, when the partnership was first announced. “Allowing equal educational opportunities is key.”

FIFyA is a popular education and social transformation movement, operating in 22 countries around the world, 17 of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Working “where the asphalt stops”, FIFyA is committed to social justice through guaranteeing a public, quality, and inclusive education for all.

The implementation of this collaboration has been structured into a project with three main phases:

  1. Preparation Phase – In this phase all partnering organizations set up the bases for the monitoring and success of the collaboration. We conduct an assessment of the participating schools to understand demographics, existing learning pathways, the curriculum, location, and leadership. We also review status of existing technology, equipment, and materials and then work to ensure alignment among the participating high schools, universities, and companies. Finally, we implement professional development training sessions for teachers.
  2. Opening Phase – This is the phase in which schools have established formal agreements with their industry partner and universities.
  3. Implementation Phase – The final phase is that in which schools start implementing training to gain critical workplace skills and higher education credentials that lead to career and university opportunities. At the beginning of this phase, investments are made, based on the most critical needs identified in the initial assessment.

As of 2021, 13 centers in Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador were in the opening phase. Additionally, agreements with seven industry partners and six higher technical education centers have been formalized. In 2022, these 13 centers will enter into the implementation phase and 15 new schools across Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru will enter into the opening phase

As we celebrate this year’s International Day of Education, and its theme “Changing Course, Transforming Education”, our joint project with IBM, FIFyA, and AUSJAL is a perfect example of how public-private partnerships can leverage resources to ensure quality and inclusive public education that truly transforms. From first-hand experience, we can attest to how the P-TECH model is changing how education is delivered and opportunities are made accessible, especially in the context of a global pandemic, to some of the most vulnerable populations in the LAC region.

Classrooms and schools are essential, but they need to be constructed and experienced differently in the future. These spaces must build the skills needed in 21st Century workplaces. Transforming the future requires us to rebalance our relationships, as individuals and as organizations. We must continue to find opportunities to enact change, focusing on equity, inclusion, and justice for all.

Batey Lechería: Fighting Discrimination and Inequality Through an Education with Values

A look at the education of the boys and girls of Batey Lechería.

The Centro Educativo Santo Niño Jesús school is located in the Batey Lechería area, Santo Domingo Oeste, in the Dominican Republic. The Batey Lechería community is a community of Haitian descendants, currently experiencing migration from very vulnerable sectors of the DR.

This educational center was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ), a North American Congregation. They came to the DR in 1995, and from the beginning, were concerned with bringing quality education to those most in need. When the sisters arrived at Batey Lechería, this was a vulnerable area, whose only jobs were around cutting sugar cane, although a few women in the community were domestic workers in the city of Santo Domingo.

Before the arrival of the SHCJ Sisters, the Lechería community lacked basic services such as food, adequate housing, adequate water, health, and education. Additionally, the coexistence of the members of the community was not adequate, there was tension between the different immigrants.

The general education of the community before the arrival of the school was poor, there was not much thought about the future or regard for education as an important tool for development. Besides, the community was discriminated against due to the poverty level of its inhabitants.

Since the beginning of the Center, the SHCJ sisters, volunteers, teachers, assistants, administrators, and support staff promote objectives that link the good treatment between people, equal rights, creation of job opportunities, improvements to health, good nutrition, childcare, promotion of values and quality education for the excluded. We care about our students and work so receive a comprehensive and quality education; based on Christian values and respect for human rights. Furthermore, as the founder of Fe y Alegría José María Vélaz said, we maintain that “a poor person cannot have a poor education”. In the same way, the founder of the Congregation of the Holy Child Jesus, Cornelia Conelly says: “Actions, not words”, these conceptions are the basis for the mission, vision, principles, and values of the institution, which seek to activate the transformation of the context and improvement of the life of the community, through education and health.

I have worked at the Centro Educativo Santo Niño Jesús, since my adolescence, starting as a volunteer and occupying different positions. Today, as the Director of the Center, I have had the pleasure to see this community progressively change and advance. As a Center, we have contributed to the integral development of the community, emphasizing the importance of education and equality among human beings and the acceptance of people, regardless of their nationality, sex, religion, or origin.

We continuously work to answer the following questions: how do we deal with discrimination in the center? Is there discrimination between the actors of the educational community? Discrimination is something that occurs from person to person, from child to child. It is sad to say, but yes, discrimination exists between the same residents of one community. This is sometimes a culture assumed by boys and girls. To break these habits, the Center has implemented different activities, such as cultural weeks, the promotion of values, and general culture gatherings.

In the same way, we accept all students, providing equal opportunities. We do not condition education, all students have the same privileges in terms of the resources. Teachers integrate students equally, and an emphasis is made on respecting cultures and accepting people.

We also ask ourselves, has the Batey Lechería community changed? Has the school had any impact on this change? Yes, the community has changed with the collaboration of the Center, we have parents who value and support their children’s education from home, there are still many more to join, but we are firmly going down the right path.

Bartolo Álvarez, says that before, the young people of the community did not reach the third grade of primary school. Now, he has seen a change, young people finish secondary school. He tells us that the Center has been a torch of light for the community, for the progress of children and families. Since the arrival of the nuns, volunteers, and other collaborators an education based on infinite love has been provided to the youth of the community. These are people who live in extreme poverty, but every day wake up with faith and enthusiasm for life. It is for these people that the Center works to overcome inequality.

The Center has collaborated over the years in the development of the community, contributing to the well-being of adults, students, women, offering health programs, and community support. We have women like Rosy, who started a small business in the community, to guarantee the sustenance of her children, especially her little 8-year-old daughter.

Cristina Remarque has collaborated with the Center since she was nine years old, supporting young children who need help to focus in the classes. As she shares her knowledge with the little ones, she is motivated to continue in school and give her best. The Santo Niño Jesús school has accompanied this young woman on her path and we want to continue helping her in her studies, as she aims to go to college.

The Centro Educativo Santo Niño Jesús has managed to make progressive changes in the mentality of the people, we continue to fight against discrimination and inequality, giving a higher value to the education of children. To advance in offering quality education, and contributing to the development of the community, we need helping hands. Teacher training, maintenance, and the acquisition of teaching resources for our students, in these difficult times of a pandemic are essential. The Center, together with the infirmary, has worked hard to preserve the health of the community. We dream, create and believe in our people.

Since our foundation, we understood that we had to work together with the community, to achieve our common goals. We are firm believers that if the educational center advances, the community must also advance. We want to continue growing to improve the situation of our students, the families of the community, both in health and education.

I faithfully believe that the only way to break down social barriers is by teaching individuals to think, teaching them to be, to do, and to live together. At the same time, offering opportunities for transformation from accepting our identity and others as well as who we are.

A year after the launch of “La Escuela en la Radio”

It has been almost a year since the Fe y Alegría Movement in Venezuela implemented a new strategy for the continued support of distance education of Preschool and Primary students in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the course of the past 12 months, Fe y Alegría has been able to accompany children, who, for the most part, do not have access to the necessary technological platforms for distance learning such as, PCs, laptops, tablets, telephones, connection to the internet, TV, etc.

This has been possible due to the joint effort and collaboration between the Schools Program and Fe y Alegría Radio, who came together to guarantee the continuity, permanence, and education of Venezuela’s most vulnerable students. Teaching and learning strategies through radio formats, allow educators to deliver content in a fun and interactive way that contributes to the development of student’s fundamental skills, such as; language and communication, logical-mathematical processes, and values.

Maura Montes, the mother of two girls in second and third grade at the Fe y Alegría Jesús Soto School in Ciudad Guayana, says that as a result of the radio education initiative implemented by Fe y Alegría to accompany children and parents in the middle of quarantine, family coexistence at home has been strengthened.

“It has been beneficial in the sense of family coexistence. It has helped us adapt and get involved in the education of children,” she said.

In times like this, in which parents have had to be teachers at home, and the uncertainty of a pandemic reigns outside, another great challenge of distance education is to ensure emotional well-being. Fe y Alegría has also focused on providing families with tools for coexisting and healthy handling of emotions in the midst of confinement.

During the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year, Fe y Alegría radio coverage increased to reach more beneficiaries through the launch of 12 micro-programs and the broadcast of 90 programs. During the development of these, 117 boys and 122 girls participated, along with 239 adults, mostly women. An estimated audience of 8,454,515 people was reached.

La Escuela en la Radio is broadcasted by Radio Fe y Alegría stations from Monday to Friday from 9 to 10 in the morning and is broadcast from 3 to 4 in the afternoon.