Education for Life and Work

This week’s post is dedicated to another model of education that I’m considering as a comparative case study in my Fulbright project in Guatemala. Earlier this month, I met with education specialists of the German Technical Cooperation (Deutsche Gasellschaff für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ) and learned about the Education for Life and Work (Educacion para la Vida y el Trabajo, EDUVIDA), a joint initiative with the Ministry of Education of Guatemala. As primary education enrollment has improved over the years in this post-war country , this program is the first attempt to contribute to the improvement of secondary education in rural, indigenous, and poverty-impacted communities. EDUVIDA aims at developing competencies for life and work around 2 pillars: citizenship and enterprise development.

The German technical cooperation in Guatemala started during the 1980s in the context of the Peace Accords. In July 2013, agency priorities were redefined to focus programs in rural regions with a high presence of indigenous peoples and poverty, particularly Quiche, Huehetenango, Alta/Baja Verapaz, Chiquimula (Jocotan), including areas populated by Chorti communities. Although, in the past, GIZ emphasis has been on primary education, significant advances have been done in enrollment in primary school. The major challenges are related to retention in the educational system, particularly on the number of students completing primary education and moving into secondary education.

Inequality in access to education by rural, indigenous communities is a serious social problem in Guatemala. Communities in GIZ geographical coverage areas lack secondary education because secondary schools are concentrated in the cities and departmental headquarters. Besides, there is a significant gap in the number of years of education between the overall population (6 years) and indigenous people (4 years), as compared to overall population (6 years) and indigenous women (2 years); this is in spite of the fact that the retention rate in all levels of education is better among women than men. A partnership of educators from the U.S. and Guatemala summarizes this problem in the following manner: The question, “Is education universal, equally accessible to all and of the same quality for all the children in Guatemala?” must be answered in the negative! (Asociacion Avivara). The U.S. Agency for International Development confirms the following:

In Guatemala, more than two million out-of-school youth between the ages of 15 and 24, including 600,000 in the Western Highlands, do not have basic life or vocational skills to enter the workforce.  Youth face increasingly difficult conditions, including high levels of unemployment, social and economic marginalization, rapid urbanization, increasing crime, and lack of basic services.  Long-term, sustainable development and improved equity in Guatemala will only be possible if education of children and youth continues to improve (U.S. AID Guatemala – Education).

The Government of Guatemala has committed to implement EDUVIDA through integrated reform, which is contained in 12-15 regulations. The program involves the use of a participatory (bottom-up) approach with workshops with teachers, and giving voice to the youth through the school governance boards. The first congress of school governance boards with 180 schools was organized with the Ministry of Education and held in March 2016 with the participation of Jimmy Morales, the new President of Guatemala. Although expert knowledge is used, knowledge is socially constructed; so that, experts become facilitators of the knowledge formation process. The program has a logic of reflexive practice, and it aims at the formation of communities of learning and knowledge.

The GIZ recognizes that there is no labor market in certain regions of Guatemala, and thus the first phase of EDUVIDA emphasizes training young people to work collaboratively in creating job opportunities for themselves. The program is not about training youth to work for rich families Guatemala or to become “better” migrants -more qualified workers migrating. The program aims at strengthening the associative micro-enterprise model, which implies de-stigmatizing cooperative forms of work, and promoting producer associations. Enterprise development is not just the generation of economic profits, it is about cultural and recreational development, forging values such solidarity, partnership, and associative forms of organization.

The program is organizing a national competition for youth enterprise development, which will provide grants to associative youth projects. Closing for submitting projects will be June 17, 2016; those selected (10) will get technical assistance as a form of accompaniment to the implementation. A second phase of EDUVIDA will begin July 17, 2016 and it will focus on citizenship development. The program components will be (1) education advocacy from the local to the national level; (2) curriculum development on citizenship; and (3) training in citizenship and professional development of teachers through a blended learning program. An E-learning program is already being implemented in coordination with the San Carlos University of Guatemala (USAC) through the Professional School for Teachers of Secondary Education (EFPEM), and scholarships are available to secondary education teachers to attend a Specialization Program for  Quality and Equity in the Formation of Educators of Secondary Education.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the context in which the vocational education program developed by the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG) has evolved. That includes this innovative program that the Guatemalan official educational system is implementing with the support of the German Technical Cooperation (GIZ). I’ll be reporting more on this work since a representative from GIZ is scheduled to participate in the second seminar on youth at risk that I’m organizing in partnership with the UVG.

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