What happens when you place the child back at the heart of learning?
This simple philosophy was used to launch an experiment with the goal of improving eight poor rural Mexican public schools. Since 2009, the tutorial networks (as the grassroots initiative was called) have been leading a country-wide school improvement effort in 9000 schools with the lowest academic achievement on the national standard test. Today in Part 4 of “Education Is My Right,” we will explore what education reformers can learn from this unique and innovative strategy which has attained such positive results that it is now being supported by educators and policymakers in Mexico’s highly centralized system of public school education.
It is my pleasure to welcome to The Global Search For Education, Gabriel Cámara, the founder of Mexico City-based Convivencia Educativa (Educational Coexistence) A.C. and Redes de Tutoría S.C. (Mentoring Networks). I also asked Helen Janc Malone, author of Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform, which features Gabriel’s work, to weigh in. Helen is the Director of Institutional Advancement at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, DC.
Gabriel, please summarize the goals of the tutorial networks.
Tutorial networks in public schools are a means to obviate a major distortion imposed on learners by the predominant culture that determines the themes that teachers and students should learn, and the times within which they should be mastered. Instead of allowing the free encounter of interested learners with a competent mentor, standard practices in classrooms force impersonal recitations of content to generally passive audiences. The known effect is not only lack of interest in the particular subject being presented, but the missed opportunity to practice learning academic subjects in earnest, with commitment, visible results and satisfaction – the foundations of the enduring ability to learn by oneself. Contrary to common practice, tutorial relationships in a classroom facilitate the matching of what is of interest to each student with what is available in the mentor’s repertoire. The immediate objection, from the conventional perspective, is that it would be well-nigh impossible for one teacher to match the interest of every student in a large group, even if the teacher is knowledgeable and willing to help. Tutorial networks deflect the objection, as all members in the group learn from one another. Tutoring what one learns, and has shown to have mastered, becomes the occasion to learn in depth and to create a convivial community in the group.
Full story of the global search for education at the Huffington Post
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