Latin America has a poor educational infrastructure. Consequently, elementary, middle, and high school students are suffering. 74 million Latin Americans (about 12.4% of the region’s population) live on less than $2 per day. Over half of them are children. This is a real problem.
Fixing problems within the educational system is one hell of a task, but all hopes are not lost. At Pure Vibes Global, we are working to make a difference. We felt compelled, inspired, and driven to start a project that empowers children in Colombia using a holistic education approach focused on bilingualism.
In Colombia, the low quality of education is generally due to corruption, socio-economic differences, and lack of educational funding. Education quality is even lower in violent, distant, or state-forgotten territories. This results in high levels of illiteracy and dropout rates throughout the country.
Nearly 50% of the country lives below the poverty level. English Academies can cost a parent
$300-$500 USD a week per child. The average Colombian’s salary per month is around $326 USD. Families simply do not have enough money to feasibly send their children to English Academies.
"The gap between Colombia's urban and rural areas has led to inadequacies in the educational infrastructure. Many Colombians in rural areas do not have the basic conditions to enjoy the education system and finish high school."
University of Los Andes report by Laura Gutiérrez Avila on April 3, 2019
According to the Ministry of National Education (MEN), all educational institutions must offer a foreign language program. Most schools across the country teach English, however, this is not enough. Many Colombian students are far from bilingual.
In this year’s English Proficiency Index (EPI), an annual global study on bilingualism was released by the Switzerland-based organization, EF Education First. Colombia is ranked the 77th country out of 100 for english skill and proficiency, with less than 5% of the population considered bilingual.
Pure Vibes Global has launched a project featuring 100% free English classes for children and adolescents residing in rural territories of Medellin, Colombia. We know that statistics show education in Colombian’s rural areas is poor, and even more so concerning English lessons. We are fighting to make a change.
Initially, the project was intended to teach English in person at Casa Mamá Margarita foundation, an all girls nun’s school located in the city of Medellin. The girls at the school come from high-risk areas filled with abuse, drugs, and prostitution. The foundation offers them protection and education. However, we were unable to complete an agreement with Casa Mamá Margarita’s Principal and board of directors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools and institutions were required to shut down for safety purposes.
The pandemic did not stop PVG’s initiative to help Colombian children from rural areas develop their English proficiency. PVG understood quite simply, more English = more opportunities. PVG’s holistic English curriculum allows children to empower themselves and see the future much differently than their parents or environment might teach them to.
Like many other organizations around
the world, Pure Vibes had to reassess
how they would operate day to day in response to
the pandemic. After a rigorous evaluation of options, and because of the poor
socioeconomic conditions endured by the girls, it was deemed no longer
possible to implement our in-person English program. PVG aims to resume the project with Casa Mamá Margarita when it is safe to go back to face-to-face classes.
The Road To More Opportunity Finally Begins..
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pure Vibes Global was forced to pivot its strategy for English development in Colombia. Here is what we did:
First, PVG was required to take into consideration the fact that children from rural areas may have limited access to the internet. To combat this, PVG reached out to their contacts throughout the Antioqueño territory for help. With their help, it became possible to reach out to parents who were willing to allow their children to join the virtual classes.
In April 2020, an adventure began. Though the challenges of Covid-19 created setbacks for, it finally became possible to reach 11 children from the Colombian villages of Briseño, Yarumal, San Pedro, and Medellin.
The program’s curriculum is based on the process of metacognition. The entire organization of the class is centered on learning, self-assessment, and stimuli. Students are not graded numerically. Instead, their advances are based on constant feedback and Power Cards.
To offer a comprehensive and personalized education experience for the students, our teachers implemented the studies of Harvard Psychologist, Howard Gardner. Gardner’s study tested students' cognitive abilities to formulate and demonstrate Multiple Intelligences. Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences proposes that people are not born with all of the intelligence
they will ever have. This theory challenged the traditional notion that there is one single type of intelligence, sometimes known as “g” for general intelligence, that only focuses on cognitive abilities. The results from the assessments were then used to understand each student based on their cognitive abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. With the test results of each student, the
With the Power Cards, teachers assess the most efficient way for each student to learn. Also, the cards give insight on how to make the learning process more fun and stimulating for each individual student.
Let’s take a student who has musical intelligence as an identified strength. It would be beneficial for this student to practice English by listening to music. Teachers can even encourage the student to further develop their progression by singing or playing an instrument in the target language. Education becomes more holistic and personal for each child this way .
• The student's name appears on the top banner, "Jeronimo".
• Right below his name is his group name, "The Conquerors".
• A personalized avatar with a background featuring what the student enjoys most.
• A name they choose themselves with which they identify- "The Energy Miner".
• Their birthday "23/04", and what they aspire to be when they grow up, "Lawyer".
• The Power Cards also show the test results of the eight identified multiple intelligence categories.
• The Power Cards also contain an incentive-driven Star Section that is updated monthly.
• The teacher gives a student a star if they showed understanding and satisfactory completion for the five topics of the month.
• The Power Card makes it easier for teachers to give holistic feedback. This is great for students because it helps them learn in an effective and personalized manner.
Another way to incentivize students is through positive stimuli, so we created the "Student of the Month Model". The teachers have the ability to select a student based on the virtue of their commitment, responsibility, and overall advancement of the english language.
It has been five months and over 150 successful virtual classes since the launch of the English program, and we are happy to say the students' understanding of the english language has grown! Students have progressed from simple phrases such as a greeting or a farewell, to being able to say which career they want to pursue and why. They are able to understand longer messages, and they can comprehend when instructions are given to them in English.
Students have more mastery over the English language. They have built much self-confidence in a short amount of time, which is one of the main objectives of our english classes. The students are working steadily, and becoming more disciplined and autonomous in their learning processes.
The methodology used by our teachers is personalized, meaning that each student receives a personal teaching style catered to their natural strengths. This helps in forming genuine student-to-teacher connections.
Our follow-ups done on students' progress are nurturing and positive. The children have begun to empower themselves through the English language. How so?
One, they are learning to utilize their skills and talents, and are gaining the ability to apply them to other types of learning. Two, they know their advancements in English will not just serve as an opportunity for future employment, but allow them to open their minds to cultural,
social, conomic, and political subjects.
These little ones have learned to believe in their talents and their potential, and developed the drive to work towards a successful future.
Our classes have encouraged them not to limit themselves to stay in the territory they were born in.
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