Aaron Rodriquez-Amaya, Intern 2016-2017
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Albert Einstein was a hundred percent right. The educative system, as it is today, creates inequalities for children wanting access to quality education. In my experience, quality education comes with money. I’ve been exposed to schools that had not enough academic resources to give the appropriate information to their students in Canada and in El Salvador, being a high school basketball coach and visiting my family in El Salvador while growing up. If school becomes boring to the student because (s)he doesn’t have access to quality education, staying in primary or secondary levels, or continuing to College and University isn’t enticing for the student. Thereby, these students do not have the same chances to achieve their dreams without a strong foundation given by quality education. I never realized how lucky I was to be in school until I met Juan in the summer of 2005 in El Salvador. We were both 15 and he would come to my grand-parents’ place to sell some deserts, because that was his job since he was 12 years old; he would walk all day with pan dulce and quesadillas to sell in the streets of San Miguel, El Salvador. This meant that he was not going to school anymore because his family did not have the means to pay for school, so he had to provide for his family. I feel like I was lucky enough to have received quality education because of my parents’ sacrifices, but not all children have the same opportunity. Juan did not.
Ensuring free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education as well as equal accessibility for all is, among others, an important aspect of the UN’s sustainable development goals to arrive to a better world in 2030. Unfortunately, school is not assured for most kids in the world, and not all schools offer quality education. Many, like Juan, are faced with the decision to leave school because of economic reasons. Many statistics prove that an enormous amount of kids don’t go to school (57 million as of right now in primary school) or are not even learning the most basic skills they need to succeed in life (38% of children worldwide in our current education system). Equal access to good education is directly linked to economical and societal inequality, so not all children will have the chance to go to a good school that provides good teachers, installations, programs and academic resources to maximise learning. What can we do in this unequal system to save children from bad education ? Going back to the same educative system would be counter-productive. Therefore, we need to find inclusive educational programs to provide better accessibility to quality education for all; Buen Vivir and Open Education are two examples of such programs.
Buen Vivir is a Latin American life philosophy that is rooted in the Quechua people’s view, sumak kawsay : it means a way of living that is centred around the community, being ecologically respectful, maintaining the importance of culture and getting away from the individualism that was brought by capitalism. It is about developing a sense of the collective, the union of the community to live in a different structural system.
Buen Vivir offers a simpler goal for kids, one that is not stained with colonialist education systems. Teaching such ways of life in school is going against today’s structural educational system, because it stays away from unequal social classes and is centered around the community. Therefore, rich and poor can follow Buen Vivir as quality education; it doesn’t leave anyone behind. Ecuador incorporated this way of life into their constitution, to be in touch with their indigenous traditions and ‘’to build a new form of public coexistence, in diversity and in harmony with nature, to achieve the good way of living.” It is a direct critique to the consequences capitalism of Northern countries bring to communities in Latin America, resulting in economic inequality and further inequality to access quality education. In this way of educating social behavior and prioritize community values, students would have equal access to the same type of education, whether they are rich or poor, and the importance put on individual property and values would be replaced by a sense of the collective.
At the very least, if latin american countries would follow Ecuador’s leadership with constitutionalising Buen Vivir, social and economic inequality would not automatically mean the marginalisation of poorer kids to access quality education because the quality of what is being taught would accessible to all, and all would have a social responsability to help others succeed. It is in the philosophy and now in Ecuador’s constitution. Installing such a way of education for our future generations might ‘’enlighten’’ future leaders of Latin America to think the system in a communal way, without giving power to hierarchical structures and money, and providing all children with the opportunity to go to school and learn great communal values. In the short run, this will aid communities normally removed from opportunities to good schooling because of poor income to access better education. In the long run, it might be a recipe of success to get out of the shackles of economical colonisation with capitalism, a powerful structural system that is still being felt in today’s Latin America, which is the cause of disparity within its civil society.
Open Education is a movement that has the mission of reaching out to all students with quality and free education, using the internet. It is based on sharing good information for accessibility to education. Simply put, it is the early 2000’s Napster of education, without the viruses. It is a digital gathering of information on the web on diverse courses, subjects, interests professors, students, experts put on a database for anyone to look at, freely.
Open Education is another way to access quality education without coming from a privileged environment, because it requires absolutely no costs from students. There are some institutions in the world that give that service to students, such as the Thompson Rivers University, Open Learning in Canada, with a recognized certification (in health science, business administration, general studies, tourism, nursing, etc.) at the end of the academic journey. Open education offers the possibility for anyone with good academic content to post their classes or lectures on the web (with podcasts, or live streaming), and using today’s technology to reach out to the world. Also, by constantly sharing information and different ways to implements accessible education, all outdated material or school subject evolves and gets constantly better. Through comparison with other traditional quality classes and assessment of those courses, this program maintains quality to its content.
One could argue that to be able to follow those classes, a student would need wifi and an electronic device, which would again mark the line between the rich and the poor. However, battling inequality in the education system also means finding funds to provide all students with quality learning tools such as computers and internet to connect to Open Education. A number of international and local actors could be petitioning to make accessibility to computers and internet for under-privileged communities around the world feasible (it can come through international aid, or local NGOs accumulating resources to achieve these simple goals). For all organizations that are making their priority to upgrade the education system, this would be a tangible goal to start with.
We need to make sure that accessibility to quality education is inclusive and doesn’t create inequalities. Einstein was right, if we keep funding the actual educational system, the same problem of disparity within societies will live on and not all children will have the same opportunities, just like Juan in El Salvador, and the millions of kids just like him in the world.
Buen Vivir and Open Education are two feasible ways governments can look at and implement in their local education to give all their young minds equal opportunity to expand and learn.