The impact of the current pandemic on the Argentine educational system not only clearly exposed its deficiencies but also promises aggravate them. The increase in school dropout, a major deterioration in learning and deepening the inequity will be, for the president and founder of Proyecto Educar 2050, Manuel Alvarez Trongé, some of the main challenges that the post-pandemic school will face.
Lawyer and university professor, Alvarez Trongé seeks, through his organization, to influence public policies so that Argentine education achieves its full potential and can be located among the best in the world before the middle of the century. In that sense, from his point of view, the current context also served to remind us of the enormous social role that the school institution plays. “One cannot replace everything that school implies with computers,” he says convinced.
However, it recognizes that the conditions are not right for the back to the classrooms at the AMBA. “Yes, it seems to me that all efforts must be made in those schools and in those places in our territory where the conditions are in place to start returning,” he urges.
Before the pandemic, the Argentine educational system had great problems in terms of equity and quality of learning. What is left to wait for the day after?
There are enormous risks in the increase in school dropouts, in the deterioration of learning and in the deepening of inequality.
Do you have estimates of the level of abandonment?
Unicef estimates that more than one million students will drop out. But it is very difficult to pin down today because time continues to pass and this does not change.
What could be done to get those kids back or to prevent them from dropping out?
One of the things we could do is meetings with the students at school, with protocols, with different sequences. That the boys have the possibility of returning, even if it is 10, 20, 50, in their open patios, with one meeting per month in the last quarter so that they see that the link with the school was not cut.
One cannot help but remember the controversy that a few weeks ago was generated between the City and the Nation for the intention to return to classes some six thousand Buenos Aires boys. Are the conditions in place for that return?
In the AMBA, for me, the conditions are not given. It is a time of great risk, where going back to classes as we thought is practically impossible. It does seem to me that every effort must be made in those schools and in those places in our territory where the conditions are in place to start returning. There have been some cases and others have had to go back as happened in Jujuy or San Juan. But it seems to me that all effort and creativity are necessary.
Wouldn’t it be simpler and safer to give computers and guarantee connectivity to kids who never connected?
You cannot replace everything that school entails with computers. There are many obstacles in technology-mediated education. There are those who do not have water or electricity. There are those who do not have Internet but have television or radio. There are those who have connectivity but they have it only half, with problems. Replacing true education, which is not only the transmission of knowledge but also the criteria necessary to apply that knowledge, and that transmission is often with a hand on the shoulder, is quite complex.
Having a netbook and free connectivity would come close to a solution in many of those cases that you list.
It would contribute enormously, but the ability to use the Internet is also required, those inquiries that children make to a mother or father with something they do not understand, that time that the mother or father have to have to dedicate to education of their children as a substitute for the teacher, all these are small obstacles or steps that open up in this problem of distance education.
Taking into account that we do not know how long the pandemic is going to continue and that what it is going to leave us with is a hybrid education model, would it be expected that the Ministry of Education invests more in technology and the provision of connectivity not only for students but also for teachers?
Yes, I think it is to be expected and we should claim it, because it cannot be that this happens to us again. But much efficiency and alliances are also needed because there are systems, platforms, institutions that can help and attentive to the dimension of the gravity of the moment, education unites us as a Homeland, as a country.
What is your opinion on the national management of the education system during the pandemic?
The most remarkable thing was that, after the collision with the Covid-19 iceberg, the lifeboat that was the distribution of booklets, television programs, the opening of distance education systems with different platforms quickly went out. Where I do believe that what was possible was done was when we found that the Connect Equality Plan had not been fulfilled and that there were computers that had not been distributed. I think that now there is also another problem that is that of ideology, which makes any of these things look politically. So if some places decide to start classes, this is seen in terms of: “it’s the opposition.” And that is a mistake. We could fight for anything, but that there are ideological differences that make education is serious as a country.
Have the teachers had adequate support in this context?
No. There may be exceptions, but all of this took them by surprise, and added work to them. Almost all of them answered this way in the survey developed by the Ministry of Education. Even a significant percentage have connectivity problems. With which they had to tackle this task of teaching remotely without being prepared, with many schedules that overlapped them, and also trying to maintain this link that we talked about before through WhatsApp, with videos or we also have some heroes that They go to visit their students because they don’t contact them.
Is the vaccine a necessary precondition to retake the face-to-face classes?
Without a doubt, in the most dangerous places, such as the AMBA in our country, we are going to give absolute priority to health, but we have to think of systems that are very different from the normal ones to reinforce the link with the school to attack the great enemy that we have to it is school dropout.
Everything would indicate that the vaccine will not be available in March.
I believe that both 2020 and 2021 are going to be very cross-cuttingly impacted by the pandemic. Furthermore, when the vaccine arrives in the country, how is it going to be distributed, how are we going to make it reach all the country’s students as a priority? You are with things that we already have to be discussing in this matter of putting education as a priority.
Is that being discussed?
I know that some guidelines have been discussed in the Federal Educational Council, such as the joint consideration of the evaluation.
What do you think of the decision to consolidate a bloc between 2020 and 2021 and this year’s promotion?
I agree not to do a traditional evaluation, that the evaluation is more formative than anything else. In 2021, a lot of content that was not given will have to be recovered. Yes, it seems important to me to be behind that so that a clean slate is not made.
Many parents think this has been a lost year. What would you say to those parents?
I would tell you that this is a year in which we have had a global pandemic that affected 1.5 billion students and that, like everything in life, we have to learn to detect the experience or the opportunity of the crisis. They probably cannot learn mathematics in fifth grade or second year, but they can learn literature, reading, or dealing with film or novels, social-emotional skills are also important to work on and can be worked on, with which I would not give it up. lost. We have to assume with great resilience the possibility that mothers and fathers also collaborate in other aspects of what education is. Do not give up early. We have to help the school.
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