The Minister of Education Nicolás Trotta maintains that
nowadays it is impossible to anticipate the date of the return to classes
and it recognizes that its work plan has a horizon of between three and four months. “We are working on a scheme to strengthen distance education. And also on the day after,” he says.
He says that at the beginning of March, his team began to elaborate educational contents, envisioning that the suspension of classes due to the pandemic by COVID-19 could occur in the medium term. But it happened just ten days later.
The strategy that the portfolio in his charge has been developing since then, he explains, takes as a parameter the most vulnerable home, the one that does not have connectivity or a computer. For this reason, the offer proposed by the ministry to strengthen that of each school in the country has a web presence -with free navigation-, television, radio and also print.
Almost one in two boys in our country is poor. What does it mean to learn when you live in poverty?
The challenge facing the educational system is to guarantee the greatest possible presence through the central institution of our system, which is the school. In the most vulnerable places, the school not only takes on the challenge of being a space for the creation of knowledge but also for breaking the enormous inequality and guaranteeing rights, such as the right to food. In this scenario, one observes that our educational system has suffered, since the recurrent crises in Argentina, enormous setbacks, because the school is not exempt from the general social situation. When poverty grows, it affects the learning processes themselves. A reality of equity, of social justice is an indispensable condition for learning. It is there where the school has to assume a much more marked presence to guarantee the right to education.
In the current context of a pandemic, did the State manage to guarantee the right to education for these children?
I believe that today is impossible. In no social sector can learning be guaranteed. We do have the obligation to deploy all possible initiatives because there are countless elements that guarantee the learning process. And at home it is very difficult. I am not speaking only in the most vulnerable households. We have a responsibility to be present and we have to think about all our educational policies within the framework of imagining the most vulnerable home. How do we cover all the possibilities in the different dimensions of this vulnerability, the social, the technological, and the educational capital of adults.
How would that be?
If we reach that child with television to organize, when television has a 95% penetration in our homes; by cell phone and browsing for free; On the radio or in printed notebooks, we are generating the greatest number of possibilities for an accompaniment process.
What does the accompaniment proposal they are developing consist of?
On the one hand, we have the portal
We continue educating
, which has resources for the family but also for the teacher and the student, and, on the other hand, we put together content for public television and for National Radio. We offer 14 hours of television per day with seven programs that appear on Public Television, on the Encuentro and Paka Paka channels, and are repeated on many others. With this we intend, knowing that the school is irreplaceable, to bring the classroom to the home. We establish a daily work schedule, both on television and in the seven radio programs that appear on Radio Nacional and its 49 repeaters, as well as on many private radio stations. At the same time, we made nine notebooks that cover three weeks of classes, from Wednesday, April 1 to Friday, 17. There we have a day-by-day schedule of activities for each of the moments of the school year that can be downloaded from the Web.
What options are available to those who do not have access to the Internet or a computer?
The portal is freely navigable based on the commitment of the three cell phone companies. That for us is an important step because in Argentina there are more cell phones than people. Together with television, they are the two technologies that are most present in every home. That it does not consume data does not solve, but it helps the possibility of entering the page from mobile phones. On the other hand, we are distributing 7,000,000 notebooks through the provinces, the Ministry of Social Development, in the dining rooms, by the different social movements, and can be withdrawn in some supermarkets located in the middle and popular sectors. This is complemented by all the work carried out by the schools themselves, the teacher, in their link with the student, and at the same time with that of each of the provincial jurisdictions.
What impact do you aspire to have with these measures?
We will find out only when we return to schools. And from there comes a new challenge that is linked to generating consensus on the path that our educational system must travel to guarantee all the knowledge of our students. Not only in the 2020 school year but in the dialogue of the 2020 school year with the 2021 school year, without cutting any content.
But it is likely that, when returning to class, the incorporation of knowledge during quarantine was very uneven. What is the work plan for when you return to the classroom?
We are working on that. We have a team that includes our Secretary for Educational Evaluation and Information, which is Gabriela Dicker, a renowned pedagogue; also Graciela Frigerio, who is another renowned pedagogue, and Adriana Puiggrós, who is my secretary for Education. I have delegated to the three of them the design of what the back-to-school strategy should be. Our main challenge is to do our utmost to prevent educational inequality from deepening. There are schools that have achieved that bond between the student and their teachers with a huge burden on families as well. I have three children of 12, 10 and 7 years old and they do not learn alone. They are not university students or they are in the last route of high school. And it is not easy to travel in the home even having a large part of the tools to do it.
But awareness in all households is not so clear about the importance of boys not losing continuity.
But sometimes it is not consciousness or having the elements. There are households that do not have the previous educational capital, do not have the knowledge of how to review that knowledge and many times it is compensated by the enormous commitment of the mother or father to accompany them. And there are also middle sectors, as also happens in all sectors of society where there is no interest for more than they have educational capital. For the learning process to take place, there has to be a lot of family commitment and that is not necessarily linked to what socioeconomic reality is, but to the look each adult has on the family. Because I observe many of the complaints that are received and it is the over-demand that the boys are going through, but that is more a medium sector agenda, to say the least.
How is all this proposal articulated with the work of the schools?
It articulates with the Federal Council of Education. We work with the 23 provinces and with the city of Buenos Aires and it is all complementary material that strengthens the possibility of school work. Many schools are using all the material that the Ministry does. All the contents that we work on are developed from the priority learning nuclei.
Is there an estimated date for returning to the classroom? The UBA announced that it will start classes on June 1.
It would boot.
I mean, it’s potential. Are there any tentative dates for primary and secondary?
Not yet. We are giving continuity to these notebooks that cover until Friday, April 17. We are already finishing the next batch that will cover the next three weeks to be able to distribute them throughout the country. And then I’m going to think three more weeks, and then another three more weeks, until the day I have the notebooks printed and the Committee of Experts tells us that we can go back to class. We will return when we are told that we are in a position to return. It is still too early to know that date because we have to see how the pandemic behaves in the northern hemisphere and from there see how long after the peak they can return to classes in Spain or Italy, and what ends up happening in the southern hemisphere. It is not an educational decision, it is an epidemiological decision.
Doesn’t decision-making make this time in three-week terms more complex?
We are thinking for three or four months. The development of the notebooks is every three weeks due to a production issue. I have 10 days ago the contentists without sleep. We are not sure when they will tell us when we can return.
It would be nice to have some certainty for the parent organization.
There are assumptions, but the expert committee does not have a strong statement. Even the UBA raises the possibility of June 1 but it is also unknown if it will be possible to return to classes on June 1. We are working on a whole scheme to strengthen distance education, with all its complexity and with the main challenge that is linked to what we are talking about: that inequality does not deepen. We are also working on the day after, when we can go back to school, in the accreditation of knowledge, in pedagogical continuity, from where we resume the year, and there is much to do there.