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Webinar #5 dealt with the theme of interculturality in the classroom, based on research in Ecuador

Participants from different parts of Latin America joined the fifth session of Thematic Webinars organized by CO+INCIDE. On this occasion, the theme of the meeting was "How Interculturality in Education is Approached in Latin America", regarding which the teachers and researchers from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Dinora Hidalgo and Sonia Peña, shared the study they have carried out on the subject.

The presentation was also commented by the director of the Ph.D. in Education Program of Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación (UMCE) from Chile, Nolfa Ibáñez, who stressed the importance of deepening the situation of bilingual cross-cultural education in its political aspect as well as in the professional development of teachers.

The educational challenge of interculturality. A view from Ecuador

Researcher Dinora Hidalgo presented an overview of cross-cultural education in Latin America. She stressed that beyond the differences in concepts applied within this area, the acknowledgement and visibility of the different ethnic groups living in the region is the most relevant. This way, she added, “education systems have the responsibility and the challenge of understanding and attending to the diversity of cultures and, with them, everything that resists hegemonic proposals.”

Drawing on the experience of the Ecuadorian education system, Hidalgo explained how it works with interculturality, incorporating it into institutional pillars such as the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador and the Organic Law on Intercultural Education, in order to arrive at the model of the Bilingual Intercultural Education System (MOSEIB, for its acronym in Spanish), which contains guidelines for schools serving populations with recognized nationalities or ethnic groups. These guidelines apply to modalities of Community-Based Family Infant Education, General Primary Intercultural Bilingual Education and a General Unified Intercultural Bilingual High School Education. Likewise, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, through the Dialogue of Knowledge project, has the mission of strengthening and promoting the recovery of ancestral knowledge in coexistence with scientific and technological knowledge, through the transversalization of interculturality and the dialogue of knowledge in higher education.

For her part, researcher Sonia Peña elaborated on the understanding of Bilingual Intercultural Community Centers (CECIB), based on a field study led jointly with the IKA School, located in Yasuní National Park. This organization serves primary education students from the Waorani community, and has teachers of Kichwa origin who were assigned to the school by the Ministry of Education, who do not know the language of origin of their students. The study reveals relevant elements in this educational context: For example, teachers report a feeling of discrimination and perception of disrespect by the community, which does not validate their teacher profile to educate their children. At the same time, students receive repeated and improvised external visits, in which decontextualized activities are imposed on them, which generates the feeling of being continuously observed and questioned. These dynamics have led to communication difficulties between the school and the community, and little collaboration of the latter in the activities of the school.

On the other hand, the study states that the context of pollution and exploitation generated by the presence of the oil industry that ravages the area, has led the community to perceive education as an opportunity to access livelihood resources, expressing the desire to obtain benefits and resources inherent to urban life. However, when following up on the students who manage to enter the university in the capital city, they are seen to face difficulties regarding academic demands and conceptual work, since they are inserted in a context that does not respect the diversity of worldviews and knowledge of the different peoples either. The conclusion is that intercultural education is something that must be built in a time and a common space of dialogue of knowledge, for mutual acknowledgement.

Classroom work does not embrace indigenous feelings and meanings

The presentations were followed by the expert commentary of Nolfa Ibañez, academic, researcher and director of the PhD in Education Program at Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación (UMCE) in Chile, with extensive experience in intercultural education.

The academic stressed the importance of generating research in this area and the contribution of researchers to the visualization of the state of bilingual intercultural education in its political aspects as well as regarding the professional development of teachers. She emphasized the problems associated with the official system of educational evaluation, “based on a one-voiced epistemological foundation”. On this, she highlighted the importance of advancing in new solutions as opposed to standardized evaluations of western epistemology, which do not account for interculturality. In her opinion, in order to move in this direction, it is necessary to have a greater understanding of the opinion of parents and teachers regarding the results of the official evaluation applied to their students, so as to identify cultural aspects that are invisible to the system, and that in some cases lead to wrong conclusions regarding the learning outcomes of students and educational centers.

These comments were complemented by research conducted in Chile by the research team led by Nolfa Ibáñez. Among the results obtained, it stands out how the senses and meanings that indigenous children bring to school are neither welcomed nor incorporated into the pedagogical work in the classroom. Likewise, her research on the Intercultural Bilingual Education Program (PEIB) in Chile has shown that there are no significant differences in the curricular implementation made by teachers in schools with and without PEIB, and that at the same time, due to the way the educational system is structured, traditional Mapuche teachers and educators develop a classroom practice that is disconnected from their own worldview. To reverse this situation, the team is innovating in teacher training, developing an Indigenous Intercultural Education Professorship, transversal to careers and faculties of the university, and where interculturality is presented in equal conditions and students have access to different ways of doing things and building knowledge.

The virtual chat concluded with an interesting dialogue with the participants of the meeting, including representatives of institutions from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. There, questions and comments were raised on problems linked to the clash of the official system of educational evaluation with the ethnic groups in question; didactic situations that consider the different forms of understanding of each type of knowledge were also exemplified, and the interest in generating a working group that can elaborate educational policy recommendations that contribute to the consideration of these dimensions within the official system was recognized.

About the researchers:

Dinora Hidalgo is a professor and researcher at Pontificia Universidad de Ecuador, PUCE. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational and Social Projects from Universidad Central de Ecuador. She has a degree in Anthropology and Andragogy from PUCE.

Sonia Peña is a professor and researcher at Pontificia Universidad de Ecuador, PUCE. She has a PhD in Education, a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education and a B.A., Vocational Training and Language Teaching from the University of Granada.

Nolfa Ibañez is a professor, researcher and director of the Doctorate in Education at Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación (UMCE). She holds a PhD in Education from Academia de Humanismo Cristiano and the Interdisciplinary Research Program in Education; Master in Education, with a major in Differential Education from UMCE.