“We have learned that Twitter plays an important role in communicating with our movement and informing the public. Educación2020 originated as a social movement, so Twitter is vital to keeping citizens engaged and to help us know what their main concerns are regarding education.” – María Fernanda Ramírez Espinoza, Chile
Innovation in education takes many forms, and as we have discussed here at Daily Edventures, often times that is simply a function of where you live. For María Fernanda Ramírez Espinoza, a native Chilean, her goal was clear: “I have always been interested in alleviating poverty and promoting the sustainable development of my country,” says Espinoza. “I believe that education is a fundamental cornerstone in achieving these two goals. However, our education system is very unequal and segregated.”
So Espinoza took action. In 2008, she, along with a professor and a group of students, started a citizens’ movement and set an ambitious goal for Chile’s school system (which is the second most segregated school system in the world): “By 2020 the poorest 20 percent of students will receive the same education as the richest 20 percent.” Educación 2020 was born. They now boast over 80,000 members and are the most followed organization on Twitter in Chile.
Educatión 2020 works to promote public policies that aim to achieve this change and mobilize people to demand it. According to Espinoza, in Chile, “rather than representing a pathway out of poverty, the system perpetuates differences originating from birth. Changing this situation is important to me as I have had the opportunity of a good education and I would like all Chileans to have the same opportunities that I have had. I want them to feel that if they try, they will have all of the tools they need to develop and prosper.”
A fundamental part of the Educación 2020 strategy is to work directly with schools and supporters, experience that allows the foundation to better understand the Chilean educational reality and implement its proposals locally.
Today, she shares her experience in helping to ignite the Educación 2020 movement, and discusses how technology is transforming her work, and the education system in her country. Enjoy!
Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?
Working with Educación2020, I have helped to change the way my country talks about education. We have developed new ways to inform citizens about what is happening with education and to carry their voice and concerns to the authorities that make decisions. For instance, as a result of our efforts, Chileans are now able to write to their representatives about different policy proposals being debated in congress, having a say in the decisions that will affect their lives (http://www.educacion2020.cl/actua).
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
There are a number of ways technology supports our work. We have learned that Twitter plays an important role in communicating with our movement and informing the public. Educación2020 originated as a social movement, so Twitter is vital to keeping citizens engaged and to help us know what their main concerns are regarding education. We have developed a Twitter following of over 130,000 people and are one of the most followed organizations in Chile.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
The Internet. When I was in school (eight years ago), the Internet wasn’t big in Chile. But right now, the kids have all the content they need on their smartphones, and that has changed the teacher’s role from an information provider to a facilitator. For teachers, it a constant challenge.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
Creativity and innovation. Chile is a country that has advanced a lot in economic progress, but our economy is still based in the extraction of natural resources. If we are not able to add value to our products, a lot of our citizens will be condemned to low-skill jobs. We can change that if we teach our kids to think out of the box and find new ways to use their abilities.
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
“You could be doing better but your notebooks are too unorganized. We are going to work on improving your organization,” said Tía Wilda, my second grade teacher. I took her advice and two months later my grades rose a whole point. My teacher had the capacity to see the one small thing that was holding me back in my development and gave me the support that I needed to overcome that obstacle.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A tablet device, so they can explore according to their own interests. A kid’s curiosity can take them far… if you don’t believe me, I suggest you read: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/506466/given-tablets-but-no-teachers-ethiopian-children-teach-themselves/
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
In the past 20 years, investment in education has increased tremendously: total spending in education has almost doubled since 1990, going from a 3.9 percent of the GDP to 6.4 percent. Schools are better equipped, and the majority of kids go to school today: 94 percent of kids between the ages of five and 14 go to school. Education is mandatory from K to 12.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
For our students to thrive in the 21st century our education needs to be redesigned from its base. Right now, we think of education as the process where the teacher pours information into a student’s mind (usually involving a blackboard and students sitting and silent). To teach our kids creativity and collaboration, we have to change the way we set up classrooms, and remodel the relationship between teachers and students.
About María Fernanda Ramírez Espinoza
- Birthplace: Santiago, Chile
- Current residence: Santiago, Chile
- Education: Industrial Engineer, MsC in applied microeconomics
- Website I check every day: www.bbc.co.uk, www.twitter.com
- Person who inspires me most: Jesus
- Favorite music: Bosanova and Indie Rock.
- What is the best advice you have ever received?: “Hay que sumar y no restar” (it translates into: “It is better to add than to subtract”).
- Your favorite quote or motto: “Be the change you want to see in the world” -Mahatma Gandhi