This is a great story about "Escuela Nueva" ("New School"), an award-winning model of schooling in rural Colombia founded by Vicky Colbert who has become an international rock star in education. I read this very closely to get a sense of what makes her model tick such that even urban contexts are adopting it. From what I can tell, it's partnership-based, learner-centered, sensory-rich, asset- and values-based, centered around such core values as expressed herein:
"At its best, Escuela Nueva aims to instill values — responsibility, tolerance, discipline, community — as much as academics. Due to the small class sizes and multi-grade classrooms (known as 'multigrados' in Colombia) common in rural areas, there are always a few students who finish their lessons first and a few that lag behind."
In a conversational and dialogical manner, Escuela Nueva cultivates such values of citizenship as leadership and autonomy that in turn occur through a strong focus on student government, as well as student “'work committees' that can include categories like sports and recreation, the environment, and even cleaning. Each group consists of a few representatives who plan events and activities."
With the help of Escuela Nueva's signature workbooks, I would guess, the teachers' role is primarily that of coach with teachers mentoring each other and meetings consisting more about "mentorship and open discussion" than detailed course planning. Though the schools appear to do well on standardized tests, test-prep is not their focus.
Rural education is a challenge everywhere and Vicky Colbert is making a huge difference. My main question is the role of culturally relevant, perhaps Indigenous or rural education. Are they educating children to ultimately leave the rural areas or to strengthen the local economies so that at least some students will remain in them and develop them. What specifically does the curriculum consist of?
Colbert's influences that have found their way into Escuela Nueva's teaching an curriculum, specifically, Montessori, John Dewey, and Vygotsky, certainly suggest learner-centered, experience-based, and socioculturally focused theoretical elements that appear to be making a difference.
Do read this in its entirety as it definitely has elements like teamwork and multiage grading, personalized learning, and student autonomy and leadership that we can apply here in the Texas and the U.S.
Thanks to my colleague, Tony Baez, for sharing.