We are the Integral Strategy to Improve Academic Achievement (la Estrategia Integral para la Mejora del Logro Educativo, EIMLE), a program within the Mexican Ministry of Education. We are revolutionizing schools throughout Mexico by focusing in on the core of teaching and learning and promoting relationships between people who know and people who want to learn.
To reform basic education in Mexico, nothing less than a revolution is necessary. Only 40% of primary school students were able to score within “good” or “excellent” categories in Spanish on the national state exam, ENLACE in 2011. In math, only 41% of the same population could score higher than the “basic” level. Results at the secondary level are even lower: 16% scored within excellent or good categories in math, and 17% in Spanish.
Though educators are very familiar with these statistics and can see students’ deficiencies within their classrooms, for many it is difficult to imagine how they might form part of a system that better attends to the diverse needs of their students. If a revolution is what is needed, then some educators might ask: how do we make it happen?
For EIMLE, the answer to this question starts with a simple idea: if you are interested in learning something, and someone who has already mastered the material is accompanying you as you work, you will learn. EIMLE promotes what we call tutoring relationships, or la relación tutora, dialogues with tutors that explore material with the end goal of teaching the student how to learn independently.
EIMLE’s coordinators and advisers visit and follow up with the 9,000 public schools around the country where over 50% of the students scored for three consecutive years far below proficient on standardized national tests. They plant the seed of tutorial relationships, working with school directors, teachers, students, and advisers in each state to expand its network of tutors and tutees. The methodology is revolutionary because it requires redefining what’s at the heart of teaching and learning, starting with the words “teacher” and “student.”
In the schools that have adopted tutoring relationships, teachers hardly ever stand at a blackboard delivering content. Instead, someone with deep knowledge of a process tutors a student who wants to learn that process. When you work with a tutor, you can’t hide in the back of the room, and you are always met at your level.
The army of tutors needed to teach students at 9,000 schools comes from inside the classrooms themselves. Program advisers and coaches tutor schoolteachers in the subtleties of a text (for language arts) or a problem (for mathematics) that is aligned with a national standard. The goal is not to train teachers in “math” or even “fractions” as general concepts, but to arm them with the tools they need to successfully reason through a specific exercise and clearly explain how they arrived at their answer.
Teachers use the same methods they experienced as tutees to tutor a few students in their class, one at a time. Once a few students solve the problem, they submit a written account of their process and make an oral presentation to demonstrate mastery. Then these students are considered qualified to tutor their classmates in the same problem; which they do, until everyone in the class has the ability to tutor that exercise.
The number of potential “teachers” in the room grows exponentially as student and teacher-tutors add problems and texts to their repertoires and as the pool of tutors is expanded to include parents and administrators. Adults tutor children, children tutor adults — so long as the tutor knows something that the tutee wants to know. These webs of tutors and tutees grow even larger when schools from different states come together for academic encounters which strengthen practice one tutoring session at a time.
What are some of our accomplishments?
Advisers from EIMLE’s national coordination carry out 90 visits monthly to teams working within tutoring networks at the state, regional, and school levels. In two years, we have promoted and facilitated 25,000 visits by 2,500 technical-academic advisers to the 9,072 schools that have been highlighted by the federal government as schools needing attention. During these visits, we help people on the ground develop independent learning habits and their mathematical and language comprehension, and boost academic achievement. Within the schools where we work, the percent of students scoring in the insufficient category has dropped from 59% in Spanish in 2009 to 45% in 2011 and from 71% in mathematics in 2009 to 51% in 2011.
Perhaps more indicative than statistics are the examples of the lives that have been touched by this method, stories which can be read and seen on this site.
For more information
Learning for Life in Mexican Rural Communities. The CONAFE Post-primary Experience, CONAFE, México, 2003.
Cámara, G (Ed) (2006) Enseñar y Aprender con Interés. Logros y testimonios en escuelas públicas, Siglo XXI Editores, México.
Cámara, G. (2008) Otra educación básica es posible. Siglo XXI Editores, México.
Cámara, G., Rincón-Gallardo, S., López, D., Domínguez, E., Castillo, A. (2003) Comunidad de Aprendizaje: Cómo hacer de la educación básica un bien valioso y compartido, Siglo XXI Editores, México.
Who made this site?
Meixi Ng and Sara Vogel, Fellows working with EIMLE and the organization Redes de Tutoría during the 2011-2012 school year. Editing by Pilar Herrera.