Giving teachers the power to improve school life in Chile

27 November 2017

Chilean teachers at University of Waikato.

The freedom and creativity of education in New Zealand has been a revelation for two Chilean teachers.

They are part of a group of 20 teachers from the Araucania region, spending a month at the University of Waikato’s Pathways College, immersing themselves in New Zealand culture and getting new skills. It is the first time the programme has been run.

The Chilean Government has paid for them to come to the Waikato as part of its English Opens Doors programme . The aim is to improve their English and their English teaching skills. They have also been getting an insight into learning and teaching in a multicultural environment.

Karina Solar has been teaching for four years, working with children from pre-school up to 14 years, in what she describes as a poor rural area with a high population of indigenous Mapuche people. She says they have been struggling to maintain the language and culture, so seeing how Māori is approached in this country has been a great opportunity. “We’re getting lots of tools to improve our reality, and to take back home and change the way we and others teach.”

Joaquin Muñoz has been teaching for 5 years, and says like his colleague he is used to working in vulnerable communities, where he also has to take the roles of social worker, counsellor and sometimes parent. During a visit to a local Hamilton primary school he was taken with the freedom the pupils had to laugh and talk, and even do things like sit on the floor. “I want to go back home and teach my students to enjoy language, because that is what happens in New Zealand - kids love going to school.”

The Waikato Pathways College Director Dr Chelsea Blickem says one of the reasons University of Waikato was chosen was because the Chilean Ministry of Education valued the indigenous education thread built into all the programmes. She says a staff member will travel to Araucania next year to see how they are implementing and sharing what they have learnt, as well consult more widely with educators in the region.

The next group of 20 teachers from Chile are expected in March.