By Maria Aguirre
What is Enlaces?
Enlaces is an ICT program first introduced in 1992 by the Ministry of Education of Chile. First as a pilot, and then as a national educational program in Chile, its main objective was to improve the access to technology in public schools. In that sense it aimed to reduce the existent gap between the technological services that students from private and public schools get. The program was thought to motivate not only students from under-resourced schools, but to encourage teachers to promote learning in “modern” ways. In the video, the program Enlaces is introduced, portraying how fourth graders are highly motivated by the positive effects of ICT in their learning processes. Teachers also have the opportunity to describe how students’ examinations have improved over time, and what other positive effects are noticeable in their schools, since the program has been introduced..
Enlaces and its impacts over education in Chile
Chile is a middle-income country with impressive socioeconomic indicators if compared with its regional peers. In the educative field they were the pioneers of introducing ICTs as a tool for learning. A pilot which rapidly grew into a national program was set to create technological access to students from public schools as a way to diminish the gap from those of private, more privileged schools.
In 2008, at least 87% of the school body in Chile had access to ICT thanks to this initiative; with an expected ratio of 10 students per computer (2010), one of the most crucial aspects of Enlaces is its appropriate educational content which includes the Chilean curriculum –supported by the state educational portal Educarchile-.
Among the most important impacts of the introduction of ICTs in Chilean education, according to Enlaces, is the increasing awareness “of the importance of ICT in education” and the new competencies developed by the students which are more related to “XXI century skills”. Under a functionalist point of view, Chile is doing a good job by seeking for its students a broader chance to get timely-appropriate skills by means of the use of ICTs. Functionalism perceives education as a way in which students, no matter their backgrounds or their strata, can achieve the same opportunities than their more privileged peers. Moreover, as students get the chance to improve their learning process, they are expected to improve their academic records and do better on standards examinations. This ultimately leads to a meritocratic-based system, in which all the students have the same opportunities. Even though there are many contradictors to this theory –like conflict theory-, I consider that in this case ICTs are actually affecting in a positive way the range of possibilities and options that a public school student has.. If their access to ICTs were to be neglected, their motivation and their contact with a wider range of information would decline, ultimately affecting their possibilities to succeed in both educative system and market place.
The impact of ICT has not only enhanced the experience of Chilean students; teachers are more aware of educational improvements globally and connect to other educators, actively participating through virtual communities. Educational administrators have also benefited; by having a system with easy access, administrators can track student records. This set of experiences facilitates the inclusion of international standards in education; furthermore, Chilean students are building wider knowledge about international development and considering expanded advancement options, like applying to a foreign university.
One of the challenges of Enlaces is that because it started so early, rapid technological advances make it difficult for public policy officials to maintain the technology at a quick enough pace. Some are concerned that it is not suitable to sustain upcoming technological progress. For example, they built appropriate, large laboratories in order to support large desk computers but now, with the increasing use of handheld devices like personal laptops and e-readers at very affordable prices, these laboratories may become dated or unnecessary. . But, that is the price of technology! With constant changes, policy makers and administrative educators need to be at the very forefront of massive technological updates so they can constantly improve the effectiveness for schools.. Sounds expensive and challenging, right? Yet, along with great technological improvements usually also are more affordable prices, especially for educative meanings; so let’s hope that Latin American countries keep the leadership from their neighbors Chile, Uruguay and Brazil and from international success cases like India and some African countries.
Linking up with Enlaces (Chile), World Bank Blogs on Octuber 29, 2009. goo.gl/crq0K
Enlaces Program, the experience of Informatics Education in Chile, Chilean Ministry of Education. goo.gl/GAC2N