Let Jorge Do It: An Approach to Rural Nonformal Education
The publication of this work marks the end of the first phase of a project to develop a new approach to rural, nonformal education in Ecuador. While there have been working documents and an ongoing series of Technical Notes, this is the first detailed statement of the project's philosophy, and a description of the wide variety of experimental activities that took place during the first two years of the project. The Author has succeeded in conveying the historical process of evolution by ideas and beliefs were tested and new ideas emerged from the testing. The project grew as an organic whole and is the product of a group of people, both Ecuadorean and North American, who shared a common set of beliefs and goals.
In the Nonformal Education in Ecuador Project, we set out to create materials and processes which would operationalize some of the emerging tenets of nonformal education. Project Design:
1. We developed learning materials usuable by nonprofessionals. These materials concentrated on literacy, math, and consciousness-raising. Most of our effort went into development of games, which oblige participation and encourage dialog.
2. We made agreements with six organizations to use the materials with our assistance. These included the department of Adult Education, a coop federation, an Ecuadorean volunteer organization, a training organization, community groups, and radio school program. About a dozen other groups made use of the materials on their own after an initial demonstration. We then monitored the use of materials and results obtained in the course of the year.
We have reached the following conclusions after the first year of the Ecuador Nonformal Education Project:
1. A felt need for literacy is a sufficient motivating force to bring a portion of the people in a campesino community together for daily meetings for a period of several months.
2. Campesinos without extensive training can conduct meetings of their peers, and are acceptable to them as "facilitators" who eschew traditional leadership behaviors.
3. Rural populations have little difficulty entering into dialog and reflection on topics that arise from their literacy exercises.
4. The combination of literacy and dialog facilitates movements of these groups towards development planning and to action on concrete projects.
5. Not only the facilitators but also other participants in the classes can change their behavior vis-a-vis authority figures, becoming more efficacious in their dealings.
6. The above process is aided by games to reinforce learning, to conceptualize relationships, and to break down stereotypical images of the learning situation.
7. Facilitators can design and run training courses for campesinos from other communities, thus creating new cadres of facilitators.
8. The dialog concept can be technologically extended to radio schools through the use of cassette tape recorders as a feedback device, allowing participants freedom to decide what they wish to do with the recorder. This seems to have some effect on self-image.
9. Organizations and individuals involved in development education are open to new ideas and techniques, and will pick on them for use in their own programs without external incentives.
Basic educational needs in rural areas of the third world can be satisfied by non-professional educators using materials which promote participation and dialog.