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Article Series
"Real Voices" No.2  MEXICO
2023.2.1    
Connecting the World! Teachers' Network News
Voices of iEARN Teachers Around the World
The year 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of JEARN established as an official NPO in Japan.
To celebrate this memorial year, J
EARN launched a monthly interview series "Real Voices" to deliver the real voices of iEARN teachers from around the world. Each article introduces school systems of each country and region, daily efforts of teachers and staff, and the development of students for global competence and citizenship.
ENGLISH TEAM


Daniel Santos / Victorio Berumen
ITAES Comitán, Mexico

 

Mr. Daniel Santos and Mr. Victorio Berumen from Mexico

What school or organization are you working at?
We both coordinate the English Department at ITAES Comitán. This school is located in the
city of Comitán de Domínguez in the state of Chiapas in the country of Mexico.


FACADE of ITAES Comitán


Computer Center
What is the compulsory education system in your country?
At what age does compulsory education start and end?
In Mexico, basic education is divided into three levels: primary school (ages six to 12), junior high school (ages 12 to 15) and high school (ages 15 to 18). Throughout all three levels of schooling, attendance is compulsory. Public schools in Mexico are free of charge and secular. Private schools do charge a monthly fee.
When does the school year start and end in your country?
School year starts mid August and ends mid July, roughly. The period may change according to adjustments of the Secretary of Education.
Could you tell us a bit more about ITAES Comitán? It's a private school, correct? How is it different from a public school?
Yes, it is a private school and, in general, the main differences between private and public schools are:
• Tuition fees: Private schools charge a monthly fee where public schools charge one time every school year (which is about 9 months long), and truth be said, the prices of fees are higher in private schools than in public schools.

Teddy Bear Project
• Study books: The government provides titles to public schools for free to each student enrolled; private schools also receive these titles, but we can also add extra titles or change some that have to be bought by each family of the enrolled student, as an example, here at ITAES, we ask families to buy the books used for English and sometimes the ones used for technology class.
• Equipment: Private schools tend to be better equipped for the students as the monthly tuition fees permit some of these amenities; public schools have a harder time with this as they depend solely in our government, it is difficult for these schools to be properly equipped, especially when it comes to preschool and primary, history changes a little bit for public secondary, high school and university where, at least in cities, they have decent equipment, science labs and all of them have a computer center. In the case of rural areas, they just have public schools that mainly count with the basic equipment to attend classes, mostly limited to chairs and classrooms. Bit by bit, rural schools are being better equipped so the community students can learn more about science and technology properly.Ages from 6 to 16 are compulsory.



Field Trip

PBL-PreSchool
How about a cultural or ethnic mixture of students? Are they all Spanish speakers? 
Yes, they all are Spanish speakers, at least here in our city. There have been some cases at our school where we’ve had preschool and primary students that are from Korea and China, but they already speak some Spanish or English. It is important to mention that most of our teachers just speak Spanish, just us in the English Department do speak English, and this pattern repeats in other local private schools. Around the country I have known there is a little more ethnic mixture, especially in the central and northern areas of the country, where you can find people mostly from Asian countries and USA or Canada.

What career options do your students have after graduation? Do most of them advance to higher education?
Most of our students continue to higher education and they normally go for careers like medicine, engineering, architecture and business.
What subject do you teach?
We Teach English and as we coordinate the English Department, we have, roughly, 420 students,counting all of our areas (Maternal to Highschool).
Is the English subject compulsory? Is English taught from what age?
In general, in Mexico, English is compulsory starting from secondary (ages 12 +) and on.
The government has started its implementation since primary, but it is not officially compulsory yet at that education level. Here at ITAES, we do teach English in all of our education levels, from maternal to high-school, basically since students are 2-year-old.
What's the average class size? How many English classes per week?
The average class size here at ITAES rounds the 20 students per class. We have 4 classes per week for maternal, 5 for preschool from grades 1 to 3, and 10 for primary (7 of Grammar and 3 of Science) from grades 1 to 6, and 10 for secondary and high-school, for this case we have the opportunity to mix secondary and high-school students according to their CEFR English level, which makes it easier for them to learn the language properly.

How many years of experience do you have in iEARN
We have 4 years of experience running iEARN projects.

What iEARN projects have you done with your students?The projects our students have participated in are: My teddy bear, Letter exchange and The Parlor. 

Which one(s) do you feel was most successful and why?
We believe that all projects have been enriching and




Teddy Bear Project
successful in their own ways, but if we had to choose one,we’d say The Parlor as it implies minimal logistics, we just need to have a pc connected to the internet and equipped with a microphone and camera and it is a real time exchange of information between students, which aligns perfectly with our communication goals to learn and practice their English.

Which one(s) did your students enjoy the most and why?
Students have enjoyed all of them. In “My teddy bear” it was most of preschool and minor primary students being into taking their teddy bear to different places and generating a journal with pictures and then sending it to their peers in the target country to exchange information. For “Letter exchange” it was most of major primary and secondary students being engaged into having a pen pal, and for “The Parlor” it was most of
Parlor Project
secondary and high-school students into chatting with other people in other countries.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your school or your students?
The first two months of lockdown we were using just WhatsApp chats to send extensive activities as we believed the lockdown was not taking too long, then we realized this pandemic was lasting longer than expected and then we transitioned to on-line teaching through Zoom, and as good as Zoom is, we were not that happy with the things we could do through this app. The school year ended with the use of Zoom and meanwhile we were concluding the period, direction and coordinators were looking for a better option to teach and grade and also communicate with parents.

Pandemic 1

Pandemic 2
The best solution we found was a bundle of a platform called SM Educamos, which offered a way to keep track of students grades and allowed sending information to parents; for teaching it included Microsoft Teams which came in handy as it also permitted to keep track of students work and grades and obviously teach through screens. Microsoft Teams made teachers and coordinators keep communication and supervision swift. Thanks to these tools we were able to provide quality services that no other school in our city was offering for the educational levels we have.

What are the biggest challenges you faced during the pandemic as a teacher or as a coordinator of the English Department?
Both, coordinators and teachers felt that we were not ready, and maybe frightened of transitioning from a fully face to face methodology to an on-line one. It is true that not all the personnel were tech savvy and that implied a lot more of rushed working and learning in order to catch up with the technology that was already there, but that we never needed using before.

Were there any major changes after the pandemic?
Yes, there were important changes, both for students and teachers. I may say that there are changes in the students' habits, behavior and attitude towards learning. Some of them find quite difficult to cope with the requirements of the teachers (too much homework), heavy curriculum, too many classes per day (6-7), and the pressure of the national exams. Even to stay so many hours in their desks is demanding, but gradually they are getting used to it again.
The teachers have to cope with the students' change of attitude, the pressure of the exams, the old and heavy curricula, the change of the school year structure starting from this school year, and many other challenges.

Regarding the use of ICT, is One to-One PC being done in your school?
We do use ICT to teach at our institution; each of our classrooms is equipped with a computer and a projector or TV and we have a computer center with arranged schedules to be used by our students, here, each student is provided with a PC, but they cannot be taken home. To our fortune most of our students have a PC, laptop or smart device, and internet at home.

What are some of the keys to success? Did you encounter any difficulties at the beginning and if so how did you overcome them?
Our success is based on the knowledge generated while meeting with direction and the other coordinators of our different education levels, teamwork, listening to our clients and personnel, making our personnel understand the importance of doing this transition an obviously training could
not go missing, we would never send our personnel to execute things without proper training prior to implementing anything.
In order to overcome difficulties training precisely played a major role, blended with debating into ideas proposed on the go by any individual in our organization that wanted to suggest improvements.



Directive Team
Could you give any messages to teachers in Japan?
We are very honored to be cooperating with you through iEARN, we hope to be at the level of your standards as we know Japan to be one of the countries with an outstanding Education system. It is an exciting venture for all of us!



*****
The iEARN Teacher interviews are part of a series of articles by JEARN entitled "Connecting The World! Teachers Network News" starting with the January 2023 issue in a Japanese monthly magazine for educators, Cresco (Otsuki Shoten Publishers here).



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