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Promoting Literacy during the Pandemic

POSTED: May 11, 2022

Executive Director of Fundación Educacional Crecer con Todos

Loreto Iglesias tells us how the Fundación Educacional Crecer con Todos drew on their many years of experience to address school closings in Chile.

Tell us a bit about the history and mission of the Foundation.

The Foundation was created 11 years ago to promote literacy among children studying in vulnerable contexts. Historically, these children have not achieved the expected results for their grade levels. Ministry of Education data show that at age 10, 6-out-of-10 children cannot read or do not understand what they are reading.

Given that, our mission is for all children who currently live in vulnerable contexts to develop good reading and writing comprehension from first grade on.

During these two years of the pandemic, we have seen the impact of family engagement in their children’s learning process, and thus, the importance of working together with the entire educational community.

How did you adjust the way you work given the challenges presented by the pandemic?

We had to adapt our way of working during the pandemic and create a system that could be used remotely. We created audiobooks, digital games, and learning experiences that could be sent by WhatsApp and so forth so that children could continue to learn and develop skills associated with the priority curriculum at each level.

In addition, we believed it was very important to work with teachers in this new modality. We held weekly meetings with them on different digital platforms to share experiences and support them in their work, along with developing training using an e-learning system.

With the return to in-person classes in Chile, how are you providing support to schools and teachers for remedial learning?

Today, more than ever, teachers need support with going back to in-person classes to ensure that their students achieve the expected learning for each level.

As a Foundation, in addition to our Primero LEE program, we are implementing a reading leveling program and a new socioemotional wellbeing program to support the more than 700 teachers who are part of our community. Furthermore, we are holding regular meetings to help them prepare classes, provide assistance, resolve questions, and make decisions as needed.

For Fundación Crecer con Todos, what are the most important lessons learned in the last two years?

During the two years of the pandemic, we have seen the impact of family engagement in the learning process of their children, and thus, the importance of working together with the entire educational community.

As a Foundation, we want to maintain the connection that was created during the pandemic and continue working with families. In the Primero LEE program, we have included activities and resources so families know what their children are doing at school and at the same time have concrete tools to support learning at home.

The Foundation is beginning a formal assessment of its “Journey through Letters” program. What do you hope to learn?

We hope to learn the real impact of the program on the reading acquisition process of our students. [We also want to] identify the most valuable elements for achieving learning, because, although the “Journey through Letters” program was created as a response to the pandemic, we want to see the possibility of keeping it and using it to support schools that do not achieve the expected reading level for their students.

What advice would you offer to the authorities in charge of the recovery of education systems in Latin America?

Although there is still much to learn about the impact of the pandemic on students, I think it is important to conduct a good assessment to know the real level of learning of students returning to the classroom and start working from there, bearing in mind that it is a slow process. This process includes leveling the learning curve to ensure students have a good foundation before continuing with developing new skills. This is why we must have flexible programs that can be adapted to the reality of each school.

Do you have a specific story or anecdote that demonstrates the impact of your work at the Foundation?

We receive many stories and comments from teachers who implement Primero LEE [that demonstrate their] high regard for the program. As an example, 100% of the schools we worked with in 2021 sent letters requesting that we continue the program this year. In the assessment made in March, many of them have already pointed out that students that worked with Primero LEE in 2021 achieved better results than those that had no support during the pandemic. These comments encourage us to continue advancing every day as a foundation and confirm that it is a worthwhile effort to reach more children in need.

100% of the schools we worked with in 2021 sent letters requesting the program continue this year.

Back to school in San Bernardo, Santiago, Chile.

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