QUITO, Ecuador — In most schools in Ecuador teachers conduct classes in Spanish, the country’s primary language. In recent years, however, American universities have collaborated with rural communities in Ecuador to promote bilingual education programs.
The universities, including New Mexico State University, Kansas State University, University of Kentucky, Valparaiso University and University of Mississippi, created programs to provide Ecuadorian teachers with English language skills. In an April 24, 2014 article KRWG reported that New Mexico State University trained 50 Ecuadorean teachers to teach English throughout 2013 in an attempt to reform education in Ecuador.
The universities modeled their programs on the Ecuadorian government’s initiatives to improve education in Ecuador. As business increased between Ecuador and North America in the 1980s, English became a secondary language among business professionals. The government encouraged teachers to conduct lessons in English and Spanish. As a result, many private schools adapted a bilingual curriculum. These schools, however, have high tuition rates and are located in major cities, rendering them inaccessible for the majority of children. Therefore, quality programs that promote bilingual education in rural areas remain in demand to reform education in Ecuador.
Both the government and the universities hope that a bilingual approach in schools will help students in rural communities excel economically in the future. According to Free the Children, an international education charity, over 300,000 children work in Ecuador rather than attend school. Many of these children do not have access to education in their communities and therefore, attend work with their parents.
In 2013, the Ecuadorean government funded Go Teacher, a program created to teach Ecuadorian teachers the English language. According to Kansas State University, the Go Teacher program then “sub-contracted with several qualified institutions to offer Ecuadorian teaching scholars quality English language development and pedagogical strategies in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).”
A University of Mississippi News article depicts the program’s structure, explaining that Ecuadorian teachers attended American universities during the summer to learn English. During the school year, the teachers return with their English skills to Ecuador. According to KRWG radio, the program has proven successful in improving bilingual education in Ecuador and in 2014, the universities hosted their third group of Ecuadorian teachers. As 27.3% of Ecuador’s population lives below the poverty line, education opportunities that expand future career paths have the potential to reform Ecuador’s economy.