The November 2016 Student/Country Focus is provided by Maria A. Castillo from Nicaragua..
Hola! My name is Maria A. Castillo; I am from Managua, Nicaragua. I am currently studying an MA in Education, Health Promotion and International Development at UCL’s institute of Education through the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Chevening Scholarship Program.
Thank you to all the international students for sharing their experiences of education in their countries.
If you are an international student or staff member and you would like participate in this Country/Student Focus,
When growing up, I was blessed with the opportunity of attending the American School in Nicaragua and studying my undergraduate degree in New York. This made me pretty much oblivious to the “real” education system in my country. Upon my return from university, however, I started to work for a U.S. Department of State sponsored drug and violence prevention program. The program is called “Dale, sé REAL” and it’s for 7th and 8th graders. As the program’s Research Coordinator, I aided in the translation and adaptation of the American “Keepin’ it REAL” and Canadian “4th R” curricula, which are the “Dale, se REAL’s” backbone. In my position, I also performed corresponding curricula training with Nicaraguan educators. Moreover, I was also responsible for data collection and processing, in order to understand the program’s effectiveness and collaborated in a few international conferences and peer review articles.
Due to the nature of the grant that allowed us to teach the “Dale, sé REAL” in Nicaragua, we mainly worked with private schools. In spite of this, we were able to reach a few NGOs that catered to low-income students that attended public schools. Working with other NGOs gave me the chance of engaging with the real Nicaraguan education and school system. This made realize how feeble it is, especially in the most impecunious sectors. Most of Nicaragua’s public schools operate under terrible conditions. Students don’t have proper or even basic facilities and faculty are overworked and undertrained. Most of the methods that they use are teacher-centered and do not prompt critical thinking, which I believe is key for personal and professional development.
My dream is to open an NGO in Nicaragua where I can lead educational programs that deviate from traditional Nicaraguan schooling methods. I would like my programs to be accessible to low-income students, promote wellness and well-being and foster critical thinking. I strongly believe that a nation with citizens that can critically think, and that are therefore able to make informed decisions, will enjoy economic and social development.