Even though the students continue with virtual learning, we have taken advantage of this time to work with the teachers and have started a program to improve English language learning. Although all schools in Ecuador are required to teach English at every grade level, Ecuador ranks ninety third out of one hundred countries for English proficiency*. Speaking English will help our students if they want to work in tourism (where most people work in our area) or if they go on to College. In fact, research indicates that individuals from developing countries have a 25% increased earning power if they speak English**.
Mission Santa Maria has partnered with Vicky Aitken, a CELTA Trainer (a highly regarded, internationally recognized, qualification for teaching English as a foreign language). Originally from the United Kingdom, Vicky has been living in South America training ESL (English as a second language) teachers for over 10 years. She now lives just a few miles from the Mission School and has been a wonderful asset.
Two months ago we hosted our first English Teacher Training Workshop. Vicky led the 5 English teachers at the Mission School in a professional development day, covering topics such as how to use songs and chants in the classroom, developing reading skills, and pronunciation awareness. There are generally no opportunities for continuing professional development for teachers in Ecuador, so it was an extremely rare and fruitful experience for our staff. Since then, Vicky has observed each English teacher during one of their virtual classes, and has provided one-to-one feedback reviewing their strengths as well as specific techniques or suggestions to improve English acquisition for students. This week, Vicky is leading another full day of workshops for the teachers. We have received extremely positive feedback from the English teachers, as well as from the students as they have noticed the positive change in their lessons as their teachers have been working with Vicky.
Our focus to improve the English department at the Mission School is directly related to our overall mission to help impoverished, abused, and neglected Ecuadorian children receive high quality education with the goal of lifting them out of poverty through dignified, sustainable incomes.
We plan to expand our enhancements to the English department when the kids return to school in person. We hope to add to our English program by creating an after school program and finding volunteers to come teach in our school. Our goal is to continue improving the overall English education, which is a multi-year project, but one we believe will greatly help our students once they graduate.
*(2020). EF english proficiency index. Retrieved from https://www.ef.com/assetscdn/WIBIwq6RdJvcD9bc8RMd/legacy/__/~/media/centralefcom/epi/downloads/full-reports/v10/ef-epi-2020-english.pdf
**(2011). Research backs English as key to development. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/jul/05/research-backs-english-language-delotbiniere