Issue - August 2007



August 2007
Editorial

In this issue, Amy Pollock reviews the successes of Arnold Browers school garden project, while Lucy Witter talks with the rector of an English school enrolling impoverished students; we hear form Save the Children about their reconciliation programme after the Cochabamba riots in January...read more...

August 2007

OPENING THE DOORS OF SUCCESS TO THOSE WHO DESERVE IT

ALIFE spoke with Lucy Witter about teaching English to students without economic means

By: Lucy Witter
Projects Abroad - Volunteer
Warrington - United Kingdom

American Language Institute for English (ALIFE) is one of few institutions in Bolivia with the status to award its students with the Technical Diploma and Higher Technical Diploma qualifications.

The Bolivian Ministry for Education awarded ALIFE, an institute that supports students who lack the resources to pay for private education, with this status last year, finding that the institute fulfilled the exacting requisites. The first graduation ceremony, held on 29 June, saw 47 students qualify with the ALIFE English qualification, and this new academic year they will begin studying to become translators of English. The following year, graduates from this programme will be able to start studying for their Superior Technical Diploma, which will qualify them to be English teachers.

Most of ALIFE’s 180 students have won scholarships from San Simon University on the basis of their high academic performance and lack of economic resources to afford private English classes, which are normally restrictively expensive. Raul Araujo, Academic Director, argues that “students of today need English. It’s a cliché, but English really is the key that opens the door to success. It is the lingua franca of the world.

Whether they are studying engineering, medicine, or economics, an understanding of English is vital for students to gain access to research.” ALIFE wants to support academically able yet poor students to have the same access to these opportunities. Rector Lourdes Rosario Capalla de Nina adds, “Our target clientele here at ALIFE are students that lack the economic resources to study English.

Our challenge is to produce good professionals who are well-qualified and able to work in the world market. In teaching them English, we are giving them a vital tool.” ALIFE teaches English as a second language, as an addition to the subjects the students are reading at university. The course is intensive and demands commitment. Each level of the course at ALIFE - the English qualification, the Técnico Medio and the Técnico Superior - takes one academic year, or between 8 and 10 months, to complete. Lourdes says that in a full course of 10 semesters a student should have accumulated between 600 and 700 hours of teaching.

Lourdes is very happy with the contribution ALIFE is making, but believes much remains to be done. “We worked with the social services department at San Simon University to look for people that needed English for their university degrees. The majority of the students come from provinces such as Tarata, Punata, Quillacollo, Arani. These students were chosen because the distance from their homes and their lack of resources meant they could not take English classes.

Students were very willing to take part in our programme. We started with 180 students from San Simon. We did not have enough teachers to cope with this number of students so we opened a parallel programme to train teachers, which is still running. It’s been successful. But of the 180 that started, only 47 graduated.

To us this means we have to keep working.” The aim of ALIFE to provide more affordable English teaching means that the institution is constrained by limited resources. The institute is currently based in Esperanza building in the centre of Cochabamba, but as Lourdes says, they would prefer to have their own building.

Limited finances also means that they cannot afford to pay their teachers a high salary, and depend on teachers whose love for teaching and passion to help poorer Bolivians means that they continue to work with ALIFE. Similarly, ALIFE can only afford to buy the most basic of teaching resources, but Lourdes says, “One of our aspirations is to be able to have a language laboratory where the students can practice and learn faster.” ALIFE are innovative, and make up for their lack of resources through their use of alternative different strategies, such as theatre and role play.

She emphasizes, “Even though we have limitations we have the commitment to work.” Furthermore, the institute is extending its services and working with the Washington School in the Quillacollo district to teach English there, and is in consultation with private Catholic schools and universities.

Their social goal is what drives Lourdes and her staff to make the ALIFE project a success. “Teaching English is one of the things I enjoy most.” says Lourdes. “To me it opened the doors of the world, and I would really like that all Bolivians have the chance to open these doors. The English language globalizes the world.

Through this language, different people can make contact with each other. If you speak another language, your chances in life are bigger, you can open more doors.”

Children and Youth ...
Save the Children is a non-profit institution here in Bolivia. The childrens rights based organization has been working in the country since 1985, and since then, has expanded its activities to every department in Bolivia....
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