Teaching STEAM and Human Rights in El Salvador

In El Salvador and throughout the region, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of in-person classes for millions of students. The educational systems were not prepared for the shift online, due to a lack of skills in information technology and a lack of access to the internet and technological devices. The shift also aggravated existing disparities and inequalities for students, particularly girls, which include violence, poverty, unemployment, and youth pregnancy.

To combat these inequalities and academic lags, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) is working with Asesorías a Programas y Proyectos de Desarrollo (ASPRODE) to promote human rights and education in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM).

The first step was to analyze and diagnose the problems. We found that many students had little motivation to continue studying, weakened links to academic life, and weakened social-emotional skills.

We then identified an initial list of tutoring candidates and drafted lesson plans, which aimed to teach certain competencies.

Student Competencies

  • Understands and can debate a variety of topics and understands the correlation between learning, intercultural dialogue, and the different types of research and learning methods.
  • Knows and values the human rights framework and can apply these lessons to their academic and career goals.
  • Relates, interprets, and integrates STEAM learning with human rights and can apply these lessons to their academic and career goals.

PADF and ASPRODE then pull out a call for female tutors from universities across El Salvador. Over the course of a month, the selected 20 tutors were trained in the STEAM approach and how to teach human rights and critical thinking. They also received training in identifying and responding to cases of sexual abuse, helping students cope with stress and anxiety, and providing guidance to migrant students.

To make travel easier and ensure they are familiar with their students’ realities and needs, the tutors were matched with 227 female students in their areas of origin. The students belong to vulnerable communities throughout the territory of El Salvador.

Preliminary Results

  • By strengthening students’ life skills, self-esteem, and academic and career goals, we are restoring the socio-emotional fabric.
  • Focusing on students’ goals allows us to identify talents and support educational continuity.
  • We have applied continuous experimentation to the STEAM educational model to encourage curiosity and critical thinking.
  • Fostering dialogue about different topics – from the natural sciences to the arts and humanities – motivates students to learn more and set academic goals.

Projects of this nature are vital to reduce the inequality gap between male and female students from vulnerable communities in El Salvador. Also, because girls become aware of their own rights and become human rights defenders in their communities."

As the project continues, we will follow up with the tutored students and their families and provide additional trainings for the tutors. We will also provide scholarships and financial assistance to students and tutors and are looking to bring on new project partners.

By expanding the project and making it accessible to more students across El Salvador, we are working to combat inequalities and reverse the pandemic’s effects on girls’ academic accomplishments and futures.

Published on August 8, 2022.

Alfredo Bonilla

Alfredo Bonilla

Senior Technical Lead, Regional Human Rights and Democracy Project

Email: connect@padf.org

Camila Payan

Camila Payan

Thematic Senior Director – Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights

Email: connect@padf.org

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