The Role of ICTs in Rural Schools of Patagonia

The Role of ICTs in Rural Schools of Patagonia

Flavio Caldas (E.P.E.T. Nº 12 de San Martin de los Andes, Argentina) and Ana García-Valcárcel Muñoz-Repiso (University of Salamanca, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2101-5.ch004
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UNESCO indicates that one of the biggest problems we have to solve in the early twenty-first century is the abolition of differences between individuals and cultures. Intercultural education is a necessary and urgent alternative in order to change the current situation, and ICTs, with their potential to meet and interact with people from different countries and cultures, offer interesting tools in this matter. Argentina acknowledges the right of indigenous people to access bilingual and intercultural education and seeks to improve teachers’ skills to achieve a better quality of education that allows equal opportunities. However, recent research (Slavsky, 2006; Binstock, 2008) has demonstrated that in the province of Neuquen, with a high rate of aboriginal people (Mapuche), the reality is that schools are far from having achieved this target. There is no clear policy to solve this intercultural problem and a program of integration of ICTs in the classroom has not yet been implemented. This chapter presents data on the educational reality of Neuquen and the use of ICTs in schools, based on the opinion of students, teachers, and school managers. It also analyzes the performance of students and its relation to the use of technological tools.
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Argentinean society has acknowledged, for the first time, the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of aboriginal people after the constitutional reform of 1994. This implies the recognition of the multicultural and multiethnic nature of our country, at the same time demanding its respect and appraisal. Argentina addressed this issue in the “Convention Nº 169” of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on Indigenous and Tribal People which was implemented from 2001 onwards, in this way promoting the “respect and appraisal of cultural diversity and constitutionally acknowledging the rights of the indigenous population.”

From that reform onwards, the right of these aboriginal people to a bilingual and intercultural education was also granted, though it has not been conveniently implemented to the present day, as we will show in this chapter.

Taking the new National Education Law of 2006 as a starting point, the need to provide schooling for all Argentineans, disregarding their race, creed, location, age, etc., has been stated, aiming for an education system that grants opportunities to all its participants in order to obtain a quality education (Hernández & Calcagno, 2003). We understand that the school system cannot waste this opportunity to amend its mistakes and inequalities, or, at least, to attempt that change.

The new didactic and technological tools, above all those known as ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies), have compulsively become an integral part of everyday life, but have had little effect on the Neuquin school. Students feel comfortable with the arrival of these tools because they see advertisements on the Internet, on television, at the cinema, or hear them on the radio, etc. (Bautista, 2004; Mominó, Sigalés, & Meneses, 2008). Outside of school, for these youths ICTs stand for something close to amusement, while for adults it means the possibility of further integration into the work market, and, for both, it represents the exquisite possibility of communicating and feeling part of the group.

The reality is that new technologies are spreading worldwide due to globalization and openly becoming the transmitters of a neoliberal consumerist model around the planet by means of the so-called information society (Murillo García, 2010; Ferrer, et al., 2010). By undertaking a comparison with the appearance of print and public schooling, we can infer that we are on the brink of a great change in the education model, in which all the education providers are daily participants and have full responsibility in the aforementioned change.

The new National Education Law of 2006 is clear in its meaning and in chapter 1, article number 11, it promotes two essential issues for education in the Patagonian region: “To develop the required competencies for the use of the new languages triggered by the information and communication technologies. To ensure respect for these indigenous people’s language and cultural identity, promoting the value of multiculturalism in the students’ education.”

However, three years since its enactment, it has still not been implemented in the country’s diverse districts and regions, and every year that goes by deepens the differences.

The Government itself is aware of the deficiencies, according to the DiNIECE report (2005) related to “The educational policies to prevent academic failure.” This report “contemplates the need to continue working on the digital literacy and the management of computer resources,” which were never completely implemented in the Patagonic region and which are still an unresolved matter for the integration of ICTs into curriculum practices.

So, what is happening in the Neuquen state? Investigations have demonstrated that neither a program for the use of ICTS in the classroom in accordance with contemporary times, nor a clear policy in order to solve the intercultural problems of a region displaying one of the highest immigration and aboriginal population rates has yet been implemented.

From the abovementioned matter springs the present chapter, which contains information generated from data collected in primary and secondary schools in San Martin de los Andes in the years 2003, 2008, and 2010, emphasizing the role played by students from rural areas, which belong to or descended from Mapuche communities.

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