Maestro 100 Puntos
Verónica Spross de Rivera, Executive Director of Empresarios por la Educación, talks about the "Maestro 100 Puntos" initiative, an annual award to recognize outstanding teachers in Guatemala.
Empresarios por la Educación is a civil organization that was formed as an association in the year 2002 to promote and disseminate good practices with a view to transforming the education system. We could see that the education system was not fulfilling its mission to provide adequate education to children and youths in Guatemala so we needed to bring in business leadership in order to turn the education system into one that offers quality education.
Empresarios por la Educación is carrying out studies and analyses with a view to making educational policy proposals. Our key mission is look at what is going on and to identify problems in the education system but with a view to proposing improvements and changes. For example we have been working on areas such as teacher training. We also offer the "Maestro 100 Puntos" award, which is an initiative designed to honour and recognize good teachers who adopt good practices in the classroom, while also serving to enhance the value of the teaching profession. We also have a social auditing project called "school days monitoring system" (sistema de monitoreo de días de clase) because schools aren't always open for the full number of days during the school year and if children aren't in the classroom, they're not learning enough. Finally, we also have a school connectivity project so that children can gain access to technology.
The idea behind this initiative arose in 2005 when we realized that good teachers didn't know each other, the media practically never wrote anything about them and people didn't know where to find these good teachers. We knew that there were indeed good teachers in schools but they weren't being recognized. So we came up with the idea of looking into existing teacher awards and we found two very interesting examples in Brazil and Colombia, which we examined to see how they worked. One was the Premio "Compartir" in Colombia and the other the "Profesor Nota 10" in Brazil, both of which we found very inspiring and this prompted us to introduce the "Maestro 100 Puntos" award in Guatemala. In Guatemala, a mark of 100 ("100 puntos") signifies the maximum and symbolises excellence and achievement of the best level of education.
The award is open to pre-school and primary teachers in the public and private sector throughout the whole of Guatemala. The teachers who take part are encouraged to do so by their parents, their pupils or by the regional or district administrative authorities, having been told by their supervisor: "You're a good teacher. It would be good for you to take part". And now we also have "Director 100 Puntos", which is aimed at headteachers. Every year, between 200 and 300 teachers and headteachers take part.
They submit a written proposal explaining how they carry out their classroom practices and this goes before a panel made up of education specialists, university deans and educational researchers. The panel assesses the proposals and selects around 30 finalists, who are then visited at their schools. This is a very interesting and enriching part of the award because it gives us an insight into how schools are doing across the width and breadth of the country.
The teachers and headteachers who are ultimately selected by the panel of national and international members receive rewards such as a trophy, a cash prize of Q10,000 [USD 1,330], a certificate, a computer as well as other prizes such as domestic appliances. This year they will receive a mobile phone, a tablet and they can apply for English and university grants to enable them to carry on their professional development. They have found the award to be useful in opening doors and in enabling them to continue their studies on educational themes of interest to them. But the most important thing is the social recognition. The media report on what the teachers are doing and publish their photos. So it's more than just giving them an award, it's about raising the social value of good teachers. Teachers used to be well regarded in society but that appreciation of teachers has waned over the last two decades throughout the whole of Latin America so this award is about getting back that level of positive regard for teachers.
The most immediate effect is to systematize and publicize good teaching practices so that these can be replicated by teachers in the same schools, in their communities, in any school in the country or even in this region of the world. We have seen our teachers sharing their practices with teachers in Mexico in workshops so we're now transcending borders. But the most important thing is that they serve as inspiration for other teachers in the country, who see their colleagues, working under the same conditions in schools, being innovative, developing student-focussed processes and devising projects to ensure that their pupils remain in school and ultimately achieve a good level of education. So they're very inspiring and at the same time empowering. This is very important because many of them become role models, leaders for other teachers in their region.
There are various private sector organisations that sponsor this award, including a bank and several foundations. We promote education and culture between other businesses and international bodies such as UNESCO and UNICEF, which also contribute to the award. So it's a multisectoral alliance with support from the Ministry of Education. This is very important. It's a civil society initiative aimed at teachers and led or sponsored by private organisations but supported by the academic sector. Universities are also involved in the award by helping in the assessment stage and by carrying out field visits to see teachers.
We have seen that teachers in rural areas are very enthusiastic, and if they want to participate and improve they welcome projects of this kind with open arms. The same goes with teachers in urban areas so we'll be working with teachers from both sectors. We believe that many more teachers can still take part but sometimes they don't think that what they're doing is valuable enough for sharing. We believe that it's important to promote the award further still in its launch stage, to involve other partners and to continue to grow so that every year we can recognize a greater number of teachers. One goal could be to have winners in each of Guatemala's 22 geographical departments and to carry out more activities to disseminate these good practices.
We are also part of the Red Latinoamericana por la Educación, (Latin American Network for Education), made up of social organisations from 14 Latin American countries and we believe that we are already sharing good teaching practices within this network. A child or youth who has a teacher who is committed, determined, well-prepared and well-trained will enjoy a different future. So the role of teachers in society is vital and we recommend that other countries step up their efforts in this area because the social return on the initiative is very positive and it is further empowering teachers to become those leaders that are so greatly needed within education.
Contributed by : Verónica Spross de Rivera, Executive Director of Empresarios por la Educación Estuardo Pineda, Master of International Development Policy and Fulbright Fellow