Argentina: Projects encouraging digital education

Argentina is the country with the highest penetration of internet in South America. At the beginning of 2013, 68% of the population had access to the network, which places Argentina in that respect ahead of for instance Brazil and Mexico. According to the report of Web Trends 2012, elaborated by Kleiner Perkins, only the USA overcomes it with 78 % in the Americas. It is thus no surprise, that there are several projects aiming at improving the national system of education using digital education tools available through internet. It must be said that in 2010 75,755 children (primary school level) and 494,103 young people (secondary school level) were not schooled in Argentina, 63,999 of them have even never been in school.

Public initiatives

The Argentine Government has launched in particular the initiative “Conectar Igualdad” for the primary school level and specialized secondary schools. A second project, “Terminá la Secundaria”, was created by the Government of the City of Buenos Aires in order to allow people who have not yet done so to finish secondary school. Both of them are associated with computing and digital education.

Netbooks distributions: “Conectar Igualdad”

Created in April 2010, the project “Conectar Igualdad” (Connecting Equality) aims to improve the primary and certain secondary school level. In the framework of this program, the Government distributes widely notebooks to pupils and teachers across Argentina in primary schools, special-needs schools and state institutes forming primary school teachers. With this distribution, the Government wants to give access to computers to children and most vulnerable families. Thereby, they will be able to get all sort of information, through internet, without any distinction of social or economic group and without any exclusion in geographical terms. The program’s benefits are for pupils and teachers in rural as well as urban areas. Since the start of the program, approximately 4.000.000 netbooks were distributed in Argentina involving 7’500 teachers and 400 schools. In the framework of “Conectar Igualdad”, the Government also launched in 2011 the project “Escuelas de Innovación” (Schools of innovation) in order to form teachers in the integration of information and communication technologies. The program’s main goal is to guarantee to the pupils and students a better access to education and technologies.

“Conectar Igualdad” disposes of IT equipment proving three systems of connection. First, they provide a connection to the Wi-Fi of primary schools. This allows the development of intranet platforms for pupils, teachers and the school administration. Second, they are able to establish an internet connection by telephone modem 3G, thus facilitating access to Internet in any place, particularly in the student’s home, allowing also their family members to make use of it. And third, they contain a syntonizer for Digital TV, which permits interactive participation to live programs.

Specific workshops are put in place for the teachers in order to develop and improve a virtual platform for the exchange of course contents and ideas. With this platform, the government wants to strengthen the teacher’s role using the didactic possibilities that digital technologies provide. In particular, it is aimed at the constant actualization of forms, strategies and contents. Teachers can exchange their educational programs and learn more about other teaching methods for example. By this, policymakers hope that better access to education and less school exclusion could become possible.

Secondary school for all: “Terminá la Secundaria”

In Argentina, approximately five million persons have never finished the secondary school level, even though this is mandatory (other 2 million have not even ended primary school). One of the goals of the Argentinian government is to change this and encourage and support people, who have not finished the secondary school level, to end it. In order to achieve this, many programs are offered by local governments and non-governmental associations throughout the country providing different modalities of courses and exams. In this context, the city of Buenos Aires has created in 2014 a new online study platform offering courses leading to the final secondary school certificate of the City . This program is called “Terminá la Secundaria” (Finish secondary school) and is open to all residents in the whole country. It includes twenty six subjects which can be dealt with, three at a time, during four years. The concept is intended for adults and is free of charge. There are still some uncertainties, as the national competent authorities have not yet approved this new platform, but it is a new step forward to granting access to a wide range of persons to online secondary school education.

Digital Education at university level

The public University of Buenos Aires (UBA) proposes on its website a whole range of online courses for every kind of persons. These courses are not free of charge, but still very accessible, as the fees range from 330 to 1936 Argentinian pesos (about 40 to 250 USD). The platform allows the students to download the material, to view videos about a specific subject and finally to submit knowledge’s tests or examinations. Many private universities have similar offers, all of them paying.

MOOC’s tool “Miríada X”

Miríada X is a project of online formation which started in 2013 by “Banco Santander” and “Telefónica” in Spain, using the networks “Universia” and “Telefonica Learning Services”. It is based on a software platform of WEMOOC. It offers free of charge, massive and open online courses, thus allowing any user who is interested in its content to access it. At the beginning of year 2014, “Miríada X” counted with the participation of 36 universities in six South America countries, including Argentina. Two Argentinian universities are taking part in the project: the “Universidad Blas Pascal” and the “Universidad Nacional de Quilmes”. Each one of them offers one course in Spanish: Gestión del Clima Organizacional y el Bienestar en el trabajo (management of the organizational climate and the wellbeing in the workplace) by Blas Pascal University and Introducción al lenguaje cinematográfico (introduction to the cinematographic language) by the University of Quilmes.

Overall considerations

MOOC’s is a rather new tool in Argentina, especially at the university level. However, it is expected that this will change in the future, given the very high penetration of Internet in the Argentine society. So far, the existing projects are more (but not only) intended to extend knowledge and facilitating information access rather than to create exchanges and dialogue spaces. Nevertheless, the impact of the public initiatives is interesting and probably a good way to improve the equality of opportunities, in particular outside of the big urban centers.

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