We must engage our youth!

July 22, 2013

Second in a series

Data is great when one needs to identify the effects of problems in Costa Rica’s educational system; however, to understand the root causes it is necessary to seek personal stories from those affected by the problems.

In Costa Rica, UNICEF reports that 7th and 10th graders suffer the highest exclusion rates (17.1 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively) among other grades. Why?

After meeting with Fundación Acción Joven staff, school administrators and students within the colegios (high schools), it was revealed that drugs, prostitution and poverty are potential root causes for the high exclusion rates.

I will discuss each of these problems in future blog posts to identify solutions for affected students in the northwestern province of Guanacaste and throughout the nation.

Earlier, I had the opportunity to meet with Irwin Solis Paz, a 7th grader at Liceo Colegio Cartagena. With a vision of becoming a lawyer and a chef, Irwin must overcome the constant pressure to use drugs, lack of student engagement and other issues. Despite the challenges he faces every day, his family, faith and commitment to excelling has made him determined to succeed.

Irwin’s unwavering commitment to his vision, despite his environment, represents a special group of students; however, what about the students who do not share the same support structures or internal drive? Must they fend for themselves? I hope we can agree that these students also deserve the support to ensure they have an equal opportunity to graduate from colegio.

This brings us to our first discussion: What can be done within schools to help increase student engagement?

school old

Irwin’s idea seeks to incorporate music and dancing in the curriculum to engage students. He mentioned that teachers should incorporate these interactive tools into their daily lessons because it helps to keep students engaged, while decreasing the number of students who do not return to school. This is one solution, but there have to be more ideas to engage students because there is no cookie-cutter answer to solving this issue.

(C.T.A. Santa Bárbara has created the Bailes Típicos program to engage students who love music and dance. This group has been a great success for engaging students interested this activity.)

How can communities support schools to help decrease the exclusion rate?

Fundación Acción Joven aims to prevent student dropout for teenagers who attend public high schools located in communities of high social risk. This is done through the implementation of projects designed by the educational community, and executed with the help of different stakeholders such as private enterprise, government entities, other nonprofits and volunteers. FAJ currently has offices in San José, Guanacaste, Limón and Puntarenas, and works with 10 different high schools in those regions. Get

Timothy Faceshot

involved by visiting www.accionjoven.org/index, emailing info@accionjoven.org, or calling our San José office at: 2271-4407.

As a current graduate student in Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, Timothy Evans has worked to combine a decade worth of youth development experience with data analytics to positively impact communities within the U.S. This international experience is providing him with invaluable tools and best practices that allow for organizations such as Fundación Acción Joven to change communities globally. This is his second blog posting on the issue of education in Costa Rica. Read his first post here.

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