Education & Opportunities for Locals

Inadequate education was among the issues that UNESCO cited for its decision to place the Galapagos Islands on the list of World Heritage in Danger in 2007. The issue of education is tied to other pressing problems, such as population growth. After all, if residents of the Galapagos don’t have the technical skills or professional training to do the jobs that need to be done, then foreigners or new transplants from the mainland can. And the challenge of population growth is, of course, connected to the problem of invasive species, which serves to highlight the interconnectedness and complexity of the challenges facing these islands. A well-educated populace ultimately offers the best hope of overcoming these challenges in the long run, which makes improving the quality of education in the Galapagos critical.

There are twenty schools in the Galapagos, serving around 5,200 students. Among the issues that UNESCO identified in these schools include a weak base of teachers, who rely heavily on outdated teaching methods focused on repetition and memorization, with little emphasis on problem solving and environmental themes. Other problems highlighted include lack of English language and computer skills, lack of vocational training opportunities, ineffective administration, and inadequate facilities.

The good news is that it seems that some progress is being made to improve education here, thanks in part to concerned citizens and efforts underway at the national level. The non-profit Scalesia Foundation, for example, was founded by parents who were concerned about the poor quality of education in the islands. In 1993, the foundation established the Tomas de Berlánga School on the island of Santa Cruz as an alternative educational model that stresses bilingual education, critical thinking, experiential learning and sustainable development. The school also works to train teachers from other schools in the archipelago.

At the national level, the Ministry of Education has been working to reform the educational system in the Galapagos and on the mainland. Some of the reforms include new evaluation standards, rules that make it easier to replace ineffective teachers, a nationwide standardized examination to enter university, and a new national curriculum with a strong focus on the local environment and sustainable development.

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