YOLOXÓCHITL BUSTAMANTE

Mexico 2021 | DIPLOMACY & ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Despite the challenges in organizing online education for different groups working on different platforms, Guanajuato's Education Department emerged with flying colors.

Yoloxóchitl Bustamante
BIOGRAPHY

Yoloxóchitl Bustamante is the former Secretary of Education of the State of Guanajuato. She has a doctorate of science in biochemistry and biochemical engineering from Instituto Politécnico Nacional. She began a 20-year career in the pharmaceutical business in 1978, working in senior roles at various organizations.

How has the secretary adapted to having to teach classes virtually?

The state made the decision to suspend activities in March 2020 as a result of COVID-19. We had two to three days to prepare ourselves and start working in this modality. The entire educational community does not have access to virtual platforms and online work, and we have different groups working on different platforms. Some, particularly in basic and upper secondary education, work through television as a support. A small part of the population does not have access to platforms and television, and we had to generate printed materials for them that was sent to the communities where our students live. Our first point was understanding how we would organize ourselves to serve the 11,000-plus schools that make up our educational system at these levels. The second action was generating a guide on how to carry out activities in our operation as an organization, as well as in our educational work. We then developed a close partnership with Microsoft and Google, which provided us with great support. In general, it has been a great effort from institutions, teachers, and parents. However, we have not fully switched to a digital model yet, as less than half of our student and teacher population have the conditions to work this way. We are working in a mixed system, which is why we call it distance learning.

What are your priorities for the short term?

For the coming months, in which we assume we will remain in social isolation, we will continue with these mechanisms. One of them, for example, was the creation of booklets for children without access to technology. These booklets offer one-week work projects in which different subjects and areas are integrated in such a way that children visualize learning in a holistic way. After the end of the previous academic year, given the excellent response, we are producing similar booklets for students, and we will add interactive elements. We are updating them so they can also be used by those students with access to ICT as well. We will also continue to strengthen our relationship with both large companies and small ones to obtain materials that allow us to strengthen education. We will seek to achieve the best possible learning, but with an orientation that differentiates essential learning. We are selecting tried-and-tested learning to be taught so that students can continue advancing on their academic journeys.

What type of companies are you looking to collaborate with?

We are currently working with companies that provide us with platforms or training for teachers on some topics, but using existing platforms. We remain open to the possibility of educational materials for teachers and students. In this period, in the particular case of higher education, there was already a virtual classroom in which some subjects were fully developed. Another aspect to highlight during this period is that we concentrated in what we call the “common core of training" of all those institutions that impart engineering knowledge, in such a way that we have material that will be useful for many careers. Through these digital subjects, all engineering students can start their “common core of training" studies 100% online. This gives them an advantage in several ways. First, they already have access to their class materials and have no reason to slow down their learning. Second, it conditions them to work autonomously and that requires significant development of self-control skills. They also learn to take advantage of the digital materials available to them around the world. We also surveyed the feedback of community members, which makes it possible to significantly condition our achievements. Thus, we realized the platforms we developed and the material we delivered were highly received, especially by teachers. On the traditional scale of one to 10, they received scores between eight and 10, with 76% for the printed booklets, 66% for the academic guidance guides, and 44% for the learning-at-home strategy.