This year 133.000 Colombian school children will benefit from the new extended school schedule. The program is intended to improve student understanding of fundamental areas such as language, math and science.
The Colombian government is taking this initiative to strengthen educational practices by increasing the length of the school day. President Santos and the ministry of education started a pilot test in 2014 with 60,000 students in grades 10 and 11 in public institutions.
Implementation of extended school day is expected to, along with improving the quality of education, to decrease rates of vandalism, violence and teen pregnancy. Students spending more time in the classroom , spend less time in places where they are exposed to bad influences.
In Colombia 202 public schools have already started the extended school day, including 133,000 students. In the department of Antioquia 16 educational centers, six of them in Medellín, currently benefit from the program. Next year the number in Medellín will expand to twenty or more.
The program provides funding to improve infrastructure for institutions, as well as to improve teacher development. Another element of the program provides meals to students including breakfast, lunch and glass of milk.
Others countries in Latin America including Uruguay and Chile are taking the lead and have already seen improvement in the quality of education, especially among the most vulnerable and poorest students. These countries have achieved this by including new content in the curriculum, providing personalized attention and developing life models different from the ones the kids are exposed to in the street.
Antioquia, as is often the case, has already taken the initiative. Envigado, a suburb of Medellín, implemented the extended school schedule two years ago with a focus on math, language and english in order to raise the level of public schools to match private schools as measured by state tests. Improvements have already been seen in the areas of quality and sociability.
However, some experts in pedagogy believe that low scores in international measures such as PISA, should not be the priority of the extended school day. They are sure that the problem arises from the teaching methods and the development of leadership principals.
This is just the beginning, the ministry of education assures us that over the next four years they expect to build 320 educational centers, that will increase the number of students covered. The goal is to cover the entire country.