Chilean Exchange Teaches Best Practices in Migrant Education
At the end of September, the Texas State University College of Education will welcome nine Chilean students whose two-week visit represents the first step in the college’s “Migration, Inclusion and Diversity in Texan and Chilean K-12 Schools” (MID Texas-Chile) project in partnership with Universidad Alberto Hurtado (UAH) in Santiago, Chile. The project began in fall 2018 when College of Education faculty were awarded $25,000 from 100,000 Strong in the Americas to design and implement an exchange program for students in teacher education. Their program aims to prepare future teachers with necessary skills related to the globally relevant topics of migration, inclusion and diversity.
When the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grant competition called for higher education institutions to submit proposals that would provide short-term academic exchange opportunities between the United States and Latin America, College of Education Dean Dr. Michael O’Malley was immediately interested. In the past, O’Malley spearheaded the Project LEARN-Chile exchange for doctoral students between Texas State and UAH, and he was interested in developing similar global learning opportunities for undergraduate students. His hope is that offering more short-term exchange opportunities will allow students who traditionally lack the resources or are underrepresented in international mobility programs to have substantive international learning opportunities.
In partnership with their colleagues at UAH, O’Malley, Dr. Jesse Gainer, Dr. Minda Morren López and Dr. Kiyomi Sánchez-Suzuki Colegrove of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, as well as Manuel Goel, the associate director of Latin American Engagement, proposed an exchange program focused on preparing future educators to navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with migration, inclusion and diversity. Faculty from both universities decided to focus the program’s energy around migration because the United States and Chile experience high levels of immigration, which directly impact K-12 teachers who strive to provide equitable education experiences for students across diverse migration statuses, languages and cultures.
The first stage of the MID Texas-Chile project involves funding nine students from UAH’s English Pedagogy Program to travel to Texas State from September 30 to October 11 to attend classes alongside Texas State students and participate in field experiences at local schools. These students will receive course credit from UAH for their time in the United States, where their classroom and community experiences will prepare them to become better teachers for migrant populations.
In the same spirit, the team from Texas State will spend the next year designing a two-week study abroad experience for Texas State students in Chile. This past summer, O’Malley, López, and Colegrove visited UAH to begin developing a schedule and curriculum for the study abroad. To find the most fruitful learning opportunities for Texas State students, the group visited various Chilean cities and cultural centers, such as the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which tells the story of Chile’s descent into dictatorship as well as the country’s recovery and transition back to democracy. They also visited a K-12 school in Santiago with a high population of immigrant students where they observed classes and met with school leaders.
“As a teacher educator, I am grateful to be part of this project as I also benefit from exchanges like this,” shares López, “I have learned more about the educational system in Chile, how they prepare future teachers, and what challenges they are facing.”
Throughout their time in Chile, the group explored sites that will help students to understand the history and experience of inclusion, diversity and movement in Chile and guide them in expanding their perspectives of migration.
O’Malley sees migration as a global issue and responsiveness to education for migrants as a global need. While these are topics that College of Education faculty cover in their classrooms, he believes teacher education students should also be offered the opportunity to explore them globally. Because Texas State students and UAH students have different experiences with migration, O’Malley looks forward to bringing the two groups together and allowing them to think and work side-by-side in order to see the needs and possibilities in each other’s countries.