Featured on the image: Delegada Monserrat Bataller
Given the uncertainty that the return to school has generated, we put some questions to the education delegate of the North Guanajuato Region, Monserrat Bataller Sala. She provided some helpful information. First, Bataller asks parents not to be put off by the overwhelming amount of information from the different government educational institutions. Parents need to follow the guidelines from the local teachers who will be instructing their children. “Follow the teacher’s instructions; that is the one who will lead the learning process. Make time to work with your children. Don’t [let them] drop out of school. This new modality should not be a reason to abandon learning but rather to work on a new way forward.” That is the strong message for parents, said Bataller.
Jesús Aguado (JA): How will registration work for children entering kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school?
Monserrat Bataller Sala (MB): Preregistration was done in November 2019, and new students were added to the rolls. In February 2020, those who were not aware of the preregistration process were registered at the same time countrywide. Parents who come late are instructed on how to register without the need to go to the school. It can be done by Internet or cell phone. The information is out there so the parents can find it. For high school, there will be no face-to-face entry exams because of health concerns. A formula has been established to determine an average and assign places based on that. If a student does not get in on the first try, he or she will still be assigned a place. Nobody will be left out.
JA: Some parents have decided to move their children from the private to the public system or vice versa. In that case, will there be enough spaces for their children?
MB: We guarantee that we will be there for all of them. The most popular public schools are the most in demand, and there isn’t room for everyone. It will be a registration process. If parents want to transfer their child, it will be on a space-available basis. The criteria will be for siblings to stay together. There is the capacity to enroll students in private schools. In the northern region, there are 62 of them. San Miguel de Allende has 42 private schools: 17 are preschools; 14 are primary; 11 are secondary.
JA: Regarding voluntary contributions, does the Ministry of Education recommend making them?
MB: It is up to the parents to identify the needs of the educational centers. They see how best to support the schools. The money is used for cleaning materials and toilet paper. There are no utility expenses now, but rather there is a need for more robust Internet. Now parents and students use the Internet to connect, so they will need to pay those expenses as they exceed the general budget. This must be considered school by school. Some schools are equipped for an in-person return with thermometers and oxygen monitoring equipment. Each school must make decisions according to the needs of the campus.
JA: Some parents are talking about letting their children go without academic training for a year. Do you recommend this?
MB: Education is compulsory. It is the responsibility of the parents, and it is our obligation to provide it. If there is no justification for it, we cannot keep a child from continuing to learn. Also, it is not just about a television network. There will be booklets; there will be learning groups. This is an opportunity for parents to learn what they forgot or never learned in school. It is a good opportunity to do the INAEBA (Literacy and Basic Education for Adults) and take a test that can lead to a primary, junior high, or high school certificate. All these options are virtual for now; it is a matter of being conscientious. We are looking for ways to help each family deal with educational concerns until we can resume [a more normal schedule]. Hopefully, this is just a cycle. We all want normalcy to return—whatever it may be—to go back to our daily lives, but that will not happen if, as a society, we don’t become aware that the return depends on our behavior and on protecting ourselves and following health measures. We must attack the virus by protecting ourselves. Social disorder is not paying attention to the guidelines of specialists. We will come back from this, so let’s do our part.
JA: Some parents have complained about the payment of tuition in private schools. How does the Ministry of Education help resolve the controversy?
MB: It is an agreement between individuals. We do not intervene because it is a matter of negotiation, dialogue, and the decision of the one who provides the service. The provider establishes the rules based on the regulatory framework of the Ministry of Education.
JA: Should the full list of school supplies be purchased?
MB: Each teacher will determine what is required. It is not possible to buy everything on a list and keep it at home, nor can the purchases be done daily because parents cannot go shopping every day. A minimum has been defined. What is needed will depend on each teacher and school. The important thing is the learning process.
JA: How will children be supervised if both parents work? How will online classes be distributed if there are 16 grades?
MB: We are looking at how to guide the parents. Sometimes they are supported by neighbors. Each family must establish the appropriate dynamics, taking care that they do not put the children who are home at risk. There will be orientations in private or secondary schools; there will be direct classes through the media for project work. Others will be supported through the television network. The same programming is repeated. There is flexibility, and there are booklets that are a good tool for use in rural communities. It is a huge effort to manage the learning process. The basis is textbooks. We have an email account for each student, and this is how communication is established. We have open social networks exclusively for the system. Teachers will be able to use applications and programs to maintain direct contact with students and parents.