Latin American Looks to Europe for Teaching Reform

Mexico’s higher education community is working to “combat soaring dropout rates, a lack of scholarly research, and the poor quality of many of the university’s academic programs,” with Proyecto Aula (Project Classroom), one of several reform efforts modeled after the European Union’s Bologna Process. This process “seeks to establish a common standard for university education and boost student and faculty mobility throughout Europe.” Dr. Jorge Balderrama, a physician, psychologist and professor, is helping lead this change, which “include instituting a flexible and multidisciplinary curriculum, a new emphasis on critical thinking and problem-based learning, and integrating research and technology into the classroom.”

Francisco Marmolejo, executive director of the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration, states “What matters in the end is not just how much they know about one specific discipline or profession. We need more thinking students with the capacity to adapt to changing conditions in the work environment.” The article below also states that “other reform projects in the region include a European Union-led effort to revise university curricula that involves consulting public and business officials and other stakeholders about what university graduates need to know.” And that “several Latin American countries, including Chile and Brazil, are also experimenting with instituting student-centered learning methods in public universities.”

Project Classroom’s goals will enhance Latin America’s ability to compete globally and are consistent with the topics covered in my Keys to Success series, which has been read by more than one million students worldwide with translations in Chinese and Spanish. Mexico’s quest for higher standards will inevitably lead back to what students are learning at the middle school and high school levels. LifeBound’s stair-step program for grades 5-12 is designed to help students successfully navigate the academic and developmental transitions at every grade level. Our Study Skills book has been translated into Spanish for high school students.

  • What measurable steps can we take at the k-12 level to coordinate priorities between secondary and post secondary learning for future employability?
  • How can we raise awareness about the Bologna Process and thereby enlist input from employers to better align the skills and competencies of graduates with global market requirements?
  • How can we better prepare American high school students to gain a competitive edge for college and career success?


Latin American Looks to Europe for Teaching Reform
By Marion Lloyd
Veracruz, Mexico
The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 22, 2009

Ten years ago, one of Jorge Balderrama’s psychology students gave the following answer when asked to evaluate his professor’s performance: “You pretend to teach, and I pretend to learn.”
The student might have been describing the classroom experience today at most Mexican universities, says Dr. Balderrama, a physician and psychologist who has taught for more than 15 years.

Despite more than a decade of government-led higher-education reforms in Latin America, most of the region’s universities continue to rely on a traditional professor-centered educational model, which includes a rigid, pre-professional curriculum and an emphasis on rote learning. The model is also highly inefficient, with Mexican college students spending on average 30 percent more time in class than their counterparts in the United States and Canada do, according to education specialists in Mexico and the United States.

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