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Eduardo Frei, President of Chile, Visits TC To Help Launch New Era of Cooperation

The Chilean Ministry of Education and Teachers College have agreed to develop a series of pre-service and in-service training programs for Chilean teachers and exchange programs with college faculty.

At a press conference in Grace Dodge Hall, Eduardo Frei, the president of Chile, said that the agreement with Teachers College could play an important role in education reform in his country.

The agreement was the product of negotiations coordinated by Peter Comeau, Associate Director of the Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation and representatives of the Chilean Ministry of Education.

Said TC President Arthur Levine: "Chile has been one of the most visionary countries in the world in bringing about reforms."

The quality of education and access to education have become important issues in Chile. Since 1990, government spending on social programs, primarily health and education, has doubled. At the same time, the proportion of Chileans living in poverty has declined by almost 50 percent to one of four people.

Under Frei, Chile has lengthened the school year, has linked nearly 3,000 schools to the Internet, and has increasingly turned control of schools to local communities. But the Chilean leader wants to build upon the progress his country has already made.

"All the efforts for these reforms take place in the classroom," he said. Now, it is time for those reform efforts to focus on the teachers themselves. Too many teachers lack specialization and suffer from low wages and low morale. "That is why we are sending them to centers of excellence in teachers education in North America, South America, Europe and Asia."

Although he is sending teachers to some of the best schools of education in the world, he is especially pleased that Teachers College is going to play a key role because of TC's long history with Chile.

Indeed, Frei left Teachers College with more than a pledge to provide further assistance. Dean Karen Zumwalt presented Frei a bound copy of the dissertation written by the first Chilean graduate of Teachers College, Irma Salas.

Her 1930 dissertation was entitled, "The Socioeconomic Composition of the Secondary School Population of Chile." The topic of her dissertation was timely then-and now. It was on the need to develop a high school curriculum to serve the children of common and skilled laborers. Secondary schools were geared to students from educated and wealthy families. The children of working class parents often dropped out and there was no network of vocational programs to train them for commercial or industrial jobs.

The Chilean government was so impressed by her work that it encouraged the private publication of her dissertation.

She returned to her homeland after graduation and became an advocate for education, using John Dewey's philosophy as a guide. In the 1960s, she designed a regional "community" college system for Chile to increase educational opportunities for Chileans. The regional college system was adopted during the presidency of Eduardo Frei's father.

The library of the University of the Serena in Chile is named in her honor and the University of Chile offers a scholarship in her name.

(Frei made a presentation of his own. He gave Levine a beautifully bound collection of the works of Pablo Neruda. Neruda, a Chilean, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971 and is considered to be Latin America's greatest poet.)

Teachers College has other ties to Chile. In 1966, Bruce R. Vogeli, the Clifford Brewster Upton Professor of Mathematical Education at Teachers College, was appointed as the Ford Foundation's mathematics advisor to Chile's Minister of Education. He helped establish the first graduate studies program in mathematics in Chile at the Universidad Tecnica del Estado (now the University of Santiago). A majority of practicing Chilean mathematicians are graduates of that program.

In the 1970s the Chilean government invited the College to offer a program in educational leadership at the University of Santiago. Professor Vogeli served as director of the leadership program. Degrees were awarded by the University of Santiago under an agreement between the University and Teachers College. Graduates of the leadership program now hold senior posts in a variety of institutions. Two went on to become ministers of education.

The formal leadership program ended in 1982, however, Teachers College faculty continued to teach in Chile until the early 1990s. The agreement signed by Levine and a senior officer of the Chilean Ministry of Education renews that long-standing relationship.

One of the greatest educational challenges in Chile-and in the United States-is giving school children the skills they need to participate in a modern economy. Mott Hall School, located on the edge of Washington Heights and Harlem in Manhattan, is an example of how to accomplish that.

Mott Hall is a science, technology and math magnet school that has the largest proportion of bilingual students of any school in New York State-90 percent. The students learn how to use computers as creative research tools and use them routinely for course assignments, said Dr. Mirian Acosta-Sing, principal of Mott Hall.

For example, this year students started using laptop computers for mathematics projects. For one project, Kelvin Then, a sixth grader, asked his classmates to complete a survey-pick one of five colors as their favorite color. After he compiled his results, he used Microsoft PowerPoint software to make a multimedia presentation that featured bar charts, graphs, pie charts and text to explain what proportion of the students liked which colors.

Another student, Ailinne Espinoza, a seventh grader, explained that every year the students do a science project. This year's topic was the life of insects. She and her classmates designed multimedia presentations that featured slides, illustrations and commentary that was based on research they conducted via the Internet.

Ailinne explained that one of the Web sites they checked was managed by a Brazilian entomologist who gladly answered their questions about insects and encouraged them to continue their research.

Frei was so intrigued by the students' presentation that he told his staff to wait a little longer than scheduled before they whisked him off to his next meeting.

The technology program at Mott Hall was developed with the assistance of the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College. The Chilean government is interested in placing apprentices to work with "master" teachers at the school. Acosta-Sing understands Chile's interest in training teachers and students to use technology in the classroom. She said: "We feel it is a very important way to enrich the curriculum."

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