Founded in 1994, The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy is a private, non-profit Pre K-12 school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Since its inception with 80 students, the Academy has grown tremendously and currently serves approximately 300 students from varying backgrounds: indigenous, non-indigenous, poor, working, and middle class.
In 1989, he graduated from the Universidad de San Carlos with an Economics degree. Determined to use his degree to help those “failed by the existing public and private school systems,” Jorge opened The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in 1994. He hoped to help the most vulnerable students placing special emphasis upon poor and indigenous children. In 2000, he was awarded with the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship for his work at the Academy, distinguishing him as a “leading social entrepreneur; an extraordinary individual with unprecedented ideas for change in his community.”
The Academy combines Brazilian Educator Paulo Freire’s Popular Education model and an alliance with INTECAP (Institute for Technical Training). Working in tandem, both systems encourage all students and teachers to think of themselves as learners, teachers, and ultimately world transformers.
As opposed to an educational system filled with indigestible facts, Popular Education uses themes that directly confront the student’s lives. The process of bringing core curriculum to life by making it relevant to students’ experiences helps them to retain the academic material.
For example, lessons are organized around monthly themes such as gender, ecology, human rights and independence. During the theme of gender, students learn about fractions by looking at the ratio of boys to girls in their classes and then analyzing the amount of indigenous to non-indigenous students.
In addition, the Academy’s partnership with INTECAP helps middle school and high school students learn a technical trade so they can utilize these skills to support their continuing education.
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