Instituto Agrícola Pascual Baburizza: the challenge of learning-by-doing in pandemic

29 •  April •  2021

“Learning by doing” is the slogan of the Instituto Agrícola Pascual Baburizza (IAPB), an agricultural technical high school located in Calle Larga, district of Los Andes. The pandemic made fulfilling that slogan an even greater challenge because students can no longer travel the 35 hectares that belong to the IAPB learning about their crops and putting their farming skills into practice.

However, to face the pandemic, the IAPB had an advantage to make its system more flexible: the school has a personalized pedagogical model of self-learning. This is the Sistema de Educación Relacional Fontán(Serf), brought directly from Colombia, where students develop their own Personal Study Plan, focused on learning according to their interests, respecting individual learning rhythms and developing their potential. This model facilitated the adaptation to an online class system.

Adapting the pedagogical model

“Despite the quarantine, these last few weeks we have noticed that the mood and rhythm didn’t declined. During the first meetings with parents  we were able to see that the families were very available,” said Carlos Valderrama, principal of the IAPB, after the school had to suspend its presential  classes once again because the commune moved back to phase 1 of the government’s Plan Paso a Paso.  

For Valderrama, the main objective in the process of adapting the class model was to maintain the online pedagogical work and the proximity of the entire educational community. To this end, with the Fundación Educacional Luksic, the school’s sponsoring entity, in 2020 they provided more than 200 computers and modems with internet to ensure the connection of all students.

“We wanted to give back the sense of community to our Institute and for that, we needed everyone to be connected. On the other hand, faced with a situation as complex as Covid-19, beyond focusing on academic development, we were also concerned about how students were living day to day,” explained the principal.

With the arrival of the pandemic, the IAPB began to rethink its pedagogical offerings, incorporating three main pillars. The first consisted of adapting school work to a half-day schedule, reducing the length of each subject by half so that students could concentrate exclusively on morning classes and review or do their homework in the afternoon. The second pillar was to create learning areas according to related and similar subjects, for example by combining Spanish and Social Sciences; Technology and Math ; or Arts and Sports. “We wanted a structure that would stimulate a permanent study habit, systematize work and fluid communication,” explains the principal.

The third pillar, and one of the star projects, was the articulation of subjects, which consists of unifying two or more subjects, regardless of whether they come from different learning areas, in order to lighten the academic load of young people. “For the student it is much friendlier to approach a work area composed of one, two, or three subjects. We can have an academic impact on their self-esteem, in the sense that they advance simultaneously in more than one subject, having a clearer sense in the projection of their learning: they have much clearer goals,” explains Valderrama.

According to Valderrama, the essence of the IAPB is that it places the student at the center of its pedagogical work, seeking to deploy all its resources to understand them as a multidimensional human being, who has needs, interests and concerns in all the dimensions of his life. “This fills us with pride because it allows us to continue to be at the forefront, dialoguing on an equal footing with other schools at the international level,” he concluded.