The Computer Program
“In our globalized world, technology is a critical part of our students’ educations. They must have technological skills to be competitive in the job market. Our graduates are working in all sorts of jobs thanks to the preparation they received from CoEd’s computer lab.”
– Pablo Xinico, principal at Hacienda Maria school
The Demand for Technological Literacy
While almost 60% of entry-level jobs in Guatemala require computer skills, children in rural communities lack access to computer instruction. In some communities that Cooperative for Education (CoEd) serves, not a single student had touched a computer before the arrival of the program. When rural, indigenous youth enter the job market without the same training as their urban peers, they face unemployment and economic hardship. As the digital divide grows, so do income disparities, inequality, and poverty. CoEd Computer Centers in rural middle schools create opportunities for Mayan youth to gain the skills they need to continue their education, secure higher-wage jobs, and permanently raise their standard of living.
How the Program Works
CoEd establishes Computer Centers in middle schools throughout the Western Highlands, providing young people with access to state-of-the-art technology. Each school community partners with CoEd to renovate or prepare a classroom to be a fully functioning Computer Center, with proper security, wiring, ventilation, and lighting. All equipment is purchased in-country (to secure the lowest possible price and contribute to the local economy) and installed once the space is ready. A typical Computer Center houses 12-20 current-model PCs or 40 current-model laptops.
Students receive at least 60 minutes of hands-on computer instruction per week. They learn typing and web navigation as well as the Microsoft Office Suite; develop basic programming skills with Scratch programming; and explore the outside world through Encarta.
All Computer Center students follow a standard, proven curriculum, developed by Education Technology Consulting (ETC), an internationally-recognized leader in K-12 computer education. The course of study consists of 100 lessons spread over a student’s three-year middle school education. At the end of each unit, students complete standardized evaluations that assess their progress.
Students also learn to apply their technical knowledge to real-world situations through a project-based learning methodology, which challenges them to work cooperatively, think critically and creatively, and apply their computer knowledge to practical problems facing their communities. For example, program students have used their computer skills to perform a cost/benefit analysis of two crops grown in their community, launch a campaign to fight underage drinking, and even start their own small businesses.
Students’ families pay a small fee ($3-$4 per month) for their children to use the computers. The fees go into a revolving fund, which is used to cover operating expenses (like maintenance and software updates) and purchase new computer equipment as the original equipment wears out or becomes obsolete. This way, generations of students can benefit from access to computer technology.
Because families make a commitment to paying into the revolving fund, they have a vested interest in the project’s success. Since the program began in 2001, 30 schools have upgraded their technology at least once using their revolving fund.
Once up and running, the projects are managed by school administration and teachers, with CoEd acting in a supporting role. CoEd also trains local teachers to maintain the technology and instruct computer classes. Teachers demonstrate their computer skills by taking the Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC3) exam. In this way, the knowledge and expertise involved in running the centers resides in the local communities.
95% of graduates find a job or continue their education in high school.
98% of graduates say the program was useful in preparing them for what they do now.