Our first interview was with a Nicaraguan high school professor who has been teaching French for the last 12 years. She grew up in Nicaragua and has spent the majority of her life here but has traveled abroad as well--giving her a unique perspective on Nicaragua and it's future. All interviews with her are in Spanish.
What do you like and dislike about the educational system here in Nicaragua?
I like the fact that there are standard programs which are applied in every school. Nevertheless, in the last few years there has been a little flexibility in the private schools. Consequently, the private schools can have their own curriculum and are only required to meet a basic standard. That is beginning to change a little?
What area receives the greatest emphasis--sciences or humanities?
There is an equilibrium. One thing that I don't like are the limitations-the professor doesn't have materials. At least in the public schools, the teachers don't have the opportunities to prepare themselves better. Many times the materials that the Ministry of Education gives them are very limited.
The curriculum is very complete, that is to say that there is an ongoing effort in Nicaragua to teach better methods and stuff like that. I worked for 12 years in the public school system and there is an effort.
What do teachers usually earn in public schools here?
The earn between fifty and seventy dollars a month-almost nothing. And here's something-the good teachers in secondary have had to leave the public school system because they can't survive with that salary.
So you think that there are very few good teachers in the public system here?
Yes, I think so.
Then what would be the motivation for someone to want to teach in a public school if they know that the salary is so low?
Well, in my case I had the advantage that my husband earned ten or twenty times for than I did so I didn't have to worry about my salary. So while I worked in secondary education I didn't worry about it because I was living well. And the important thing to me was to work and teach my students-I did it because I wanted to teach. I've taught for six years in public secondary schools and six years in a university. The salary at the university was three hundred dollars a month.
What do you think is the biggest problem which is facing Nicaraguan children today?
Nicaragua has been a country which has confronted a lot of aggression and that has prevented it from developing. Consequently the future of our children is very uncertain, especially when it comes to employment, and the opportunities for higher education are decreasing because private schools are becoming more common and state school are lowering their size. Given that the chances for higher education, the opportunities for future professionals are ever decreasing. There is a problem in Nicaragua-either the people don't study or they want to be professionals but they don't want to be technicians. The technical area needs to be developed.
So you believe that the education which they are receiving and the lack of opportunities for education are the biggest problems that face them?
It's a problem. There is free primary education in all of the country, supposedly up to sixth grade. But, for example, in one study that I made I learned that between thirty and forty percent of the students didn't continue studying between first and second.