CAL in Honduras
Why use CAL?
Schooling in most rural Honduran villages ends at Grade 6, usually because parents cannot afford to send their children to junior high school away from home. For example, the dropout rate between Grades 6 and 7 in the Municipality of Santa Cruz de Yojoa has been as high as 96%, according to the local Superintendant of Schools. In addition to this high attrition rate, the quality of education is inadequate for a number of reasons:
● Rural Honduran elementary schools have no text, reference, or library books. This hinders not only the acquisition of knowledge but also the upgrading of reading skills.
● Honduran teachers are poorly paid, which leads to labor unrest. As a result, schools are sometimes open less than 120 days per year instead of the mandated 190.
● Student-to-teacher ratios are high. Many schools have only one teacher for as many as 50 students.
A CAL program offers a number of advantages over conventional schooling:
● Schools can be established quickly and at low cost in a variety of settings.
● It is inexpensive; the cost to ACH per graduate per year in 2018 was US$59. In Canada, this cost would range up to $12,000, depending on the jurisdiction.
● Computers are not limited by a teacher’s working hours.
● The hard drive on an ACH computer holds a whole school: an extensive library, two encyclopedias, dictionaries, and a touch-typing program.
Development of the CAL Program
The Honduran Educatodos curriculum for Grades 7-9, which was developed with the assistance of USAID, integrates various subjects into an adult education delivery modality. It also incorporates audio-visual materials and cues to direct learners to discuss the indicated topics with other students. In early 2009 CPI digitized the curriculum, installed it on a computer, and conducted a CAL pilot test with two students. The effectiveness of this approach was demonstrated when both students completed the curriculum in 18 weeks. Full-scale use of CAL began in December, 2009 with 19 students enrolled in the new CPI school in Santa Cruz de Yojoa.
The Educatodos curriculum was used by the Honduran Ministry of Education until 2014, when it was replaced by a new junior high school curriculum. CPI's Honduran partner, Asociacióon Confraternidad Honduras (ACH), digitized the new course material and also incorporated the methodologies that had made the Educatodos curriculum effective to produce a new CAL program, which was introduced in January 2015. More teaching videos were included and other enhancements were made; for example, the mathematics curriculum lacked sufficient exercises to ensure that each concept would be mastered, so more exercises were added.
CPI/ACH Philosophy: Education for All
● The only condition ACH places on students who wish to enroll in the CAL program is that they have completed Grade 6.
● CPI and ACH are committed to the idea that education should be available to all, even those from the poorest families. For the first five years, ACH charged no tuition fees. There is a $15 graduation fee at the end of each year, and few students have not been able to pay this charge. Those who cannot afford the fee can do community service work in lieu of payment.
● Unlike many public schools, ACH has no dress code; for the cost of five uniforms it is possible to purchase one computer. A school T-shirt has been designed and many students buy one of these for about $7, but this purchase is entirely voluntary.
● Attendance is voluntary and ACH does not maintain attendance records. Students come to study without coercion on the part of the school. A student missing a day or a week of study will resume at the place they left off before their absence. Similarly, students who drop out are allowed, if and when they return, to resume their studies at the point where they were interrupted.
● Open admission: Students can enroll at any time of the year and are not restricted to a fixed start date.
● Discipline: Discipline has not been an issue with CAL.
● Tutoring: Students have access to all the learning materials on the computer, and are expected to access these resources to correctly answer questions in the curriculum. As well, students are encouraged to ask their peers if they need help. Technicians are available, but it is not their function to teach; rather, they direct students to the appropriate resources.
The hard drive of each CAL computer contains:
● The complete Honduran curriculum for Grades 7 to 9 and all the study materials needed to complete this curriculum.
● A digital library of over 500 titles provides reading materials for students. This library has a deliberate peace bias, with stories that promote peace and conflict resolution without resorting to violence. Many of the stories selected for inclusion in the library have been illustrated by ACH staff. For readers who have had little access to stories, these illustrations make reading more enjoyable.
● Reference books such as a dictionary, the Encyclopedia Encarta and the Encyclopedia of Honduras, an atlas, and the Spanish version of “Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook.”
● A self-instructional typing/keyboarding program to help students learn to use the keyboard efficiently.
● The Educatodos program for Grades 1 to 6 for illiterate people who want to learn to read.
● A GED preparation manual for people who wish to challenge the GED exams to get a high school diploma.
Each computer should have at least 500 MB of RAM, but preferably 1GB for improved performance. The hard drive requires a minimum of 80 GB to accommodate all of the learning materials.
Credentialing and Examinations
Students must complete the entire curriculum before being permitted to write final examinations. Unlike the regular school system which depends on the teacher to cover the curriculum, students in the CAL program have the responsibility of completing the curriculum and showing the technicians that they have done so. The time taken to complete the course of studies depends on the individual. Older and more motivated students generally complete the curriculum more quickly than less motivated students or younger students who come to school not only to learn, but also to socialize. Younger students are also expected to read at least 20 books for every grade they complete.
Exams consist of 100 questions randomly selected by the computer from a bank of 300 questions and cover all subjects in the curriculum. Younger students are also questioned about library books that they have read.
An agreement with the Honduran Ministry of Education requires that students under 15 years of age be in class for at least nine months. Therefore, younger students who are ahead of the timetable to complete the curriculum in ten months are encouraged to read books from the CAL library. Older students, keen to complete their grade and get on with life, are encouraged, but not required, to fill up their schedule reading books from the library.
To enable as many people as possible to get an education, CPI and ACH have adopted a policy of making the digitized curriculum available to other groups at no cost and providing training in the use of the CAL materials. Other groups include Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), municipalities, families, churches, and schools.
The main school in Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Instituto Centro de Enseñanza Fraternidad (CEF), is registered with the Honduran Ministry of Education. This gives the school official status and the right to do certain things with the curriculum and educational delivery. It also gives the CEF the right to award graduation certificates. CAL graduates who have used the downloaded materials pay a graduation fee of HNL 300 (about C$17) to help offset some of the costs of the program.