Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

The Needs of Educators in Intercultural and Bilingual Preschools in Chile: A Case Study

Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

The Needs of Educators in Intercultural and Bilingual Preschools in Chile: A Case Study

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Several studies have examined the lack of or the insufficient preparation of K-12 educators to work in intercultural and bilingual (IBE) schools in Chile, but little is known about the preparation of educators to teach in IBE preschools. Even less is known about teachers' perceptions of their own preparation. This work contributes to a growing body of literature that examines the experiences and practice of second language teachers in Indigenous language education settings from a sociocultural perspective. This qualitative case study focuses on teachers' perceptions of their preparation to teach Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people, in urban IBE preschools in Chile. Three research questions guide this study: What are teachers' perceptions of their needs regarding their preparation to teach Mapudungun in urban IBE preschools? What are the current challenges that teachers face teaching Mapudungun in urban IBE preschools? Which experiences fostered their ability to teach Mapudungun? The findings of this study have implications for the incorporation of more complex notions of Indigenous language learning that are linked directly to Mapuche culture and its sociopolitical context, as well as the inclusion of teachers' experiential knowledge in the preparation of teachers for work in IBE schools.

KEYWORDS: teacher education, intercultural and bilingual education, Indigenous language, preschools, Mapuche people.

Although Chile is multiethnic and multicultural, governmental policies and programs that focus specifically on the education of Indigenous students are only a recent addition to Chile's educational system. Since 1992, the Intercultural and Bilingual Education (IBE) program is the primary program that the Chilean Ministry of Education has implemented for improving the education of Indigenous students; (1) it is also important to note that IBE preschools were only recently created, in 2009 (Bustos, Cariman, Diaz, & Merino, 2014). Despite the benefits of these efforts, a growing number of reports and studies have identified crucial problems with the IBE program (Fernandez, 2005; Ministerio de Educacion, 2011; UNICEF & Ministerio de Desarrollo Social, 2011). One problem is the insufficient--and sometimes inappropriate--preparation for K-12 teachers working in IBE schools (Abarca, Alarcon, Huircan, Millacura, & Olivares, n.d.; Programa de Educacion Intercultural Bilingue, Ministerio de Educacion, & UNICEF, 2012; Turra, Ferrada, & Villena, 2013). In addition, relevant research on teacher education for IBE settings is limited in Chile, with few of these studies focused specifically on the preparation of teachers to teach in IBE preschools.

The small number of relevant studies, as well as their findings with respect to insufficient teacher preparation, are not surprising if we consider that university programs for teacher education in IBE schools are very limited in Chile. There are only two such programs in Chile, and neither of them is located in Region Metropolitana, the capital region, even though this region has the fastest growing population of Indigenous people in the country. This lack of teacher education programs for IBE in Region Metropolitana suggests that preschool teachers may face crucial issues when teaching in IBE preschools. First, these teachers may not have received relevant or adequate linguistic and cultural preparation for IBE; second, they will be teaching in an area--Region Metropolitana--that sees itself as a "white" and "modern" city, while rejecting and ignoring the presence of native Mapuche people (Aravena, 2007). In short, these teachers are not professionally prepared, and they may not be even aware of diversity and Indigenous children in their schools, despite the widely researched importance of culturally responsive pedagogy in teacher preparation programs (e.g., Cochran-Smith, 2004; Gay, 2002, 2010; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). …

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