Study tours address school violence prevention in El Salvador

This blog is part of FHI 360’s observation of International Education Week, which is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education and an annual opportunity to highlight the benefits of international education and exchange.

Violence is one of the greatest challenges facing youth in El Salvador today. By 2011, gang activity and organized crime had entered more than 300 schools across the country, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). To prevent school violence, FHI 360 has conducted a series of week-long study tours as part of the USAID Education for Children and Youth Program, which has been working in El Salvador since 2013.

To date, three tours have brought approximately 50 principals, Ministry of Education officials and other education stakeholders to Washington, DC, to explore best practices for improving the educational opportunities for Salvadoran youth living in areas with high rates of violence. The tours promote positive relations between the U.S. and El Salvador and specifically aim to strengthen Salvadoran society through secondary education reform. Participants have explored models for combating high education dropout rates, preventing school violence and creating safe spaces for youth.

The large Salvadoran population in Washington, DC, provides a unique opportunity for the participants to learn how youth from El Salvador and of Salvadoran descent are faring in U.S. schools. Participants can also see how educators from El Salvador are making a difference in local schools. For example, groups have visited Bruce-Monroe Elementary School at Park View, where Principal Marta Palacios, a native of El Salvador, has created a safe and successful dual-language school. Other visits have been to the Montgomery County Recreation Center to learn about youth violence prevention and intervention and to the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education to discuss strategies and policies for violence prevention and the reintegration of dropouts into school.

At the conclusion of the study tours, participants work with FHI 360 to identify lessons learned and ideas for applying these lessons in El Salvador. Participants have been inspired by the efforts of educators and youth in DC and by the passion and commitment of fellow group members.

With three more study tours planned for 2015, the Education for Children and Youth Program will create a network of approximately 100 Salvadoran educators who will aspire to advance school reform efforts in El Salvador.

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