The Indigenous Bilingual Model: An approach to intercultural education in Mexico

In order to include the indigenous languages spoken in the Mexican state of Chiapas in educational activities, DVV International initiated a bilingual indigenous education model together with Mexican government partners in 2016. The training focuses on literacy, building communicative skills and teaching the right to lifelong learning.

DVV International has been working in Mexico since 1993. Since 2000, the office serves as a regional office which coordinates activities in Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba. DVV International Mexico focuses on strengthening civic education, promoting political participation and supporting the development of self-governing structures for the indigenous population at a local level.

In order to pursue these goals, DVV International cooperates with various partner organisations on site. For instance, the Mexican Ministry of Adult Education (INEA –  Instituto Nacional para la Educación de los Adultos) is an important partner. Amongst others, DVV International supports projects in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas which is located on the border with Guatemala. The regional institute of INEA, ICHEJA (Instituto Chiapaneco de Educación para Jóvenes y Adultos), is an important associate in supporting DVV International’s work in that region.

Including indigenous communities matters in Chiapas

According to the committee of statistic and geographic information of Chiapas, 1.2 million inhabitants of Chiapas above the age of 3 speak an indigenous language. This makes one quarter of the total population of the state. For many of the indigenous inhabitants Spanish is their first foreign langue. Main indigenous languages spoken and recognized by the ICHEJA are Tsotsil,  Tseltal, Tojolabal, Ch’ol and Zoque.

To meet the needs of Chiapas’ diverse population and incorporate those indigenous languages into educational frameworks, DVV International and ICHEJA joined forces. In 2016, they initiated a project to create and install an educational Bilingual Indigenous Model (MIB: Modelo Indígena Bilingüe) which continues until today. 

Within the scope of the Bilingual Indigenous Model, consultants, teachers and trainers are trained on how to enhance their work with indigenous communities in the region. The training focuses on the alphabetization in the aforementioned indigenous languages as well as in Spanish, on building communicative skills and learning about the right to lifelong learning. The MIB also includes learning sessions on gender equality, democratic participation, and intercultural competences. Generally speaking, education is seen as an emancipatory and empowering instrument. 

Indigenous Bilingual Model – a success model

The beneficiaries are indigenous adults and young people over 15 years of age who,  for various circumstances, didn’t have the opportunity to finish or even start their basic education. Since its beginning in 2016, 68 consultants, teachers and trainers have been trained to pass on their knowledge to the indigenous learners. A recently published evaluation already shows promising results. The people interviewed for the evaluation noticed an enhancement not only in their professional but also in their personal life. This positive outcome triggered the interest of other Mexican departments wanting to implement the model in their education system.

In July 2021,  a conference on the Indigenous Bilingual Model took place in San Cristóbal de las Casas, the 3rd largest City of Chiapas. During that meeting the director of ICHEJA, Gustavo Gómez Ordóñez, thanked DVV International for their support in fostering educational purposes in Chiapas as well as the bilingual educators and the federal department for ethnic affairs for their continuous efforts. Gómez Ordóñez also stressed that diminishing the illiteracy rate has to be a joint project. This is why he attaches great importance to continuing the successful collaboration with DVV International.

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