By:Kristin De La Oliva Issue: Biennial of the Americas 2010 Section:The Americas Roundtables
Changing Education One Student at a Time
Luanne Zurlo, a former Wall Street securities analyst, founded Worldfund, a non-profit organization that provides grants and assistance to Latin American countries to improve English literacy in schools, while raising the quality and relevance of education there, to transform lives and break the cycle of poverty. Since 2002, Worldfund has served more than 86,000 students in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela. The goal is to minimize the education gap of Latin American students by investing in high quality, outcome driven programs for impoverished students. The organization and its founder are particularly focused on practical skills for employment and higher education, and targets key levers of change like principals, teachers, and gifted youth who can make a difference in their communities.
Zurlo said, “Not only the elite should have a quality education.” She said one key factor in a quality education is to have good teachers, which requires better training programs and improved compensation packages. Just like the U.S., Latin America is having trouble attracting and retaining top teachers because of low salaries. “If we want to bring the best people to the profession, we need to pay them well,” she commented.
Oftentimes when addressing educational needs in Latin America, administrators take a bottom-up management approach, addressing the children first for example, and working up to teachers and toward the district level. Zurlo believes that it should be handled just the opposite — by using a top-down style that starts at the state or district levels. Zurlo believes that educational improvements will only occur when quality compensation, planning and training have been provided.