5: Locally Driven Innovation Through Teacher Peer Mentoring in Times of COVID-19: A Professional Learning Community in Rural El Salvador

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The global trend in governments’ responses to school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic was to transition to online learning and provision of materials, which was also El Salvador’s response despite many students lacking access to the internet and adequate devices. Schooling was reduced to filling out worksheets, leading to ineffective learning that lacked meaning. This chapter presents, through primary data collected from teachers, parents, and students, an experience in rural El Salvador where a group of teachers dedicated themselves to ensuring that their students continued learning throughout the pandemic. Contrary to global curricular trends that prioritize improving reading speed over meaning, these teachers facilitated learning based on a sociocultural and communicative approach to literacy development. When government support arrived through centralized training, these teachers already had their own professional support community. This organizational capacity likely stemmed from their history during the Salvadoran Civil War and popular education practices developed in that period. This experience encourages governments, donors, and local organizations to: (1) promote literacy development rooted in meaning and socioemotional learning over reading speed; (2) change traditional centralized teacher training and turn towards learning communities; and (3) leverage the power of local history and relevant cultural factors for local solutions.

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