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Communication for Development (C4D)

Intercultural Bilingual Education for the Amazona


Ecuador: The model of intercultural bilingual education for the Amazon (MEIBA) has strengthened the education of 32,000 children from nine nationalities and indigenous peoples (Siona, Secoya, Cofán, Shuar, Achuar, Shiwiar, Wao, Quichua, and Zapara). UNICEF’s contribution has been to support bilingual education in the Amazon Region and to support the training of indigenous researchers and teachers at Cuenca’s University.

The model is a solution that has territorial and cultural relevance. The curriculum has been conceived to include topics such as cultural life, agricultural calendars and specific habits of the peoples. The model also understands that learning occurs throughout life and therefore has modules for adult, early childhood and basic education. This curriculum consists of 74 units that the student must complete and ensures that no school year is lost.

Potential Application
This innovative public policy was created by the Bilingual Intercultural Education (EIB) system in Ecuador, and could be applied across the education system in Ecuador and adopted by the education systems of other countries in the region. For example, the Chachi population in Esmeraldas is already receiving support for its implementation. This model of bilingual education contributes to the rural educational system as a whole, while providing better access, retention and learning of children in this area.

This innovative approach addresses the challenges faced by children of the underserved populations of the Amazon Region, creating new opportunities for them to realize their right to education. The training of indigenous researchers has great potential to continue the innovations in bilingual education, which has normally been developed by occidental professionals. Strengthening access to culturally and linguistically appropirate education is a primary method for indigenous peoples to realize their rights. Dirección Nacional de Educación Bilingüe Intercultural (DINEB) is the public institution appointed as responsible to guarantee this right.

The strategy has been to strengthen alliances between the indigenous movement, the public sector, academia represented by the University of Cuenca and UNICEF. The regional bodies and educational directorates have been strengthened. Each nationality has a technical team that integrates curricular development, the production of innovations, educational materials in indigenous languages and the preparation and training of teachers. 

The education of 32,000 children has been guaranteed for indigenous peoples and nationalities and will include content and actions which are pertinent and relevant to their culture:

  • 25,000 texts and materials in 9 Amazon languages produced and distributed among the peoples and nationalities that were attended. Technical teams from each nationality and indigenous peoples created the didactic units from 1 to 15.
  • 34 students conducted research in bilingual intercultural education while completing their third year of university.
  • 10 research papers ready to be published. 

Next steps 
Curriculum development for the learning units (contents, activities, standards) including training, organization, formation and mobilization of the Dirección Nacional de Educación Bilingüe Intercultural (DINEIB) bodies and their staff members to apply the model.



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