Harvard Graduates

Improving Schools in Latin America and Beyond

by | Dec 28, 2003

Children and adults study together in rural Mexican school.

I want to help my family, I am learning different things that I want to teach to my brothers and sisters and I want to teach English and how to use the computer to my community.”

—Mayra Hernández. 14 years old, San Juan Tabba, Oaxaca.

Mayra is one of many rural Mexican students benefiting from the work of Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Alumna Mariali Cardenas EdM’02. Living in the northern mountains of Mexico, Cardenas felt helpless in the face of the extreme rural poverty she witnessed there. But attending the International Education Policy (IEP) program at HGSE changed her feelings of desperation into hope. “I felt renewed and confident because I had learned how to use tools and skills to improve social conditions through education,” Cardenas says. Now Cardenas works to increase access to education for adults and children such as Mayra by establishing community learning centers in rural Mexican villages as the Director of Education in the Division of Social Programs at Monterrey Tech (ITESM).

Graduates of the one-year master’s program in International Education Policy are working everyday to improve educational quality in Latin America and around the world. In its fifth year, the program focuses on understanding education’s role in promoting equal opportunity and in reducing poverty. It attracts students interested in education in developing countries, as well as those who want to study education policy issues comparatively.

The program’s international and comparative focus is a central component to its success in producing effective graduates. IEP alumna Florencia Mezzadra, EdM’02 says, “The IEP program contributed to my professional life in several ways. I especially appreciated the chance to discuss educational policies with professionals from all over the world and see that in Argentina we can learn from other countries’ experiences.” Mezzadra is now putting her degree to work researching educational inequity for the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC) in Argentina.

Cardenas and Mezzadra are prime examples of the impact IEP graduates are having in the field of international education. “The leaders who graduate from the IEP are working, in every corner of the planet, to support education reforms so that schools contribute to peace by developing opportunity, understanding and the expansion of all human capabilities and talents,” says IEP Program Director and HGSE Associate Professor Fernando Reimers whose own field of research is the impact of teaching quality on the academic opportunities of low income children.

Graduates of the program have taken on a diversity of professional assignments, which include conducting policy analysis for ministries of education, working as faculty members and researchers in universities and research organizations, and working as education specialists in international development organizations. Upon graduation, most graduates remain in contact with each other and with program faculty, thus maintaining a strong community with a shared purpose to expand educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged children throughout the world.

Applicants to the Masters Program in International Education Policy must follow the regular application requirements of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A personal statement of purpose, transcripts of past academic work, test scores (GRE, TOEFL and TWE), and letters of recommendation must be submitted, along with a completed application form.

Fall 2003Volume III, Number 1

Carol da Silva is a doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an intern for ReVista.

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