Out of the Shadows is a documentary film by Mark Farrell-Javits, Lupe Tomic, and Elisabeth Brodbeck Molina from the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School. It offers a brief account and some insights in the Escuela de Enseñanza Media No.2 D.F.4, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. More generally, however, it is about the role of education in Argentina today. The film explores the middle school experience in Buenos Aires and demonstrates the important role of education for youth in Argentina today. Graduate students from the Program in International Affairs at the New School in New York City wrote, directed, and filmed this documentary for their International Field Program internship with Fundacion SES.
As part of their internship with SES. Mark, Lupe and Liz were tasked with diagnosing and evaluating a “reingreso” school; a unique type of school from the Buenos Aires’ public education system that targets the need for educational inclusion of underprivileged teenagers who, for different reasons, have left school and now want to complete their high school degree. The school in the film is “Escuela de Enseñanza Media N°2”, is located at the edge of the Barrio La Boca, a historically working-class and Italian immigrants neighborhood with a rich cultural background. But the school was also close to “Barracas”, another district of the city where some of the poorest residents of Buenos Aires, many immigrants from neighboring countries, live inside shantytowns or “villas”. Most of the students from the school came from Villa 21, located in Barracas. This school was opened in 2004. It had around three hundred students enrolled, divided into two shifts and was housed inside a factory building that belonged to a cooperative-run printing press. It also shared the space with a radio station and together these three institutions formed a rich community with strong social values that inspired my group.
The initial goal was to learn about this type of school and come up with an evaluation of their work, to determine if their objective to re-integrate the so called “risk population” of underprivileged youth into the education system was being met and if they could overcome the socio-economic challenges that these young people experienced in the context of their life.
Literature about this type of school was readily available; in fact, the director of the education area at SES, Marcelo Krichesky, had written an inform for the government of Buenos Aires about the “Escuelas de Reingreso”, making many quantitative and qualitative assessments that were extremely useful for us to understand the purpose of these institutions. Amongst the quantitative data, it was found that in 2006, 12,985 youth between the ages of 14 and 18 were out of the education system. That is 6.2% of the total number of people in that age range. Among those registered in schools, about 10,500 ended up abandoning their studies in 2004 (10,6% of the total, a number that increased by almost 2% the following year).
“Escuelas de Reingreso” were created in order to address this problematic of education exclusion, and six were founded in 2004. Their characteristics differ from the conventional public schools in Buenos Aires as their curriculum is designed to fit the individual needs of each student, a system closer to that of a university, with a flexible schedule and equivalence of previously approved subjects. That way the students have the incentive to continue their schooling knowing that they are not going to repeat a whole academic year again, but can pass those approved subjects and graduate as soon they pass all the required subjects. Failure is not perceived as a cloud over their heads, the students are encouraged to succeed at their own pace.
According to Lupe, “The experience would not have been the same without the insightful and warm qualities of the directors and teachers we came into contact with at the school. Their commitment to improve the life and opportunities for these students was very inspiring for us. Their attitude didn’t come from charity; it came from a true belief in the power of social responsibility and the right for these disadvantaged children to have the same opportunities as everyone else in society. The teachers spoke about aiding the students to create “a project of life”, a journey in which they wouldn’t feel alone, and this idea left a deep and profound impression on me.”