Nation, World + Society

Visiting Argentine educators tap into UCLA scholars' expertise

UCLA hosts two-week Fulbright program as part of a historic agreement

Argentine flag

The two-week Docentes professional development symposium at UCLA hosted 94 Argentine educators for seminars and site visits. Above, a Docentes participant's jacket displays the Argentine flag.

In the late 1800s, at the behest of Argentina’s ambassador to the United States, 100 American teachers traveled to that South American country to help build a public education system. This month, in a historic agreement crafted in part by the U.S. ambassador to Argentina and UCLA leaders, history came full circle as the campus hosted 94 educators from Argentina in a two-week Fulbright program.

UCLA’s professional development symposium, called Docentes, aimed to provide the visiting teachers and administrators with information on the latest research, training and resources for leadership development as well as educational practices — all with a focus on social justice and educational equity.

The visiting educators were selected from the more than 2,000 teachers, principals, superintendents, university professors and other educators who applied to the program. Both UCLA and Argentina’s Ministry of Education envision Docentes as a pilot program for future exchanges and collaborations.

Participants visited the LAUSD Outdoor Education Center to engage in hands-on learning experiences.

Educators from every Argentine province came to UCLA from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 to learn about educational practices in Los Angeles, ranging from ways to prepare students for intellectual jobs in an age of automation and artificial intelligence to methods for integrating immigrant students. Presentations from UCLA education scholars and site visits to UCLA-affiliated K-12 schools formed the backbone of the professional development program.

The new network of connections could serve as a foundation for joint research projects or school reform in Argentina, organizers explained.

Funded by a $750,000 grant from the Argentine Ministry of Education and Fulbright, Docentes started to take shape when UCLA Chancellor Gene Block traveled to Argentina with Noah Mamet, the U.S ambassador to Argentina and a Bruin alumnus, and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, the Wasserman dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. 

The professional development and leadership program expands UCLA’s global visibility and relevance, and organizers hope it will inspire not only joint research, but possibly a role for UCLA to work with foreign colleagues to jointly develop regional teacher-education programs in Argentina, Suárez-Orozco said.

“As a premier public research university, UCLA is taking global leadership in what matters most in education today: the creation of usable knowledge and its translation to practice to improve the lives of all students,” Suárez-Orozco said.

The participants broke into smaller groups of around 20 to visit schools across Los Angeles and then reported back to the full group to share new ideas. Among the schools they toured were several LAUSD campuses where the university is a partner, including the UCLA Community School in Pico-Union, Hollenbeck Middle School and Roosevelt High School. LAUSD also hosted a leadership development day for the whole group. A contingent visited the UCLA Lab School, followed later in the week by a presentation by the lab school's principal to the full Docentes group.

The field trips gave the visitors a chance to observe practices that they said would be relevant to their work in Argentina, such as programs for dual-language immersion, special education, project-based learning, science-focused learning and more. Presentations about related research were provided by top UCLA faculty and UCLA Center X experts, including professors Pedro Noguera, John Rogers, Carola Suárez-Orozco, Marjorie Orellana, Emma Hipolito and Louis Gomez.

The topics were chosen based partially on lists provided by participants about the kinds of issues that mattered most to them, said Nancy Parachini, director of the Principal Leadership Institute at GSEIS’s Center X, who led the team that organized the symposium.

“It’s a complete theory-to-practice approach,” Parachini said.

The Argentines returned home by mid-December, and GSEIS continued its work with partner schools in Los Angeles, including the Horace Mann UCLA Community School in South Los Angeles. Fittingly, Horace Mann himself — sometimes called the father of universal public education — was the inspiration more than 150 years ago for that first delegation of U.S. teachers who visited Argentina.

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