Reflections from CIE graduate Jorge Luis Bonilla Silva
The CIE programme gave me the chance to open a new paradigm in my professional career. That is, getting more knowledge and competencies that allow me to understand better the complexities of the education sector and formulate possible solutions.
1. What is your current position?
I am working as a policy advisor at the Secretary of Education of Bogotá.
2. What do you do in your present job?
I work with quality of education. My area concerns the school environment and the variables that affect the delivery of a healthy, safe and positive school climate. At the moment, I am in charge of planning, monitoring and evaluating the strategies for the prevention of alcohol and drug use disorders among children and adolescents in schools in Bogotá. This involves working with several actors that have taken responsibility in the implementation of these strategies such as the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, the National Police, NGOs and the private sector.
I am also planning some programmes to increase the participation of parental involvement in public schools and decrease dropout rates in the city.
3. What was the subject of your thesis?
I analysed the provision of adult education for ex-combatants from illegal armed groups in Colombia as a governmental strategy to reduce their vulnerability and enhance their reintegration into civilian life. I chose this topic because as a Colombian it was very important for me to develop a thesis related to education and peacebuilding to benefit my country in the search for peace alternatives. This was a highly sensitive topic at the professional and personal level because I decided to focus my research on the perpetrators of violence. However, I was convinced that building peace implies giving alternatives to those actors that use violence as a way of living to change their identities and demilitarized their minds and promote sustainable peace.
I explored how adult education was available and accessible for all ex-combatants fulfilling their right to education, and the acceptability and adaptability of these strategies in order to fulfill their right in and through education. I found that education is a tool to enhance ex-combatant´s functionality in society and foster social mobility, increasing their participation in society and empowering them to formulate personal goals with the aim of improving their lives. This includes enabling them to liberate themselves from the problematic status of ex-combatant, and be assimilated as a civilian without experiencing prejudice.
4) In what terms has your CIE master helped you in getting where you are today?
The CIE programme gave me the chance to open a new paradigm in my professional career. That is, getting more knowledge and competencies that allow me to understand better the complexities of the education sector and formulate possible solutions. I am amazed by the education world and I want to work for the transformation of the education system in Colombia.
However, when I came back to Colombia it was not an easy process to get a job in the education sector because I did not have significant experience in education. I tried many times but I was not successful in getting a position in this field. So after several attempts, a private secondary school gave me the opportunity to begin working as a social studies teacher. Even though I did not have the experience as a teacher, they gave me the chance to try it. I worked there for a year and it was one of the most transformative experiences I ever had at the professional and personal level.
Furthermore, I got the position in the Secretary of Education of Bogota and I believe that the fact that I worked as a teacher and have a master in Education were important for me to get this position.
5. Are there any specific topics/methods taught to you during the programme which is more relevant to you in your current position?
Before the master programme I did not have any understanding about education because my background was political science and international relations. But now I value all topics studied in the CIE programme because they have given me the knowledge and competencies to hopefully become a leader in education.
In particular, I consider that the CIE programme was very good in teaching me how to analyze education policy and the factors that this should focus on such as equity, relevance and accountability to improve quality of education. This has been very useful in my current position, in particular working with education policy for vulnerable communities.
6) Why did you choose the CIE programme?
Since my degree was not in pedagogy, but in political science, I wanted to do a master in education that not only focused on pedagogic, but that dealt with education policy and all factors that influence this, such as equity. In fact, I believe that to transform and reduce the high levels of inequalities that persist in the education system in my country, the policies have to be changed. For that reason, I wanted to focus on education policy and reducing the problems vulnerable people face. So the CIE offered me that perspective.
I am glad I was accepted in this programme because not only did I learn about the main challenges in education around the world, but I also managed to know amazing classmates and understand the problems facing the education systems in their countries.
7) Where do you see yourself career wise in the future?
I am not sure yet. I live in the present and I am enjoying my current position. What is clear, however, is that I want to become an education expert and I am working hard to achieve this every day.
8. Any additional comments you may have for future applicants to the CIE programme are welcome
The CIE programme is an amazing experience to come up with new insights and propose and promote transformation in the education sector around the world. However, from my personal experience I suggest that before applying for the programme it is important to have little bit of experience in education. This will help not only to have a better understanding of the topics but it will also facilitate the prospects of putting into practice the knowledge from the CIE programme.