SAT - Rural Education for Sustainable Development

Submitted by admin on 30. May 2011 - 22:24
Richards, Michael

Michael Richards, SAT - Rural Education for Sustainable Development, Stakeholder Forum Sustain(Ed): Education for Our Common Future newsletter, Issue 3 WSSD, August 2002, p. 8-9.

SAT - Rural Education for Sustainable Development

Michael Richards
SAT project manager for BASED-UK
Presented at the seminar on Education and Values for Sustainable Development
1 September 2002
6th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum
A series of parallel events at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(Johannesburg, South Africa, 27 August-3 September 2002)

These papers are as presented at the conference and have not been subject to editorial review by the IEF

Download powerpoint presentation (590 K)

One definition of the objective of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is "the promotion of values and ethics through education at different levels in order to make an impact on people's lifestyles and behaviour and help to build a sustainable future" ( Another is the development of "skills in critical thinking, negotiations, scientific understanding and openness to the views of others" (Living Earth). Each definition reflects a necessary but not sufficient condition for ESD. In fact they represent two complementary aspects of human development - on the one hand the development of intellectual capacities, and on the other of human qualities or virtues. One without the other is like a bird with one wing: intellectual development without values leads to inequitable development and ignores the importance of human motivation. But without skills and knowledge relevant to local conditions, development will continue to depend on the priorities of outsiders.

The 'System of Tutorial Learning'- SAT (Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial) for short - is a programme of non-formal rural secondary education developed since the early 1970s in Colombia by an NGO called FUNDAEC, and more recently in Honduras and other Latin American countries. The instigators of SAT saw education as the key to more self-reliant community development; that for the majority of rural children, education does not go beyond primary school - usually because families cannot afford to keep them at school; and that the formal education system suffers from 'urban bias' and a materialistic value system which encourages the young to migrate to the cities.

The basic aim of SAT is to encourage and equip young people to help their communities engage in sustainable development processes. It therefore provides the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes or values to form community leaders or agents of change. SAT graduates are called Bachilleres of Rural Well-being. It has been so successful in Colombia, that SAT has become an official Ministry of Education programme involving about 50 organisations (including 35 civil society organisations) and at any one time forty to fifty thousand students in over a third of rural Colombia.

The SAT curriculum involves about six years of study and includes sciences, maths, service to the community (in health, literacy and community organisation), agriculture, social studies, language and other subjects. SAT is particularly oriented to helping students develop their capacity for conceptual thinking and critical analysis, as well as developing an attitude of service to the community (this is integrated into all the courses and activities). Each student has a set of interactive workbooks, which they have to pay for. Study takes where they live and at times decided by them. This allows them to continue family livelihood activities. The tutors are also from the community: initially someone with a higher education qualification is given an intensive training, but when SAT is well-established, the SAT graduates become tutors.

Much of the education involves practical 'learning by doing' activities, for example, participatory agricultural research. Various rural development activities are promoted by the SAT groups like improved crop and livestock production, micro-enterprise development, pre-school education support, and eventually a village cooperative marketing system. The SAT group itself becomes an important community institution capable of attracting external support.

Since 1996, SAT has been implemented in Honduras by an NGO called Bayan Association for Indigenous Social and Economic Development, with funding mainly from the UK DFID and Canadian CIDA. The DFID grant has been managed by the Bahá'í Agency for Social and Economic Development (BASED-UK). Bayan started SAT with 10 indigenous communities in the Honduran Mosquitia. In spite of major logistical and support problems of working in a remote area, and disruption caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the regional and national education authorities gradually saw the value of SAT as a relatively high quality education system for rural areas. There was also a strong grass-roots demand for the expansion of SAT, as people were able to observe its fruits. In 2001, Bayan entered into agreements with three regional Departments in which the government started paying for SAT tutors and coordinators - by April 2002 there were 48 SAT groups and 930 students.

Throughout the project, Bayan has maintained close links with the Ministry of Education, since a vital goal has been to obtain official recognition of SAT as equivalent to the state 'bachiller' or secondary school level. This was achieved in April 2002, at the time of the final evaluation of the DFID project. The Ministry of Education participant in the evaluation wrote that SAT was "the alternative for developing the rural communities of the country." Bayan has been asked by the Ministry of Education to present a national expansion plan focusing initially on high poverty areas, although Bayan's plan is to consolidate SAT in northern Honduras before embarking on a more organic growth process as happened in Colombia. The World Development Report 2000/01 of the World Bank identifies education as the "most important factor in improving rural welfare." While recognising that education alone is insufficient for sustainable development, we believe that by integrating the development of values, skills and knowledge, SAT has great potential for improving rural welfare in a poor country like Honduras.

Published in the Stakeholder Forum Sustain(Ed): Education for Our Common Future newsletter, Issue 3 WSSD, August 2002, p. 8-9.

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