Education as a driver for sustainable community growth
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed January 24 as the International Day of Education to celebrate the vital role played by education in the modern world. We spoke to Erika Bienek, Director of Community Relations at the Techint Group, to find out more about the company's view of education as a driver for development, and the efforts invested in this area in the COVID-19 context.
January 24 commemorated the fourth edition of the International Day of Education, under the slogan "Changing Course, Transforming Education". As detailed by the United Nations, education is a human right, a public good, and the collective responsibility of society as a whole.
Since its inception, the Techint Group has upheld a strong commitment to local development, pursuing a philosophy focused on the long term in order to create virtuous links with the communities with which it interacts. Education, and particularly technical education, has always been central to the company as an agent for growth and development opportunities. "Education is the key to community development, the main factor driving social transformation and growth, and a value underpinning social mobility,” said Paolo Rocca, the president of the Techint Group, in 2021 during the ceremony held by the company to award scholarships to over 1,300 high school and university students in Argentina.
To learn more about the group's vision of education in Latin America, the challenges brought by the pandemic, and the approach taken by the group in this context, Tecpetrol Hoy spoke with Erika Bienek, Director of Community Relations of the Techint Group.
Education is the principal thrust of Techint Group's social investment strategy. What is its view of education?
Ever since Agustín Rocca arrived in Argentina in 1946, he always had the same vision: to ensure that the industrial project he launched in Campana and expanded to over fifty countries would grow and develop hand-in-hand with its neighboring community. For seventy years, we have upheld that vision of commitment to community growth, and education is the principal tool for achieving individual and social progress. You can only bring about long-term sustainable development with education and by fostering a culture of effort and improvement. Our approach takes into account children from all educational levels, from pupils at primary and technical secondary schools—in line with our industrial DNA—to students at technical, engineering, and materials science universities. This is because we believe that sound technical education is the main factor driving a country’s industrial growth and this value underlies the Group’s overall strategic vision.
What challenges did the Techint Group educational programs have to overcome during the pandemic?
As the pandemic broke out across the world in the first months of 2020, we took the decision to focus our social investment efforts on supporting the healthcare systems in the communities of the different countries where we operate. During those early months of the pandemic, the educational system in Latin America was practically put on hold. Today, we know that the educational impact has been extremely severe: many young people have altogether abandoned education, while educational quality levels have fallen significantly. According to a recent OECD report, 77% of young people in Latin America have difficulty comprehending texts of average complexity, and in the case of subjects such as math, the fall-out rate is even higher, especially in Argentina. Faced with these towering challenges, in 2021, the Community Relations area of the Techint Group redesigned its educational programs, and we centered on fostering innovation and strengthening the development of opportunities to encourage upward social mobility in the communities where we operate.
What will be the focus of the Group’s work in education for 2022?
Our Technical Gene program, which strengthens technical education at high-school level, will focus on a math skills booster program by organizing teacher-training modules taught by specialists in the field, supported by benchmarking and assistance with classroom implementation. We are carrying out two pilot tests with this program and our aim is to achieve its widespread implementation at country level during 2022, reaching twenty-eight technical schools in Argentina. Our endgame is to create a math learning network among teachers from Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.
Today's classrooms are very mixed and students urgently need another type of approach to overcome the current math learning crisis. Our plan is to accompany teachers and students as they grapple with this challenge. In terms of infrastructure, we will continue to create more technology classrooms and better connectivity in more schools. In addition, as always, our scholarship program will continue to promote equal opportunities for high school and university students.
The Technical Gene program is a success story of public-private sector cooperation. What’s the Group's outlook in relation to its link with schools?
"Helping those who help themselves", was Roberto Rocca's motto and this explains why we place so much emphasis on our relationship with school authorities and the commitment they bring to the table. In fact, both sides have the same priorities. Every time we implement a global program, we listen to the needs of the schools and work to foster durable relationships so that both teachers and students can be involved in implementation from the get-go. We take a long-term approach to education and have the full support of school directors, as this is a collaborative effort; work plans are the result of close cooperation between us and schools. Our dynamic is to propose, listen and act.
Social investment in education: 2021 Techint Group milestones
In 2021, the Community Relations area launched a targeted strengthening plan to support the modernization of the education system with three lines of action designed to:
1) Guarantee access to education during periods of isolation by installing technological equipment and connectivity, enabling hybrid teaching.
2) Create technical training courses geared toward improving young people’s employability, both from technical schools and those neither studying nor working.
3) Strengthen math teaching and learning processes in secondary technical schools located in the areas near the company’s operations.
In addition, within this framework, the Techint Group has awarded over 1,300 scholarships this year to high school and university students from seven Argentine provinces where the group has operations, in order to support the country’s future industrial and energy development.
Educational Strengthening and Modernization Plan: 2021 facts and figures
- 4,655 m2 of school infrastructure were built and/or refurbished
- 9 Technical Gene technological classrooms were built and 328 computers and 27 pieces of audio and video equipment were installed.
- 11 schools had work done to refurbish their building infrastructure
- 28 schools received technical and math training
- 355 million Argentine pesos were invested during 2021, complementing the Techint Group’s annual investment of 1.08 billion Argentine pesos in educational programs.
Over the last ten years, the Group has invested USD 100 million in educational programs in Argentina, such as the Roberto Rocca Technical Schools Network, the Technical Gene program, the AfterSchool program and the Roberto Rocca Scholarships programs.