English and computers are a good mix at expo

Rafael Vargas removes sawdust as a computerized wood milling machine follows a program. He is from the Colegio Tecnico Profesional Jesus Ocaña Rojas in Alajuela. Photo: A.M. Costa Rica

Anyone with doubts that Costa Rican public education can deliver high-level programs should visit the Antigua Aduana today.

There they will find the second day of demonstrations mostly by more than 300 youngsters in primary and secondary school from all over the country.

From extracting DNA from butterflies to robotics, students are involved in unexpectedly complex projects. Other groups are promoting the legal use of free software like Libreoffice productivity suite and Audacity, the free computer voice recording system.

The event, which ends today at 5 p.m. is called Expo Educación 360@. There is a strong emphasis on computer learning of English. The Ministerio de Educación Pública, for example, supports a radio service that delivers English lessons to those small rural schools with a single teacher. There are some commercial booths, too, like Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., HP, Intel and Sykes.

The youngsters at the expo are quick to use their English with a Gringo-looking individual. Those who are shy get a prompting from teachers nearby. The youngsters are there to explain their presentation.

The Centro Nacional de Recursos para la Educación Inclusiva, a dependency of the education ministery, maintained a booth showing how music and math students who have vision problems can use the computer to produce braille documents. The music can be printed out or played on a computer program geared to braille. The math program graphs functions and geometric shapes by embossing the paper. Some also provide the same information in ink for those who have no vision disabilities.

The ministry and the Fundación Omar Dengo put the exposition together with the help of commercial sponsors.

The expo opens again today at 8 a.m. At 1 p.m. there is a conference for educators by Ricardo Olarte, director of public and private alliances for Latin America by Microsoft. The event closes with a cultural presentation at 4:30 p.m.

The Antigua Aduana is the former customs house that has been remodeled on Calle 23 just north of Avenida Central in northeast San José.

The expo was the forum Monday for Luis Liberman, acting president in the absence of Laura Chinchilla who is in the United States, to promise more help for education. He said the government would double technical programs by creating 90 new services of diversified instruction in lesser developed areas. He also said the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje would graduate 60,000 more technicians.

In addition, the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje would help provide more access to bilingual education and train 25,000 persons in English and other languages. These are not new programs but a recounting of continuing government policy.

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