Abadio Green Stocel
This profile was prepared when Abadio Green Stocel was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
At the center of Abadio's model for ethno-education is "madre tierra," or mother nature. Other educational models focus on the student as an object, always asking how to teach the students certain subjects and knowledge. This is not in accordance with indigenous mentality, which puts more emphasis on nature, its care and protection. Abadio, instead, asks how the student, in the process of learning these subjects, can come to love and respect nature. He conceives of students' education as a community process, including family, teachers, elders, and community wise men. The entire community assists in the design of curriculum appropriate to its indigenous populations, incorporating the local history and traditional knowledge passed down by community elders. Occidental educational models applied in Colombia do not value indigenous ancestral knowledge, but Abadio focuses on the knowledge of elders as the basis for educational curricula. He consciously combines local and traditional teachings with western studies in mathematics, language, and science, to provide a complete education which allows indigenous persons to move and function in both modern and traditional worlds. Due to laws to promote more effective educational models in Latin America during the past decade, many NGOs are implementing projects in bilingual education. Most such programs simply translate state educational materials into indigenous languages. Abadio believes that for true learning to occur, one must get to the essence of words by researching their roots to find their true significance. He is changing the system of instruction by teaching the heart of the language, instead of focusing on grammatical rules, theories, and phonetics. Abadio discovered that in language lies the key to a people's tradition and that the history of a population can be discovered in the words it uses. As indigenous languages do not have roots in other languages, he is using linguistic principles to recuperate the richness of indigenous languages and teach the traditions and history of ethnic populations. Because all indigenous languages have the same basic structure, this idea is easily replicated in other indigenous communities in Colombia and beyond. Although there are 8 indigenous linguists in Colombia, Abadio is the only one using the fundamentals of indigenous language to create curricula for indigenous populations.