Abelardo Palma Molina

Ashoka Fellow
San Cristobal, Mexico
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Abelardo Palma Molina was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Abelardo has developed and implemented the first educational program to address the inefficient application of the current system among indigenous populations by incorporating a strategy to strengthen first, their native speaking language, and then Spanish, while contextualizing their educational realities and involving the entire community in the learning process. The educational system he proposes, which parallels the official system, deals with the problem of “functional illiteracy” of indigenous communities by applying a methodological strategy that emphasizes the proficiency of first languages and incorporates Spanish gradually into students’ learning process. At the same time, it is the first educational program to incorporate the indigenous population’s perspective and the diversity present among communities in terms of their language, history, and culture.
Abelardo’s project represents a systematic change in the educational system with the potential to put an end to the historic lag that indigenous communities have faced, while respecting the particularities of each community and enriching their learning process. To close the existing cultural gap between professors and students, he is incorporating community members in the teaching process, primarily as educational promoters. Having the teachers elected by the community, and creating mechanisms to obtain feedback from the community, Abelardo is putting an end to the paternalism that has characterized the educational system, while opening a space for the community to participate in their own development.
Abelardo’s methodology is revolutionary. It is the first time indigenous communities initiatives, work, and ideas play a significant role in the creation of high quality educational programs of their design. Indigenous communities attain proficiency in both their native language and Spanish and a thorough comprehension of material that will be useful both personally and professionally.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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