Jorge Marciano Chojolán Pacajoj
This profile was prepared when Jorge Marciano Chojolán Pacajoj was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Jorge is building a parallel school system that challenges the pace of education reform in postwar Guatemala. Rather than changing the school system from within, as others are trying to do, he wants to escape the confines of government bureaucracy, create alternative schools, then use his successful examples to influence state-run education. He realizes that one or two schools, no matter how good they are, will not be enough to change an entire country; his plan is to create a network of schools that compete with government education and force it to improve.Jorge's schools differ from ordinary Guatemalan schools by taking responsibility for students' overall social development and preparing them to participate in a democratic society. Equality and participation are central to what children learn and how the school is organized. Not only are themes such as human rights and democracy built into the curriculum, but students vote on the topics they want to study. Parents also take part, by sitting on the school board, and sometimes joining their children in the classroom.