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IREN Non-Profit Offers Education Alternative

Written by Marisol
WAYRA Instituto de Español

By Ellen Zoe Golden .Photo courtesy: Sylvia Barreto Benítez

According to local teacher, Sylvia Barreto Benítez, “50 percent of Costa Rican adults have not finished High School.”

“They lack a diploma which allows them to access free education and educational opportunities that could free them of the limits of poverty,” she furthered. The data is even more alarming when broken down. Even though Costa Rica is known for its high literacy rate, that statistic reflects the 95 percent enrollment in mandatory elementary education which finishes at 6th grade. After that, 20 percent of students drop out before graduating 9th grade, and “then only half reach the finish line” that of obtaining a high school diploma.

 These youngsters either join the work force to help their families, or end up unemployed with more dire consequences. For the last three years, Barreto, and her husband, Esteban Monge, have been working on an option to help put a dent in the number of kids who never finish their education.

They created Instituto Renacimiento (IREN), personalized programs for local teenagers and adults offering the tools and guidance to get their Bachillerato High School diploma.

 “IREN’s reach goes beyond the local adult population,” she explained.

 “After years in the area our founders saw some striking similarities in the local school scene. Tamarindo has one of the highest concentrations of schools for a rural area in Costa Rica and there is a huge influx of families moving here for a change of life or a sabbatical.

The local private schools offer many options for education but lack the resources to help the extraordinary child. IREN offers an alternative to students that just don’t seem to fit in to the traditional classroom teacher-focused setting.” IREN has specialized

tutors that allow students to move at their own pace, focusing on self-learning and selfdiscipline. The sessions are bi-lingual, and Barreto and Monge have worked closely with the Ministry of Education of Costa Rica since IREN’s inception in 2016. They have also found that students have success using the “distance learning program” giving them the flexibility of accelerated or slower-paced testing. In addition, students can utilize their home countries online learning systems and tutors will monitor and aid them to reach their full potential with them.

 Barreto received her teaching certification and Masters degree in New York and has a permanent license for Spanish and English education. Overall, she has 24 years of teaching experience. Monge has a Masters in Physics and assisted many schools with their math .

 He hopes to open science labs in IREN, for research, and a weather station for the students to run and gather data. “My husband and I have been working with IREN for 3 years now, working out of our home and building the concept and creating the legal basis. We have guided 6 kids through the MEP system and 1 received her high school diploma (Bachillerato) by the age of 16. She was the only one to accomplish this in Guanacaste and she graduated with honors,” said Barreto. That student was Isabel Castro, who finished school and moved on to study further while she works towards becoming a Divemaster. Castro is also about to join the staff of IREN as a tutor and assistant.

Explained Castro: “I learned to love learning. Before IREN I hated school, but now learning has become an obsession.” IREN currently operates as a nonprofit organization, and seeks donations to continue its work and to complete its plans to open a campus between Huacas and Villareal. |For more information, please go to irencr.com

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