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Ignatian education for social transformation in rural Ecuador

Citation: Image, Paulette (2020) Ignatian education for social transformation in rural Ecuador. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

Image, F - Final PhD Thesis.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Catholic Social Teaching proclaims the integral human development of all, from basic necessities to collective and spiritual dimensions, as a basic principle of justice pre-announcing the justice of the Kingdom. It offers, however, no universal solution as to how to achieve this, recommending instead that each Christian community should devise its own solutions. The challenge of delivering a contextualized option for the most vulnerable thus falls to Catholic Social Praxis.

Children suffer particularly harshly from poverty, which affects all dimensions of their lives and prevents them from developing their potentialities, thus determining the future of following generations. Education has a vital role to play in redressing this injustice and promoting social transformation. Religious orders and faith-based organizations have long accepted the challenge of forming the whole child in challenging situations. A teaching order such as the Society of Jesus, with its commitment to social justice, provides a perfect example of this in its praxis of educación popular in limit situations - in this case, a deprived area of the Ecuadorian Andes.

The thesis first traces the Society’s understanding of mission since its foundation, and more particularly the evolution of its social apostolate in parallel with both Catholic Social Teaching and new secular concepts of human rights, justice and human development. It then turns to the Jesuit mission of education, exploring first
Ignatius’s vision of education, then the impact of integrating notions of social responsibility and justice into the education apostolate. This evolution is explored with particular reference to Latin America: the work of St Alberto Hurtado in Chile; the emergence of educación popular; Paulo Freire’s method of conscientisation and the Latin American Bishops’ formulation of educación liberadora as liberation theology was emerging. The question marks raised by Juan Luis Segundo in connection with Freire’s methods highlight the theoretical and practical issues of educational justice in a continent where the disparity between the many and the privileged few remains stark. These issues are explored in connection with an
example of the Society’s praxis of educación popular: the founding and expansion of Fe y Alegría. The complexities of the process highlight the need to assess the outcomes of such praxis for justice and transformation. A methodology involving a cycle of context analysis, planning, action and reflection will be used for the qualitative study of two Ignatian-inspired organizations working in the deprived central highlands of Ecuador.

In the search for a potential tool to yield further, quantitative data the thesis turns to modern visions of justice and explores in particular the Capability Approach (CA) developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. The flexibility of the CA means that it can be adapted to provide quantitative data relating to an institution’s effectiveness in promoting collective as well as transcendental capabilities. This, as well as recent capability-based studies assessing the impact of NGOs on children’s development, leads to the conclusion that the CA is a suitable tool for a quantitative evaluation of the impact of Ignatian educación popular on all dimensions of children’s development. The various steps to be followed in the field in order to obtain these data are explained.

The narrative then focusses on the case of three small rural Fe y Alegría schools offering formal education to indigenous children. The study begins with a thorough context analysis to establish the structures of living together and potential obstacles to individual and collective agency. The method used in the field is then described. Result analysis is based both on qualitative data (documents, participant observation, interviews) and on quantitative data from questionnaires to children and parents and children’s group work. The findings highlight a high level of adaptive preferences regarding basic necessities, as well as pervasive gender inequality, widespread violence and ambiguous results regarding participation and spirituality. Further reflection opens up onto wider issues: the effectiveness of contextualized Ignatian pedagogy in developing critical thinking and agency for change; the barriers placed on young women in particular by the structures of living together; the search for suitable curriculum models; the nature of ‘transforming spirituality’ and the future of Ignatian educación popular. It concludes that a full statement from the Magisterium would provide the basis of a complete, coherent system of justice for children.

Creators: Image, Paulette and
Subjects: Theology
Keywords: Ignatian pedagogy – educación popular - social transformation – Ecuador – indigenous communities – spirituality – Christian leadership
Divisions: Heythrop College
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • July 2020 (accepted)


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