Construction of educational knowledge with the Mapuche community through dialogical-kishu kimkelay ta che research

May, 2019

Source: Educational Action Research, 27:3, 414-434

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Introduction: context of the research

The present research was carried out jointly with the Bafkehce Mapuche community which lives on the Pacific coast of the Araucanía Region, Chile (the Region containing the largest concentration of indigenous population in the country).

The Bafkehce Mapuche authorities, together with their lof [community], decided to create a Mapuche education as an alternative to the Bilingual Intercultural Education Programme (BIEP) installed by the Chilean State.
They therefore re-targeted their actions towards an educational proposal that would allow them to keep their culture and language, while at the same time interacting with western culture, but this time from their perspective as an indigenous community.
To do this, and in line with Mineduc Decree 40 (1996) which permits educational institutions to create their own plans and programmes, the community decided to invite a team of researchers to provide them with technical support to design their own curriculum.
In 2018, after nearly a decade spent preparing a Mapuche curriculum, this Mapuche community and the research team which is helping them succeeded in having their curriculum approved by the Chilean State.
Today, therefore, the school has study programmes that meet the community’s need to revive their kimvn [knowledge] in different areas relating to their world view, such as revitalising and teaching their language (Mapunzugun), their biodiversity, their traditional games and other areas of knowledge.
Problematisation and objectives
The research problem was to address the lack of systematisation in the knowledge and teaching practices of the Bafkhece culture.
Systems need to be incorporated to orient the education imparted through the plans and curricular programmes recently approved by Mineduc.
This will initiate the construction of the ‘Mapuche education’ proposition and revitalise Mapuche knowledge (Kimvn) at the same time.

To address this problem, the authors proposed the following research questions to assist in moving towards a Bafkehce Mapuche education:
What knowledge does the community consider pertinent in developing a Mapuche education?
What teaching practices does the Mapuche community promote to transmit educational knowledge?

To answer these questions, the research objective defined jointly with the indigenous community was to systematise the educational knowledge and teaching/learning practices proper to the Mapuche world view in order to generate a Mapuche education. The specific objectives were:
(1) To understand the educational knowledge that the community has defined for generating a Mapuche education;
(2) To the recover practices for transmitting indigenous knowledge as a traditional support for a Mapuche education;
(3) To identify the practices for teaching and assessment of Mapuche educational knowledge.

Research method
Consistent with the participative methodology adopted, a research community (RC) was formed consisting of a Maci (responsible for ceremonies to produce physical and spiritual healing), Kimches (sages who are repositories of the community’s knowledge), a Gütancefe (bone-setter), the Mapuche teachers at the school; and the two researchers and two biology teachers in training, all Chileans of western descent. The RC decided to work throughout 2017 to achieve their objectives.

The procedures used for knowledge construction were dialogic conversation and Az kintun (Ferrada and Del Pino 2017).
Conversation is defined as dialogic when the participants seek to understand one another voluntarily, respecting and valuing their different cultural, social and linguistic aspects, and assuming a reflexive, critical attitude for building consensus in their understanding of reality.
This procedure was carried out with the Maci, Kimches and Gütancefe.
The information collected was recorded and then transcribed for reading and analysis.
Az kintun in the Mapuche language means ‘to look with attention, to look according to the intention of seeking or finding something together with others’ (Ferrada and Del Pino 2017, 10). This process enabled the authors to explore more deeply the knowledge constructed, especially the spiritual content peculiar to the Mapuche culture which is totally different from western knowledge.
The interpretative process generated by Az kintun was also recorded and transcribed for later review with the whole Mapuche Bafkenche community, in order to resolve doubts and start to systematise their knowledge.
Once the knowledge collected by the RC had been approved, it was organised into what were designated important concepts for understanding educational knowledge in a Mapuche education.
The procedures were carried out in the Mapunzugun language, with interventions in Spanish by the researchers and students who took part in order to learn more about concepts that they did not understand.

Educational knowledge for a Mapuche education
The first objective was to understand the educational knowledge that the community defines for generating a Mapuche education.
The RC constructed the category Educational Knowledge, consisting of the knowledge that, for this study, they considered should be systematised in order to develop a Mapuche education. Mapuche educational knowledge is understood to mean those elements of a social or cultural character, or which relate to the earth, nature and spirits, that the RC hope to see transmitted and revitalised through Mapuche education.
Practices for the transmission of Mapuche educational knowledge
The second objective was to recover practices for transmitting indigenous knowledge as a traditional support for a Mapuche education.
Practices for transmitting knowledge are the activities and/or practices proper to the Mapuche community which develop communication with nature, the cosmos and the spiritual environment, which previously did not exist in the school and which the community decided to incorporate.
Teaching and assessment practices
The third objective was to identify practices for the teaching and assessment of Mapuche educational knowledge.
The practices that the RC validated as transformative were those teaching and assessment practices that belong to the Mapuche tradition, such as ceremonies and links with nature, and these were the practices they decided to promote in education.

At the same time, the RC maintained traditional [western] assessment practices, since Mapuche education is not against the western system, but seeks spaces where they can meet since the Mapuche people must live in a world that functions under the western system.
Finally, the RC found that although the proposal of Mapuche education is to dialogue with Chilean education, this dialogue cannot occur through curriculum adaptations, but by promoting their own autonomous curriculum constructions.

Ferrada, D., and M. Del Pino. 2017. “Dialogic-Kishu Kimkelay Ta Che Educational Research: Participatory Action Research.” Educational Action Research. doi:10.1080/09650792.2017.1379422
Ministerio de Educación. 1996. Decreto 40, Establece Objetivos Fundamentales Y Contenidos Minimos Obligatorios Para La Educacion Basica Y Fija Normas Generales Para Su Aplicación [Decree 40, Establishes Fundamental Objectives and Mandatory Minimal Content for Basic and Fixed Education General Standards for its Application]. Santiago: Mineduc 

Updated: Dec. 04, 2019