Chilean academic to visit Harvard for a semester to further research on the impact of the pandemic on rural education in Chile

Álvaro Hofflinger began his experience as a “Harvard DRCLAS Luksic Visiting Scholar” a few weeks ago. Through this program, the professor from the Universidad de La Frontera, hopes to connect with academics and students working on similar topics and thus enrich his research. Currently, applications are open for Chilean researchers who want to participate in this program.

The Covid-19 pandemic had a profound impact on all aspects of everyday life, and one of the areas most affected was education. Schools, colleges, and universities around the world had to cancel in-person classes to avoid contagion, migrating to virtual education, and using different video calling and internet platforms. However, this solution was not available to everyone.

What happened to those students from communities where internet access was poor or nonexistent? And how will this experience affect the educational and professional trajectories of these students? These are the questions that Álvaro Hofflinger, an academic from the Universidad de La Frontera, seeks to address in his research: “Beyond test scores: the impact of school closures on Indigenous and rural students in Chile” (“Más allá de los resultados: el impacto del cierre de escuelas en estudiantes indígenas y rurales de Chile”).

“Due to the pandemic, Chile was the OECD member country that kept its schools closed for the longest time,” Hofflinger explained. “My project studies the impact of school closures on rural and indigenous populations, in particular the long-term effect on dropout rates, timely graduation rates, access to higher education, and the labor market,” added the academic.

The researcher is from Selva Oscura, a small rural village located in the commune of Victoria, in the Araucanía Region, so he has a personal connection to the topic. “The school in my town was closed for almost two years. My concern comes from there, of wondering what will happen to that generation of children and girls. I know their parents, their families, and I feel that from my work as an academic, I can make a contribution.”

International experience: Harvard DRCLAS Luksic Visiting Scholar

With the aim of enriching his research, the academic applied and was selected for the “Harvard DRCLAS Luksic Visiting Scholar” program, a collaboration initiative between the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard (DRCLAS) and the Luksic Scholars Foundation, which provides full funding for Chilean academics who wish to live a semester on the Cambridge campus, developing research in their area of interest. Participants can access shared offices, libraries, classes, and seminars at the university.

“There are always people in other places who are doing something similar to what one is interested in, and the key is to be able to meet and project instances of collaborative work,” emphasized Hofflinger.

One of the aspects that most catches his attention is getting to know the Harvard Study of Adult Development project up close, a research project that has been developed by the Harvard Medical School for the past 75 years. “In my research, I am following 40 families from the communes of Victoria and Lautaro. I have interviewed these families when their children were in eighth grade, and then in their first year of high school, and my goal is to follow them until they enter the workforce or higher education. I am interested in learning more about longitudinal studies to improve what I am doing and this experience will be of great help.”

Call for applications

Currently, and until Monday, October 16th, applications are open for the Harvard DRCLAS Luksic Visiting Scholars program for researchers who, like Álvaro, want to live this international experience through an opportunity of funding that includes travel costs, insurance, and maintenance.

For academics interested in applying, Álvaro gave some tips: “The research project must be consistent with the thematic areas of DRCLAS, they have defined different lines of work and it is important that the projects are aligned with the mission of the center. Second, it must be a relevant topic for the country, it must be clear the contribution that will be made and how the results can contribute to other countries in the region”, he assured. All application information is available on the program website or on the DRCLAS website.