Tutorial Learning System

The Tutorial Learning System (SAT) is a formal, non-classroom education program that arose from efforts initiated by FUNDAEC in 1974 to contribute to the progress of rural areas. The System created a methodology that makes it possible for any individual - youth or adult - in the most remote rural region to have access to secondary education. This creative way of socializing the benefits of education is complemented by content that employs a novel method of organizing relevant knowledge, much of which is generated through FUNDAEC’s experience in the several areas of rural development.

Thus, SAT did not emerge by itself as an isolated educational program, but rather as part of a global development effort, together with a simultaneous search for alternatives for primary and secondary production, and community organization schemes that would guarantee not only the success of economic projects but also the sustained progress of the communities.


Today the program is widely recognized in the fields of education and development and is approved by the Ministry of National Education of Colombia and other departmental authorities. SAT has also been approved by the educational authorities of Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

The SAT program has reached some 300,000 young people in Colombia and other Latin American countries. SAT was recently highlighted in a study prepared by the Brookings Institute: Tutorial Learning System: Redefining rural secondary education in Latin America. This study concluded that SAT has catalyzed an educational revolution that is reflected in greater well-being for rural communities in Latin America and that “… as global problems become more complex and indiscriminate in terms of geography, this transformative learning model will be increasingly relevant in mobilizing rural youth, in order to create more sustainable communities.”



SAT combines several conceptual and practical characteristics of educational innovation:

● SAT awakens its students’ great interest in investigation, and encourages them to study their communities’ problems in depth, and to use science in the search for solutions with great enthusiasm and commitment.
● Theory and practice are repeatedly integrated, thus fulfilling a school’s true role in a community.
● Knowledge is harmoniously blended, mixing traditional wisdom with modern knowledge.
● Abstract and concrete activities are integrated.
● Areas of knowledge are integrated, according to the capability or attitude that is to be developed in the student.
● It strives to fuse together the intellectual dimension of human beings with its spiritual counterpart, spirituality that is constantly reflected in the practice of universal human values, and in active participation in the search for and construction of a better society.
● The pedagogical relationships are non-traditional, consisting instead of a group of people who work together towards a common goal. The students and the tutor tackle practical problems together and engage in a kind of encounter that opens the way for self-directed learning.
● Within a SAT group—which can be seen as a group of neighbors who share ideas and problems—learning to dialogue is both an educational objective and a means of instruction.

● Its tutorial nature allows each student to advance at their own pace, and is thus open and flexible.

● The tutor is from the same town or region, and his or her commitment to, and knowledge of the area is greater.
● The System eliminates the need for students to travel long distances or disconnect from their social and cultural environment.
● Study, work, and community development are integrated, all within a spirit of service.
● It has its own texts, the result of action-investigation processes based on rural reality.
● The texts are designed so that the student, with the guidance of a tutor, commits to a process of validating knowledge and building new knowledge.
● It is easily appropriated by other organizations with similar goals to FUNDAEC, which secure its incorporation into relevant governmental programs to improve their quality and expand their coverage.
● It does not require complex infrastructure for its implementation; existing community structures are sufficient.
● The way the System is organized is due to the urgent need to expand coverage and restore the peoples’ right to high-quality education, and keep the per student cost of the program below the standard level.


SAT levels

SAT is made up of three levels, each of two years’ duration: Promoter, Practitioner, and “Bachiller” in Rural Well-Being. Each level is complete in the sense that graduates are able to carry out activities with varying degrees of complexity in their own communities. A Promoter, for example, can improve production in its own units of production or those of neighbors. A Practitioner, in addition to the previous capability, can organize different types of activities for the common good (health, environmental, and recreational projects, work with children, production in solidarity groups). These two levels have legal recognition for the basic secondary level of education. The “Bachiller” level trains the graduates to participate in more complex organizations and implement long-term productive and organizational initiatives.


Pyramid of Rural Welfare Workers

SAT curriculum

The curriculum is organized in 70 texts which, unlike the common practice of covering specific subject matter, seek to develop five fundamental capabilities: mathematical, scientific, language and communication, technological, and community service. Two basic educational concepts underlie this pedagogical perspective:

1) Curricular integration - integration of disciplines when the specific capacity requires it, integration between theory and practice, between the abstract and the concrete, between the material and spiritual dimensions of the student, the latter reflected in his or her desire to learn in order to serve others and in the possession of fundamental values and moral qualities.

2) Emphasis on concepts, not information, to ensure that students develop the ability to analyze, which will allow them to access scientific knowledge and use it to promote individual and community development.


Organizational Structure

The System has five fundamental elements:


Beginning in 1988, an increasing number of public and private organizations began incorporating the SAT program into their development strategies. This resulted in the creation of a rural educational system that currently reaches more than 300,000 students in rural areas of Colombia and several Latin-American countries.


Legal recognition

Over the years, national, departmental and municipal bodies that govern education in Colombia have issued orders approving SAT. In the early years, for obvious reasons, authorizations and approvals were granted directly to FUNDAEC, as it developed the content and validated it for each level of the pyramid with its Investigation-Action-Learning methodology in northern Cauca initially and later in Valle del Cauca. With the expansion, institutions that agreed to implement SAT in their regions of influence initially relied on licenses and approvals granted to FUNDAEC, while seeking to obtain official approval in the respective departments.