Informal education in a city market

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For many people a home, enough money and a very promising future are things very easy to reach. For many parents it is normal to send their children to school and to offer them everything they need to learn and grow as individuals. Many parents emphasize learning in schools; that’s why many children go to school, learn many things and then will be more likely to have a very good job.

However, the stark reality is that not all the children have the same opportunities. In Mexico, as well as in other Countries, many people are very poor and do not have the financial capability to provide their children with a good education; therefore, many of them simply don’t to school.

We can define education can be divided in 3 main categories:

  • Formal education: schooled (mandatory and controls, there are activities within an institution) and open (independently given in any space, place and time in different pace and conditions);
  • Non-formal: organized, systematic institutions and authorized personnel; development of learning, special techniques;
  • Informal: family, community, media, ICT and other areas of social life.

We all know that formal education is the one that prepares us to undertake a career, but the most important is informal education, affecting us since the childhood. Mexico is a very poor Country. Many people don’t have a job, and if they have one, they don’t earn enough so that they can’t assure to their children a very good education. Some of the people who live in Puebla, the city in which I am spending my EVS period, have found a job in the city market. Their work schedule starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 7-8 p.m. It means that they are working around 12 hours per day. If they work 12 hours/day, how do they take care of their children? Simply, if their children are under 6-7 years they take them to the market as well. If their children are a little older, a part of them goes to school and after will reach their parents at the market.

LaMeche mercado-do-bolhao

For these children, the market offers a deeper education than school. One could blame those parents because they bring their children with them to their job. Is it a good or bad decision? Or maybe you will ask: which kind of good and important things can be learnt in a market? Now let’s analyze the two questions.

1. Is it a good or bad decision?

In fact, the market is not a beautiful and safe environment; anyway, isn’t the most important thing to stay with your parents, spending as much time as possible with them? Because of their economic condition, many families can’t afford to hire someone who takes care of their children. So either they bring their children with them to work, or they stay home alone. In general, children that you can meet in the market are very young, aged 3-7 years. We all know that at this age they need a lot their parents and should not be left alone. For this reason, I think that it is reasonable a reasonable choice, from parents’ side, to bring children with them to the market. They go there and stay together with their parents, where they are supervised not only by their parents, but also by the whole community. There, the community acts just like as a large family. All are helping and protecting each other.

2. Which kind of good and useful things can be learnt in a market?

Children feel safe staying in the market under their parents’ and community’s supervision. Over time, they start to help other kids, make friends and learn to respect people. New friendships allow them to have someone to play with and to learn by interacting with other kids, thus passing properly through all specific processes typical of their age. We all know how important the ludic aspect is at this age. Besides that, getting to know new people introduce them to new forms of communication, developing more deeply the language, learning more words. They learn how you can realize when customers are interested in something, when they want to hear, when their respect you or not. They learn how to convince people, the ways they have to talk to and with what kind of people will succeed and  with which will not. Gradually they are learning how to make business. They also learn that they always have to protect themselves, that they can’t have confidence in anyone, they understand that we have to struggle in order to achieve something in your life.

I had a talk with a mother and I’ll share here with you what she told me:


  •  Hi! Can you please say for how long have you been working here and how is the situation with your children?
  •  Well, I have spent here only one year working. I have a 3 years old son. As we are always in the market, the child is always with us, here. We are very poor, don´t have enough money to hire a baby sitter. Just as we can, we take care of them, offering him as much as we can. We love him very much.
  •  Do you think that while spending so much time in the market, he is learning something useful for his life?
  •  Here, we are live as a big family. My son learns what is the support of another person, the respect that person should receive. They learn how to talk to convince someone to buy something. More importantly, he is learning that life is not easy, that you always have to fight. There are boys who learn only bad things, which then become criminals and live in the streets. I don’t want this to happen with my son. I’m raising money to allow my child to study in a school, and make his studies. Studying will help him a lot, but what is learning him now is the school of life.
  •  Thank you.

In conclusion, carrying children to the market can’t be compared to taking them to the theatre, but it’s still positive for their future. Spending some time in the market, talking to children and parents made me realize that empirical knowledge is very important and that it doesn’t really matter where you learn something, but what you learn. Although the market is not a beautiful and suitable place for children’s growth, they learn a lot also thanks to this experience.



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