From Garage to Global Education – UPC Graduate Leading a New Way in Learning
Macarena Arribas realized at a young age that the way she learnt was different to the traditional style of classroom learning in Peru. Macarena was an exceptionally diligent and high-performing student in all subjects, except math. Regardless of her focus and effort, commitment to homework and private tutoring she couldn’t master the subject like she had others.
At the age of nine, and as a result of her frustration, a teacher adapted Macarena’s learning to suit her needs, using strategies, including visuals and color, to improve her comprehension. Over the course of the next two years, she not only mastered math but started teaching it (and other subjects) to younger girls – from her cousins to her neighbors – at her family’s home.
It became evident to Macarena that many girls were experiencing the same challenges she had – and responded well to learning in a non-traditional way. And the results were not just seen in their school reports. Many parents reported their daughters were more engaged in their classrooms and in their home lives.
By the time she was in her second year of high school, Macarena was running tutoring sessions in the family garage – and this is where the idea for her business, MAB, was conceived.
Upon graduation from high school, Macarena searched for a university that promoted creativity, an open mind and truly understood that everyone learns differently. She chose to study Communication and Advertising at UPC.
While at university, Macarena’s garage tutoring sessions became even more popular. “My professors allowed me flexibility so that I could manage my course time in a more personalized way, and they were always available to brainstorm ideas with me. To this day, I’m still in touch with my professors,” Macarena says.
During her time at UPC, Macarena won a scholarship with Laureate Education (UPC’s parent company), which saw her travel to Paris to study at the School of Foreign Trade in Paris, and following this, pursued her interest in education, taking on a Master’s in Education Leadership at Walden University. In addition, she studied emotional intelligence – a subject she really connected with.
These qualifications enabled Macarena to develop her expertise in education, in particular, helping students to learn the way that best suits them. From tutoring sessions in science, math and geography, MAB soon added the teaching of soft skills to its programs (including self-awareness, stress management, empathy, conflict management, decision-making, and critical and creative thinking).
These programs remain the foundation of the business today – a business that Macarena describes as a community of people who believe in a holistic education for all, with an academic, emotional and creative balance.
Today MAB offers personalized tutorials, group classes, and support for international exams, school transition, and home-schooling. Virtual classes are offered in real time, reaching different parts of Peru as well as other countries.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was the driver to developing a holistic online platform, which now provides more than 20,000 educational (academic, emotional and creative) materials. The platform has more than 30,000 users located in urban and rural areas of Peru, and more than 45 countries.
While MAB initially worked with primary school children, it now supports children of all ages (babies, early childhood, primary and secondary) and provides workshops for parents, and training programs for principals and teachers, including well-being.
A new MAB project with great social purpose reaches disadvantaged people in remote areas of Peru, including those without access to the internet.
Through an agreement with the National Country Program of the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion, MAB carries out face-to-face visits, running life skills workshops and training communities in the use of MAB’s virtual educational platform. The program is supported by MAB’s sponsor, building company Lindcorp, which enables the team to travel and stay in each of the remote communities, travelling great distances between each (of up to eight hours).
Today, Macarena employs a team of 30 administrators, marketers, communicators, graphic designers, audiovisual specialists, educators, psychologists, industrial engineers and accountants. She employs a network of around 100 tutors who are regularly trained in MAB ways, like how to differentiate the learning needs of one person to another.
As for the future, Macarena says her core business will remain (tutorials, workshops and emotional intelligence programs). She believes online education will be a permanent feature in the post-COVID world and would like to continue ‘humanizing’ it, tailoring the platform even more enabling students to learn at their own pace using the resources (from videos, mind maps and games) that best suit them.
“I truly believe the only way for Peru to get ahead is for the public and private sectors to work together. I would love to be able to have more company sponsors in order to teach more people in disadvantaged rural areas,” Macarena says.
“I think that would be a great next step.”