Setting the Stage for Improved Learning

˙ PREAL Blog

This post is also available in: Spanish

There is growing concern in Central America and the Dominican Republic regarding the quality of education. Despite the importance of teachers for learning, the recruitment, selection, training, retention, and support of teachers in most of the countries in the region are still inadequate.

As part of a project that seeks to strengthen the support of civil society to improve teacher policies, The Inter-American Dialogue and its national partners[i] published a series of report cards in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. The project was made possible thanks to the support of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Institutional Capacity Strengthening Fund, established with contributions from the government of the People’s Republic of China.

Based on the report cards, we prepared a comprehensive report that highlights the most important trends and synthesizes the most relevant findings at the regional level, supported by examples from each country. The report also summarizes the main recommendations that came out of the national studies and proposes areas of improvement in teacher policy.

In all four countries, the national partners analyzed the state of teacher policies in nine common dimensions, grouped into three categories:

  1. Preparing the Field for Effective Teaching: This category explores whether the country has the fundamental preparatory elements to achieve quality instruction, such as clear expectations, adequate class time, and solid teacher training.
  2. Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Talented Teachers: This category explores whether the existing education systems are able to select and retain the best candidates for teaching, and whether it supports teachers to improve their own practices.
  3. Managing for Good Performance: This category explores whether teachers are evaluated on a regular basis, whether they are recognized for good teaching performance and face consequences for consistently weak behavior, and whether schools are assigned resources (both human and physical) to provide high-quality instruction to the most vulnerable children and youth.

The following analysis presents a synthesis of the four country report cards, and our own evaluation of teacher policy tendencies in the region:

Check List Eng

Beyond the priorities for reform in every one of the countries studied (available in the regional report), we believe that the state of teacher policies in the region shows many common challenges, which might also apply to countries not covered in this project. The following considerations seek to reflect on these common challenges and offer a unified perspective on how to address them.

  1. Complete the definition of educational standards for students and teachers in all grade levels and subjects, and guarantee that the curricula and early teacher training programs are designed based on these standards.
  2. Increase effective class time by fulfilling the number of days and hours that are assigned to pedagogical activities, and by training teachers to use class time efficiently.
  3. Make initial teacher training more demanding, better aligned with teacher and student standards, and also more practical, so that graduates finish their studies having had experience in the classroom.
  4. Make entry into the teaching profession more competitive and selective, so that only the best candidates enter the classroom.
  5. Offer more opportunities for professional advancement without the need to abandon the classroom, and ensure that there are competitive salaries in a framework of growing professionalization.
  6. Provide teachers with strong support and coaching, especially in their early years of teaching, and prepare school directors to fulfill their role.
  7. Administer independent, rigorous teacher evaluations based on objective and transparent criteria that take into account student performance, and supported by a well-defined system that helps identify problematic areas and find solutions to ensure high-quality teaching.
  8. Design rewards that recognize teacher’s effort, dedication, and good performance, and act with determination in cases of abuse or corruption.
  9. Define special policies for the training and stimulation of teachers who work with vulnerable populations and with indigenous peoples, including instruction in their native language.

Experience shows that many good practices fail when it comes to implementation. Hence it is especially important to emphasize the implementation details of any new policy, taking corrective measures as necessary, before the policies lose credibility due to perceived lack of impact, and to deliver concrete results. 

There is no single recipe for success: each of these policies can be implemented in a variety of ways and each country will have to find the variant that works best in its particular context. Hence the importance of a broad dialogue, based on the best available information, on the state of teacher policies in each country and on how to tackle challenges.

[i] Our partners are: Centro de Investigaciones Económicas Nacionales (CIEN) in Guatemala, Fundación Ricardo Ernesto Maduro Andreu (FEREMA) in Honduras, Fundación Salvadoreña para el Desarrollo Económico (FUSADES) in El Salvador, and Acción Empresarial por la Educación (EDUCA) in the Dominican Republic.