Education

The Inter-American Dialogue’s Education Program aims to improve the quality of learning and skills development across Latin America. We do so by partnering with public and private organizations throughout the hemisphere to promote informed debate on education policy, identify and disseminate best practices, and monitor progress toward improvement. Our cutting-edge analysis of education policy and broad network of policymakers, education experts, business leaders, academics, and journalists have made it the strongest private voice on education in the region.

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Argentina has an important challenge ahead: avoiding an escalation of the current economic crisis leading to a major social and political turmoil under the government of the Frente de Todos (FDT), the incumbent coalition led by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK).

A 90 percent yearly inflation rate expected for 2022, public finances in disarray, and an unpleasant monetary arithmetic turn price dynamics highly volatile. Inflation may easily accelerate well beyond current levels, and the resurgence of wage and price indexation is turning the clock back to the high inflation regime of the 1980s. Disarming the chronic inflation trap is an even more complex technical and political challenge than addressing the moderate high inflation regime that prevailed in recent years (20-40 percent range). The economic scene could be explosive with nearly zero net foreign reserves and short-term peso-denominated government debt moving on an unstable path that makes roll-over increasingly difficult. All this is taking place under the umbrella of an IMF agreement that needs to be renewed periodically. While the agreement is widely considered to be quite soft in its demands, the government is under pressure to comply with the agreed conditions, creating growing political tensions within its coalition. The Fund, however, is likely to concede despite deviations, avoiding by all means a default and waiting for better days after the 2023 elections.

Why is Sergio Massa (SM), president of the lower chamber of parliament, a shrewd politician with no technical background or expertise in economics, taking on the super risky challenge of managing the Argentine economy? The current political standing of Massa is very weak, and his electoral potential has diluted in recent years. Head of the Partido Renovador, created in 2013 as a splinter of the Partido Justicialista, now part of the government in power, SM had 21 percent of the votes in the presidential elections of 2015 won by Mauricio Macri, taking the third position. Under the present circumstances, his political future is strongly endangered, and if the ‘Super Minister’ adventure fails, he will be in the same situation as today. On the other hand, if the low probability miracle happens, his bet may turn him into a good contender for the 2023 presidential elections. The virtuous model for this scenario would be Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), Minister of Economics under President Itamar Franco in Brazil during the 1990s, who launched the Plan Real leading to a successful economic stabilization, and who served two consecutive terms as president. How far is SM from FHC? Pretty far ex-ante in the political arena, as well as in the economic conditions for success. For further discussion on the comparison, we can reconvene. 

The probability of SM successfully reverting the high inflation scenario is very slim. Initially, bad news is inevitable- a strong adjustment in public finance is needed for sustainable disinflation thereafter. In the current political conditions, we do not see much leeway on the expenditure front. Raising taxes in a significant manner is not a viable option, and the only lever in the short run is reducing energy subsidies, that amount to over 3 percent of GDP. However, a significant reduction in the latter will translate into sharp tariff increases for part of the population. The result will be a supply shock and higher inflation in the first months. Beyond inevitable social dissatisfaction, massive energy subsidies have been a recurrent policy of Cristina Kirchner’s administrations and her economic advocates in the government coalition. Political instability in the political front, with opposition of certain groups loyal to CFK and other outsiders, may be hard to manage in the transition to a second phase of a stabilization program. If the Massa team survives this initial turmoil and once key prices of the economy are aligned (including the exchange rate), as well as consistent fiscal and monetary policies put in place, the government could engage in a second phase of a gradual or shock strategy for disinflation. The less gradual the stabilization plan, if designed to be sustainable, the bigger and quicker the initial fiscal adjustment required.

However, if Massa plays a silver bullet to capture a competitive position for the primary election in 2023, time will be short, implying that gradual disinflation is not an option. He would thus need to launch a policy shock 'à la Real' as in Brazil in the 1990s, or of the sort of the successful Israeli Shekel and the failed Austral in Argentina, both in the 1980s. These types of stabilization strategies need very complex engineering and super competent teams. If phase 1 is difficult to sail and phase 2 is extremely demanding, the script of sharp disinflation and regime change to boost an unstoppable candidacy seems, as of today, highly improbable. At first sight, beyond comparative history, politics, economics and personality, SM’s destiny seems far from FHC’s.

Thus, the best Sergio may hope for is arriving at the end of the presidential term without an explosive economic and social crisis. To avoid the worst-case scenario, swift fiscal and foreign exchange policies are mandatory. For this greyish script, there are good and bad signals as well. His success in appointing a new head for the Energy Secretariat (until now a fortress under the control of close allies of CFK) is good news giving him a lever to improve public accounts even partially, and consequently gain certain control of monetary policy. On the other hand, a convincing economic program has not yet been announced, and Massa has had a hard time setting up a consistent economic team so far, including a ten-day imbroglio to appoint a vice minister that could bring much needed technical credibility to lead the economics of the 'Super Minister.'

 

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The Strengthening School Leaders Working Group, convened within the framework of the Leadership for Change Regional Program of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Teach For All, and the Inter-American Dialogue, has published the "Declaration on Strengthening School Leaders" to empower the voices of educators in policy debates regarding leadership competencies and horizontal or shared leadership, with the objective of promoting a common vision of leadership within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This blog post consists of an interview with working group member Elvira Mendoza, director of the Rosedal Educational Institution in Colombia, and David Velázquez, researcher at the Universidad Nacional de Villarrica del Espíritu Santo in Paraguay.

We start with Elvira Mendoza’s responses.

Question (Q): Could you tell us a little about the Declaration and its creation process?

Response (R): The Declaration is a collective construction of affirmations describing the pertinent actions that educational institutions can take in response to post-pandemic needs. It is a document that condenses the views and consensus among educational leaders from ten countries, as well as the contributions of over a thousand teachers and school administrators which describe the common and unique situations found across schools and culminating in the definition of a proposal of five detailed recommendations that respond to the challenges and key messages identified.

(Q): What have we learned about school leadership during the pandemic, and particularly about horizontal or shared leadership? How did we observe these challenges before Covid-19 and how have they worsened in the last two years?

(R): There are positive examples and lessons that we can reclaim from the experiences of the pandemic. One of the most palpable lessons was the horizontality that emerged in leadership, as well as the sudden transfer of daily learning spaces to the home, changes, and adjustments in school dynamics, and new ways of organizing and sharing responsibilities. Parents also took the lead in teaching and, together with teachers and principals, suddenly found themselves orchestrating the teaching and learning processes. Additionally, as students developed autonomy, self-evaluation became the main form of assessment. Virtual spaces became real spaces where the much sought-after collaborative work flowed naturally -- spaces where listening, negotiation, agreements, and maximizing each person's abilities were absolutely necessary, "the only way to keep moving."

(Q): As the leader of an educational institution, what key message from the Declaration do you think is most important to highlight?

(R): Each of the key messages in the Declaration forms part of a whole, which ultimately fits together to form a solid structure of five fundamental tenets, but if one is removed, the proposal loses its soundness. Even so, in my particular role, I emphasize how school autonomy is key for decision-making. I think that leaders committed to change and the progress of the educational system have long realized the urgency of bringing about an educational transformation. The pandemic pushed us to the limit, putting us face to face with the urgent need for shared leadership and curricular flexibility. We had been talking about how imperative it is for our teachers to acquire competencies to take advantage of technological tools, and the pandemic led us to address this issue very quickly. We had already been setting the issue of socioemotional competencies on the table, and it was resonating in school environments. So, I think that what we have been missing is being able to make decisions more freely in the pedagogical and administrative aspects. There are many things that limit us and it would be essential to be able to have and assign autonomy in decision-making processes.

(Q): What are the importance of the Declaration and its recommendations in your work?

(R): It has allowed me to contemplate the bigger picture for all educators and educational managers after the pandemic, as well as to know that these are not isolated situations only happening to one specific country or community. Having a global interpretation is very important and has allowed me to communicate with teachers, parents, and students. This prevents everyone from making conjectures and subjective interpretations of the situations that arise, and it prevents them from making judgments and assigning blame. I have had the opportunity to transfer a vision to the educational community of what is happening, and from there to summon everyone to share responsibilities, always insisting that the first step for overall improvement is to identify what needs to be adjusted. I have told everyone, "as always, if we are all together strategically addressing each reality, inevitably things will improve."

Therefore, the Declaration has allowed me to train my community, as well as to mobilize, motivate, reassure, and create consensus with everyone. 

Now, David Velázquez shares his responses.

(Q): Could you tell us a little about the Declaration and its creation process?

(R): The Declaration is an integrated and systematic set of ideas based on the centrality of management and teacher leadership in Latin American schools. It proposes how to strengthen educational systems and make them more effective in the face of new challenges, such as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education. 

The Declaration was the product of dialogue among 37 participants - hailing from the teaching profession, academia, civil society and the governments of ten countries in the region. It was articulated in three virtual sessions and several additional online exchanges. It's important to point out that all discussions contributed diverse and enriching ideas and initiatives, and that the Declaration's five pillars reflect that broadest consensus. I would also like to emphasize that discussions are also a repository of ideas that may eventually be taken up by many of the meetings' participants. 

Pandemic school closures represented the longest closure in history, and even by the end of March 2022, 23 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, kept their schools shut down. As the pandemic is not yet fully under control, it's important to keep talking about it in the present tense. The consequences of Covid-19 and containment measures severely affect education systems around the world, and it's not easy to determine how long it will take to improve education quality indicators. What is quite clear is that education systems can't continue to function in the same way, proving ineffective in the face of scenarios such as the pandemic. 

(Q): What have we learned about school leadership during the pandemic, and particularly about horizontal or shared leadership? How did we observe these challenges before Covid-19 and how have they worsened in the last two years?

(R): The most effective responses to the crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic are driven by horizontal school leadership among principals and teachers, who involve their educational communities and other social and community actors in developing strategies tailored to their environments.

These strategies are often developed against strongly centralized curricular, legal, and institutional educational frameworks. Through dialogue, a proper reading of reality, a strong commitment to education, initiative, and creativity, several schools were able to sustain basic educational standards during the two years of school closures, despite the precariousness of resources.

Educational institutionalism in most of the region remains centralized and rigid, giving schools very little room to react effectively in times of crisis and establish recovery measures. Therefore, one of the main lessons learned has to do with promoting measures that make legal norms and curricula more flexible and temporary to launch educational recovery efforts. 

(Q): What is the most urgent recommendation you would prioritize in your context and why?

(R) To the extent that the Declaration's five tenets reflect essential standards necessary to transform education in the wake of the pandemic and were conceived as a coherent and systematic whole, it's necessary to adopt all the measures together, tailored to national and local realities.

(Q): What is the importance of the Declaration and its recommendations in your work?

(R) The Declaration is of great importance. It defines possible relevant milestones on the road to a transformation of education, and not to a "new normal," as it's usually called. 

The Declaration attempts to show how the pandemic not only deepens education systems' specific flaws, but also shows the ineffectiveness across countries of the institutional articulation between the education system and other systems, such as healthcare, emergency management, and the economy. 

The Declaration demonstrates once again that additional efforts are imperative to guarantee the right to education, given that its violation affects other fundamental rights, such as dignified employment and healthcare. Ultimately, it also negatively compromises the opportunities available to children and youth, and subsequently, societal development. 

The Covid-19 crisis makes it clear that there is an urgent need for access to technology and connectivity resources that were already necessary before the pandemic to improve learning. It also highlights the neglect of key dimensions, such as the mental health and well-being of teachers and students, which cannot be ignored in the long term. It's imperative for us to think about the importance of research and the systematization of experiences of this nature as a basis for future decision-making in educational public policy. Finally, just as the Declaration has been a collective and horizontal exercise conceived across diverse national and regional realities and developed by a plurality of actors, the document also highlights the importance of horizontal cooperation on educational thinking down the line. 

[post_title] => Strengthening School Leaders - Interview with Elvira Mendoza and David Velázquez [post_excerpt] => This blog post consists of an interview with working group member Elvira Mendoza, director of the Rosedal Educational Institution in Colombia, and David Velázquez, researcher at the Universidad Nacional de Villarrica del Espíritu Santo in Paraguay. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => strengthening-school-leaders-interview-with-elvira-mendoza [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-06-13 22:36:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-06-13 22:36:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.thedialogue.org/?p=123666 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 125907 [post_author] => 91 [post_date] => 2022-03-16 18:37:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-03-16 18:37:56 [post_content] =>

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how urgent it is to have a high-quality teaching body that responds to the new pedagogical demands. In this scenario, the sustained decrease in the number of teachers has established a relevant challenge to achieve the objective of improving learning in the region. The conditions of educational management and policy, if maintained in their current state, could exacerbate the problem of the shortage of effective teachers.

This blog is complementary to the event Opportunities for Renewal in the Teaching Staff. It includes an interview with Verónica Cabezas, president of the board of Elige Educar and an academic from the Department of Educational Theory and Policy at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile's Faculty of Education.

Question (Q): Tell us about the study you conducted in your country. What was the process, and how did you carry it out? What were the main messages or findings of the study?

Response (R): The projections presented are part of the most recent update of a study carried out with public and private databases (associated with admission processes) of the Chilean educational system, which allows us to calculate and project both the need and availability of teachers in each subject and region of the country. The information used includes school enrollment at each level of education* and grade**, average class size, and population projection, which allows us to identify how many boys and girls will enter compulsory education each year. Enrollment in teaching careers is also used, considering future increases in selectivity for entry and the rate of employability, attrition, and teacher retirement. We also consider the teaching hours in front of the classroom established by law for teachers, among other variables.

The findings of our research team (from Elige Educar) indicate that if the conditions are maintained and the challenge is not addressed, in Chile by 2025, there will be a deficit of 26 thousand qualified teachers, that is, teachers trained in the respective discipline required. This represents 19 percent of the teachers that will be needed in the country in the coming years, so it's necessary to strengthen the teaching profession to reduce dropout rates and attract more young people to train as teachers, among other measures.

*Educational level refers to the existing division between grades according to the students' curriculum. In this study, the basic level (1st to 8th Grade) and middle school (1st to 4th Grade) were considered.

**Grade refers to each course that makes up each level. The basic level has 8 grades (1st to 8th Grade), and the middle level has 4 (1st to 4th Grade). 

(Q): What can be the role of civil society organizations in collecting this important data and/or collaborating with the public sector for its analysis and dissemination?

(R): In the region, there are great demands in the educational system. To address each of these issues, Civilian Social Organizations (CSOs) have an important role in, for example, collaborating with academia and the public sector to gather new information that will allow the construction of a roadmap for the improvement of education systems in direct contact with the educational communities. Based on these needs and desires, CSOs can propose methodologies, articulate actors, contribute diverse perspectives to analyze information, and propose solutions. Comparative studies also make it possible to identify gaps in the systematization, availability, and access to information.

In addition to analyzing and disseminating the results, advocacy can lead to important spaces for collaborative work with the public sector. In the case of our study, the findings and problematization gave way to a working group convened by the Ministry of Education to attract young people to teaching careers, with the participation during 2019 and 2020 of ministerial representatives, universities, and civil society.

(Q): What factors, besides retirement, affect the dropout or retirement from the teaching profession? What can countries do to respond to these factors?

(R): Research highlights that the abandonment of teaching for reasons other than retirement is related, among other factors, to the de-professionalization that teachers perceive in their work and the lack of autonomy, job dissatisfaction with the lack of support and resources, and work overload, and low salaries. A relevant fact is that, in Chile, as in other countries, retirement and turnover are higher in the first years of the profession, so effective accompaniment in the labor insertion is key. In this sense, mentoring can help contextualize learning with a teacher trained to be a mentor to allow the youngest teachers to get off to a good start in the teaching profession.

Also, and transversally in the system, fostering teacher autonomy is relevant to advance in the valuation of teachers as education professionals. Together with the above, professional learning communities with classroom observation practices and formative feedback can be good elements to consider.

(Q): How much room is there to renew teaching (with the hiring of new teachers) without causing massive disruptions?

(R): A first step is to have clear, systematized, and updated information on how many teachers are working in schools and how many leave the classroom each year, due to retirement, to another role in the education system, or leave it altogether, and how many enter as new teachers. This, coupled with teacher need, will shed light on the size of the challenge of teacher turnover.

With this information and its follow-up over time, measures can be designed to move towards harmonious recruitment of teachers, which also takes into account territorial needs, particularly in isolated communities or those with greater socioeconomic vulnerability. It's also important to link these decisions to public policy decisions, such as increasing coverage or making education levels compulsory, to the capacity to train and retain teachers.

One characteristic of the teacher labor market that has not been studied in depth is the reentry of teachers into the educational system who left the profession in previous years. Another study we are currently developing on teacher retention, turnover, and reentry using a longitudinal database of teachers in Chile, shows that 50 percent of teachers who leave the classroom from one year to the next return to the classroom. In other words, they represent a relevant potential source of teacher supply that could help educational systems to meet their requirements for quality teachers. Studying the factors associated with their departure and subsequent reentry and how these are connected can be a source of valuable information for re-recruiting teachers with experience, training, and vocation.

(Q): What aspects should education systems in the region prioritize in order to address the high demand for qualified teachers?

(R): It's essential to improve the attractiveness of the profession, which implies working on the autonomy and professional development of teachers, ensuring better working conditions, along with promoting managerial leadership that enables teachers to carry out their work in a dynamic environment that allows them to innovate and work with all their skills and abilities. In this way, progress can be made in attracting students with vocation and good academic performance to education careers, as well as in retaining practicing teachers and developing pedagogical talent in each of the countries.

On the other hand, it's necessary to innovate in the ways of recruiting to the profession, understanding that teachers' training and career paths may be diverse. It is important, therefore, not only to work on recruitment programs (with information on financial and non-financial benefits) for secondary school students but also to focus on late vocations, on professionals from other disciplines who, with a shorter training period and adequate support, can become secondary school teachers.

Also, considering early childhood educators, programs for continuing studies should be strengthened for those who already have a technical degree in education, and continuous in-service training programs should be strengthened. This program should include theoretical and practical training, as well as mental health support and a focus on teacher wellbeing.

The demand for teachers will increase in the coming years, and post-pandemic times require us to be able to understand the adjustments that have taken place in the world of work globally, not only in education. We know that pecuniary benefits, such as salary, are relevant in recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, but human psychological factors are also key. For example, a recent study shows that teachers during the pandemic were less likely to experience a diminished sense of success when they worked in schools with strong communication, targeted training, meaningful collaboration, fair expectations, and authentic recognition during the pandemic.

(Q): We know that the issue of teacher staffing is not just a matter of demographics but quality as well. What should governments consider when making this kind of effort to ensure the recruitment of effective teachers?

(R): Because of the implications that an effective teacher can have, models of teacher effectiveness have emerged in different countries, based on empirical studies, which seek to guide in detail what an effective teacher must do to achieve significant learning in their students. In this line, standards for initial training and for the exercise of the profession (which also have a logic of trajectory and continuity), as designed by Chile and other Latin American countries, are key to framing the training, the necessary support in the exercise, feedback, and pedagogical leadership in schools.

Along the same lines, work must be done to strengthen initial teacher training to promote the correct development of didactic and disciplinary knowledge and tools that teachers will have in future classrooms. An initial training that fosters innovation, the capacity to reflect on their own practice, and allows them to broaden the options for their teaching careers.

The hiring processes themselves are also apparently relevant in attracting effective teachers. It is important to have processes that provide information on the different employment possibilities, their working conditions, and information on the organizational culture, among other variables. In this sense, it would be important for governments to design a centralized, easy-to-navigate information system that allows current and potential teachers to learn about existing options.

Finally, to maintain the teaching effectiveness of those working in the classroom, it is essential to have schools that are places of development that encourage collaborative work among teachers, allow and promote innovation, and accompany those who are starting in teaching. The focus should be on professional development from an integral and collaborative perspective.

[post_title] => Opportunities for Renewal in the Teaching Staff - Interview with Verónica Cabezas [post_excerpt] => This blog is complementary to the event "Opportunities for Renewal in the Teaching Staff" and includes an interview with Verónica Cabezas, president of the board of Elige Educar. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => opportunities-for-renewal-in-the-teaching-staff-interview-with-veronica-cabezas [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-07-26 10:40:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-07-26 10:40:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.thedialogue.org/?p=125907 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
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Digital Teaching Competencies Compendium

This report, elaborated by Latin America Coalition for Teaching Excellence, studies initiatives that have strengthened teachers’ digital skills in Latin America. Specifically, it addresses the digital competency frameworks that exist in the region, teacher training experiences, and the evaluation processes implemented to measure progress in digital teaching skills.


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