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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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. 

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Stories away from school

“Is this true? Am I returning to school?” Sol asked in disbelief when her parents told her that her primary school in Argentina would open for the first time in 15 long months. Sol had finished kindergarten virtually the previous year and, by now, had gotten used to attending classes from her parents’ laptop. However, starting 1st grade had not been easy, as Sol had a different teacher. On Wednesday, June 11, 2021, Sol wearing a mask, barely recognized her teacher Julieta for the first time she saw her in person. Julieta was also wearing a mask and looked taller than Sol foresaw. “Are you Julieta, my teacher?” Sol asked, genuine and gracefully, to the (not visible) tender smile she generated in her interlocutor. And this is where a new (in-person) school story for Sol began.

Stories like Sol’s are just one of many faced by the 170 million children who were not able to attend school in person due to closures in countries across the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region in the first 12 months of the pandemic. The World Bank Group’s Acting Now report noted that LAC’s education systems were, on average, closed for longer than in any other region of the world. Panama became “famous” for breaking the world record for school closure duration at one point.

Within countries, vulnerable groups and students living in rural areas were disproportionately affected. Ecuador’s 13-year-old Margarita lives in the rural community of Pimanpiro and can’t wait to return to school after being completely disconnected due to the lack of internet in the village. A bit luckier were Peru’s 15-year-old Medaly or Bolivia’s 14-year-old Luis, who were able to avail of distance learning thanks to some access to digital devices, but faced different hurdles. While Luis had access to the internet and an old monitor where he could “watch classes” better, his computer would shut off if he turned on his video. Medaly, on the other hand, could only “connect to classes” using her mom’s cell phone, which had limited and costly-to-expand data access.

The catastrophic effects of school closures in LAC

Stories like the ones depicted above help understand the degree of disruption generated by the pandemic in the education systems in LAC. The Covid-19 outbreak not only deepened inequities in the most unequal region in the world but generated new ones. Within the context of the experience in one of the longest-closed school systems in LAC, Argentina, Romero et al. (2021) coined one of these new segregation patterns as the new reality of “Zoom” versus “Whatsapp” schools.

[caption id="attachment_118692" align="alignleft" width="300"]Margarita, studying at home during Ecuador's lockdown. UNICEF/ECU/2021/Vega[/caption]

According to recently updated regional simulations, the number of learning-adjusted years of schooling (LAYS) lost due to the pandemic is expected to be between 1.1 and 1.4 years, taking away from an already low regional average of around seven years of education per child. And the proportion of adolescents not able to adequately understand and interpret a text of moderate length (using PISA scores on 15-year-old below minimum proficiency levels) could have increased from about 50 percent up to a dramatic 70 percent or more. Beyond simulations, at least 20 different systematic reviews of the impact of school closures on student achievement, published from evidence collected all over the world, point to significant losses, with emerging evidence on the LAC region pointing to a generational catastrophe, with the most vulnerable student groups disproportionally affected. The new 2019 data on the 4th Comparative and Explanatory Regional Study (ERCE, from its Spanish acronym) to be released today by UNESCO’s Latin American Laboratory for Education Quality Assessment (LLECE, from its Spanish acronym) will help provide an updated learning outcome baseline for the region to get a better grasp of the learning losses.

But focusing on the positive: after more than an academic year of education systems largely closed, schools across the region started, slowly but steadily, to reopen. Such processes have not gone without hiccups, remain highly fluid, and have been implemented with various levels of readiness. Notwithstanding these challenges, education stakeholders have agreed: in-person education cannot be substituted by anything else.

Reopening schools in LAC: The urgency of the return to schooling and learning

School reopening is a much-awaited stage across the region. This fundamental process, however, gives way to new challenges. First and foremost is the return to schooling challenge. A recent survey for Argentina found that at least 357,000 students dropped out of school in 2020. Of these, 19 percent (67,000 children or adolescents) did not return in 2021. Recovering schooling will require good data to estimate the full magnitude of the problem and then the right policies and incentives to re-enroll and keep those children, and especially adolescents, in school. A comprehensive Covid-19-related dropout prevention framework, with effective re-enrollment campaigns and early warning systems, like the ones recently developed in some states of the United States or by countries like Chile, may go a long way to start addressing the schooling return challenge.

Second, and arguably even tougher, is the learning recovery challenge. According to a recent study on remote learning in secondary education for the Brazilian State of São Paulo students only learned 27.5 percent of the in-person equivalent under remote learning. Recovering learning will need a comprehensive accelerating learning recovery strategy, building on in-classroom learning assessments, especially formative ones, that could help diagnose the depth, breadth, and characteristics of learning losses. Teachers and principals will need to be supported throughout this period, with civil society organizations playing a critical role. This dual schooling and learning challenge will be explored and supported through a joint partnership between the WBG and the Inter-American Dialogue (IAD). The “Returning to Schooling and Learning after Covid-19” series will be launched on December 14.

[caption id="attachment_118696" align="alignleft" width="249"]Regional Report produced by the LAC Education Unit (March 2020) © Ljupco Smokovski / Shutterstock.com / World Bank[/caption]

LAC’s education systems have a very steep curve ahead of them. Recovering from the “educational earthquake” engendered by the pandemic will certainly be an uphill battle. However, in the midst of the anxiety and angst that this situation generates around the future of LAC generations lays a unique opportunity: that of building back better. The time to protect and enhance education budgets for equity and efficiency, to revamp early childhood education and improve youth’s skills sets for longer-term challenges, and to carry out effective educational policies for sustainability is also now. The Sols, Margaritas, Medalys, and Luises of LAC are still recovering from their traumatic experiences in the past 18 months and are still looking for responses. Let’s protect their human capital. The time to act is now.

 

 

*Emanuela di Gropello is the Practice Manager for the Education Global Practice (HLCED) in the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) Region of the World Bank Group (WBG); Juan Diego Alonso is a Senior Economist working for HLCED at the WBG; and Ariel Fiszbein is the Education Program Director for the Inter-American Dialogue (IAD).

**This blog is intended to launch a series of events organized by the Inter-American Dialogue and the World Bank entitled, “Recovering Schooling and Learning after Covid-19 in LAC” series. 

[post_title] => Are You My Teacher? The Gradual Return to School in LAC, a Time to Heal Deep Wounds and Urgently Recover Schooling and Learning [post_excerpt] => School reopening is a much-awaited stage across the region and gives way to new challenges, schooling return, and learning recovery. World Bank Group’s Acting Now report noted the impacts of LAC’s education systems closed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => are-you-my-teacher-the-gradual-return-to-school-in-lac-a-time-to-heal-deep-wounds-and-urgently-recover-schooling-and-learning [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-11-30 19:02:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-11-30 19:02:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.thedialogue.org/?p=118685 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 114558 [post_author] => 66 [post_date] => 2021-08-19 22:27:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-08-19 22:27:33 [post_content] =>

The path towards establishing government-wide early childhood public policies varies throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. As a result, it has been proposed to the countries of the region to establish an Early Childhood Education Quality Agenda that considers a broad and relevant overview of early childhood, embraces the relationship between learning and development, and emphasizes both structural and procedural factors.

The sixth recommendation of the Declaration of the Regional Forum: Towards Quality Early Childhood Education, highlights the importance of developing a competence framework for those working on the field, promoting a system of training—both initial and continuous—and certification of competencies that strengthens early childhood care in the region.

The following study, prepared by Javier Quesada and Claudia Castro with the support of the Inter-American Dialogue, the Inter-American Institute for Children and Adolescents (IIN-OAS), and the LEGO Foundation, proposes a framework of basic and universal competencies that should be included in training/certification programs, so that they are present in the region’s future curricula. This framework is a common starting point that each of the countries can expand upon based on their context and needs.

Beyond each country or culture’s specificities, six priority competencies should be included:

  1. Rights: Performs educational and childhood care practices incorporating the perspective of rights in the role, promoting the assertion of rights by children and families based on the best interests of the child.
  2. Early Childhood Development: Manages actions and experiences in safe and stimulating environments in accordance with the interests and developmental level of the child. As task organizers, professionals work to establish quality interpersonal bonds, proper treatment, and play.
  3. Family and community: Shares guidelines and strengthens the "positive or enriching" parenting practices of families, enhancing the levels of development of children, involving the community in early childhood care.
  4. Health and nutrition: Carries out duties and educational activities for children, promoting healthy habits, progressive autonomy, and considers the physical and mental health needs during growth and development.
  5. Diversity and gender: Proposes childhood care and education experiences that take diversity into account, understanding that at this early stage of socialization roles, attributes, appearances, behaviors, and social functions are established.
  6. Pedagogical skills and capacities: Observes, listens, and respects the opinions of others in interactions. Understands learning as a process of open collaboration (between family, institution, community, and children) that ensures social inclusion and creates the foundations for the development-learning process.

These general competencies, which involve specific skills for people in early childhood care and education, should be acquired through training systems that consider the diversity of previous careers and experiences. Each country will be able to suggest methodologies and strategies according to the needs and learning styles of care workers, and address the governmental challenge of holding trainings and adjusting to their own qualification systems.

ONLINE EVENT: Competence Frameworks for Early Childhood Care and Education Staff in Latin America and the Caribbean

On July 8, the Inter-American Dialogue and the Inter-American Institute for Children and Adolescents (IIN-OAS), with the support of the LEGO Foundation, held an online event to present the report: Competence Frameworks for Early Education and Childcare Staff.

Ariel Fiszbein, director of the Education Program at the Inter-American Dialogue, shared opening remarks. Presenters included: Víctor Giorgi, general director of the IIN-OAS; Ana Maria Nieto, early childhood senior program specialist at the LEGO Foundation; Javier Quesada, former undersecretary of early childhood at the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family of the Ministry of Social Development of Argentina; Claudia Castro, specialist in education and health and advisor for the Argentine Society of Pediatrics; Yannig Dussart, early childhood development manager at UNICEF's Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean; Irma Luna, director of early childhood education at the Ministry of Public Education of Mexico; and Ely Harasawa, former director of the Happy Parenting Program of the Brazilian Ministry of Citizenship.

Javier Quesada and Claudia Castro presented the report, which incorporates comments and suggestions from a validation workshop held in May where experts from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay participated. The report developed the competence profile according to the roles and functions of early education and care staff, who are mainly mothers and women in the community. Ideally, countries could revise their training programs based on this framework. As a result, these competencies could help define the standards for certification in the region. Quesada and Castro explained that the idea is not to impose a standardization of the framework, but that each country executes the necessary adjustments, expansions, and modifications based on their institutional capacities, particular needs, and age range, among others. They stressed that the document should lead to a local implementation strategy through a flexible methodological model.

Yannig Dussart began his remarks by stressing that he fully agrees with the idea of not imposing a standardization of the framework since adaptability is key to incorporating diversity and facilitating the exchange of experiences. He considers this to be very important in the context of the region, given the great diversity and heterogeneity—although these same factors present challenges in terms of training and certification. He shared that the creation and establishment of a framework does not guarantee quality services by itself; this starting point must be complemented by concrete actions. Later in the presentation, he mentioned that it would be useful to complement this work with specific cases to help countries implement such actions. Agreeing with the study, he deemed the role of families fundamental, since they should be the focal point of the educational process. He also highlighted the importance focusing on the needs of the child, ensuring quality and equality in interactions, fostering dialogue as well as children with disabilities. He concluded by claiming that it is necessary to strengthen the human talent of the region, supporting the countries so that they can strengthen their training processes.

Irma Luna continued, emphasizing that in order to offer early childhood quality education, training caregivers is necessary. She agreed with Dussart on the role of the family in early childhood education, noting that schools and homes are not, and should not be, separate, since children’s growth occurs in both. She explained that an educational agent can understand and build bridges with the family. Regarding what remains to be done, Luna stated that the region's training and certification plans should be reviewed, strengthening capacities for observation work and theoretical-conceptual tools for systematization, as well as strengthening the inclusive and humanist approach. She stressed that there is a need for economic and social recognition of educational agents, since children require professionals committed to their development. Referring to the document, Luna said that these competencies clearly reflect Mexico’s needs and what must be put in place. Finally, she reflected on how formal education requires a different perspective than informal education, yet both require quality education.

Lastly, the panel discussion featured Ely Harasawa. Harasawa stressed that the active participation of civil society is essential for public policies to be continuous, sustainable, and strengthened. She emphasized that having a competence framework is an important step forward and a starting point for improving the quality of early childhood education. However, the framework also sheds light on new challenges, as each of the competencies requires specific efforts. Among these upcoming challenges, she mentioned structural and procedural factors (institutional conditions and selection processes), and working conditions (the type of hiring generates a lot of turnovers, adequate pay, workload, etc.), among others. She then raised a question about the minimum prerequisites for hiring, noting that it is a consideration that should be taken, especially in the case of unqualified professionals. Harasawa concluded by stating that policy intersection and an intersectoral approach are key, as they allow for a more integrated vision for development and an improvement in the quality of services.

WATCH THE WEBINAR RECORDING HERE:

RELATED LINKS

IADB BLOG: How to Incorporate Early Childhood Care and Education Staff Competence Frameworks into Public Policies?

Competence Frameworks for Early Education and Childcare Staff

Declaration of the Regional Forum: Towards Quality Early Childhood Education

Regional Agenda for Early Childhood Development

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