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Multi-grade Teaching: The Latin American Experience


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Title: Multi-grade Teaching: The Latin American Experience

Multi-grade Teaching The Latin American
  • South Asia Regional Conference on Education
  • New Delhi, India
  • October 24-26, 2007
  • Eduardo Velez
  • Sector Manager for Education
  • Human Development Sector
  • Latin America and the Caribbean

Rural Educationa global challenge
  • In Latin America is a challenge because
  • -20 enroll late
  • -About 40 repeat 1st grade and about 25 repeat
    2nd grade (repetition in primary education
    represent a waste of about 3.5 billion annually
    and together with late entry create high
    heterogeneity in ages of children in the
    classroom and this limits learning, specially
    when traditional methods are used)
  • -Average schooling is about 4.5 years
  • -Roughly half of the kids in 4th grade cant read

However, basic education in rural areas in LAC,
like everywhere else
  • - raises incomes and reduces poverty
  • -helps to sustain economic growth (a minimum
    level of human capital is required for this)
  • -is not sufficient for any modern economy, but a
    necessary first step to get there
  • -has important externalities lower fertility,
    better child health, human capabilities (Sen)

Net Enrollment Rate in Primary Education
Rural Education in LACand quality
  • Why we still have the gap in basic education?
  • -Not enough resources
  • -Inadequate use of resources
  • -Bad quality
  • Low learning
  • Late entry, high repetition and dropout
  • -Focus on coverage not enough, quality is key

Rural Educationand quality
  • Why low quality? (1)
  • -Traditional expository methodology emphasis on
    memorization and not in comprehension skills
  • -Limited amount of time in first grades to learn
    basic skills
  • -Cultural barriers in transition from home to
    school mainly in minority areas
  • -Lack of text books and learning guides for
    students and teachers that are appropriate with
    active methodologies and that respond to the
    diversity within the classroom (specially
    different learning rhythms)
  • -Rigid calendars, promotion and evaluation
  • -Insufficient time for effective learning,
    specially in language and in math

Rural Educationand quality
  • Why low quality? (2)
  • -Overloaded curriculum and not related to
    students environment
  • -Ineffective and inadequate pre- and in-service
    training for teachers
  • -High percentage of incomplete schools where
    teachers have not received training nor material
    to deal with the situation
  • -Few teachers have been trained in active
    teaching process
  • -Schools located in isolated areas do not attract
    qualified teachers
  • -Permanent transfers of rural teachers to urban

Rural Educationand quality
  • Why low quality? (3)
  • Students
  • -Under-nourished children
  • -Health problems
  • -Inadequate psycho-social development (little
    exposure to ECD)
  • -Lack of motivation and support for learning
    (from families)

Thenwhat to do?
  • What can be done to correct these problems in
    rural education?
  • 1. Schools must be adapted to function more
  • 2. Student learning skills before entering
    primary education must be improved
  • 3. Flexible and open programs for children and
    out-of-school youth
  • 4. Organization of planning, management and
    monitoring mechanism at the local level must be
  • 5 Advocacy, social mobilization, community
    participation and stimulation of demand for
    quality education must be promoted

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • A proposal to improve rural education. An
    agreement among Ministers of Education in LAC
  • -Need to view the school as a fundamental unit of
    change. Effectiveness of improving policies is
    largely determined by school factors
  • -Need to change teaching and learning practices
    (improving classroom teaching practices demands a
    profound revision of basic education in light of
    the new education paradigm centered on the child
    as an active subject who participates in his own
    learning process). Improvement of student
    learning is central challenge for education
  • -Change the role of the teacher (not simply
    transmitter of information) New type of school
    with renovated teaching methods, different
    learning rhythms and styles.
  • --Need for more personalized and group learning
    the lack of flexibility of the traditional
    frontal teaching limits learning process,
    specially in poor schools

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Objectives for the student in a new school
  • 1.Develop a child-centered active and
    participative learning process
  • 2.Develop higher level thinking skills
  • 3.Advance at their own pace in learning
  • 4.Develop activities of tolerance, solidarity and
  • 5.Improve learning achievement
  • 6.Improve self-esteem
  • 7.Gender equity in participation in school

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Objectives for the teachers in a new school
  • 1.Improve teaching practices
  • 2.Modify their role from expository to
    facilitating roles with permanent interaction
    with their student
  • 3.Positive attitudes towards the pedagogical
  • 4.Satisfaction with their work

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Objectives for the administrators in a new school
  • 1.Change the role from traditional supervisory
    functions to a more pedagogical support and
    advisor to teachers
  • 2.Positive attitudes towards the pedagogical

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Objectives for the community in a new school
  • 1.Strengthen the relationship between the school
    and the community
  • 2.Promote the participation of parents in the
    different activities of the school
  • 3. Articulate curriculum content with the family
    and the community
  • 4. Serve as information center for the community

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Objectives for the educational system in a new
  • 1.Offer complete quality primary education
  • 2.Reduce repetition and drop out rates
  • 3.Improve learning achievement
  • 4.Improve equity

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Two fundamental assumptions for the
    implementation of the new school reform
  • 1.Introducing changes at the level of the student
    implies innovation in the teacher training, the
    administrative structure of the school and its
    relationship with the community. This requires
    specific strategies for children, teachers,
    administrative personnel and the community
  • 2.It is indispensable, from the beginning, to
    develop mechanisms that are replicable,
    decentralized and feasible from a technical,
    political and financial standpoint. The design of
    the system has to include strategies to go to

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Features of the new school (1)
  • 1.It offers full primary education at multi-grade
    schools where one, two or three teachers handle
    several grades simultaneously
  • 2.It benefits students, teachers, administrators
    and communities through its four interrelated
    components curriculum process, teacher training,
    school administration and school-community
  • 3.It uses classroom teaching materials proven to
    have a positive impact on learning, such as
    textbooks, classroom libraries and learning

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Features of the new school (2)
  • 4.It moves from traditional lecture-based
    teaching towards a new method based on
    comprehension and non-rote learning, that respect
    different students learning paces, on the
    teachers role as a facilitator and evaluator,
    and on participation and cooperative learning
  • 5.It encourages strategies of learning by
    doing, such as student government to teach
    democracy, participation and civil
    responsibilities, social skills to promote habits
    of collaboration, companionship, solidarity, and
    tolerance. Children learn to act responsibly in
    organizing and managing the school through
    committees, and to comply with work plans

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Features of the new school (3)
  • 6.Numerous evaluations have shown that the
    quality of education can be improved despite a
    schools limitations in terms of resources
  • 7.It gives teachers an opportunity for horizontal
    participation through teaching workshops or study
    circles for training and follow-up
  • 8.Teachers receive in-service training at
    sequenced workshops providing firsthand
    experience with methodologies similar to those
    they will apply with their students. Training is
    decentralized, replicable and continuous

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Features of the new school (4)
  • 9.Students learn to be active, creative,
    participatory and responsible. Develop capacity
    to communicate, to think creatively, to analyze
    and, above all, to apply what they learn at
    school in the family and community
  • 10.Students use an active methodology that allows
    them to learn by doing and through play. This
    helps them to solve problems in daily life
  • 11.Children work in small groups facilitating
    cooperative learning and systematic interaction,
    It also favors a collective building of knowledge
    and tutorial support between students

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Features of the new school (5)
  • 12.It offers learning guides to help students
    acquire the basic lessons included in the
    curriculum. The guides are designed to promote
    participatory methodology with a learning process
    focused on the student. The teacher acts as a
  • 13.The classroom becomes an area for dynamic and
    active work, developed with all available
    resources and through cooperative activities and
    student government
  • 14.Study topics proposed in the guides are
    related to students way of life and that of
    their communities

Multi-grade (the New School approach)
  • Features of the new school (6)
  • 15.Promotion is flexible and respect each
    students pace of learning.Repetition is
    eliminated. Children are able to study and help
    their parents with domestic chores or productive
    activities like harvesting without jeopardizing
    the quality of their education and without having
    to drop out of school
  • 16.The school operates as an in information
    center and a force for community integration.
    Parents take part in school activities and the
    school supports activities of benefit to the
    community. There are specific instruments to help
    the teacher understand the community and to build
    its relationship with the school. COMMUNITY,

Multi-grade (What is the New School approach?)
Multi-grade (What is the New School approach?
  • Basic education innovation developed in Colombia
  • Set out to address all the nested factors of
    education simultaneously, rather than
    ineffectively tackling each in isolation
  • Systemically integrates curricular, in-service
    training and follow up, community and
    administrative strategies
  • Guarantees access and quality of basic education
  • Evolved from a local and state innovation to a
    national policy - implementation in most rural
    schools of Colombia (20,000 at the end of the

What does the New School approach promote?
  • Child centered, participatory, cooperative and
    self-paced learning
  • Relevant curriculum based on children's daily
  • Flexible calendar, promotion and grading systems
  • Closer, stronger relationship between the school
    and the community
  • Emphasis on the formation of democratic and
    participatory values

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What does the New School approach promotes?
  • Effective and practical in-service teacher
    training strategies
  • New role for the teacher
  • New generation of interactive self paced, self
    directed learning textbooks

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Who does the New School approach benefit?
  • Children, teachers, administrative staff and
    community through its four interrelated
    components, integrated at the school and
    community level in SYNERGY

Teacher training Component
Curricular Component
Community Component
The New School Reform - Empirical Evidence
  • Multi-grade school reform is recommended by
    international organizations based on positive
    research findings (for many cases rural isolated
    areas- is the only option!)
  • Improved academic achievement, higher propensity
    to remain in school, and other outcomes such as
    democratic attitudes
  • Remaining issues Absence of experimental
    research (selection bias, internal validity)
    definition of multi-grade schools causal
    inference etc.

The quality of education in Colombia is close to
the average
Per capita income USD
Source UNESCO. First Comparative International
Study on Quality of Education, 1999.
Rural schools in Colombia have better quality
than urban schools
Rural score
Urban score
Source UNESCO. First Comparative International
Study on Quality of Education, 1999.
In rural education, in math only Cubas scores
are above Colombias
Source UNESCO. First Comparative International
Study on Quality of Education, 1999.
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  • Results from different statistical analysis
  • Superior achievements of children of Escuela
  • Significant reduction in drop out and repetition
  • Improvement in self-esteem and civic behavior
  • The National Planning Department of Colombia
  • Escuela Nueva compensates for socio economic
    limitations when comparing children of Escuela
    Nueva of socio economic level 1 with socio
    economic level 2.

The New School approach in Guatemala
Comparative Study on Demoracratic Behavior in
Guatemala AED/Juarez and Associates
Adaptation of the New School approach to Urban
  • 1998 ENF implemented the Model in 20 low-income
    schools of Bogotá, identified with the poorest
    academic performance in a local standardized test
  • After two years of ENF intervention, an
    evaluation led by National University of Colombia
    confirmed an increment in language skills of
    40.36 and in math of 69
  • These schools, with lowest ranking in the city
    among 2,500 centers evaluated, performed better
    than the city's average

Adaptation of the New School approach to
Displaced Populations
  • 5,745 indirectly benefited, including parents and
    community members
  • As it began, 55 of the children were excluded
    from the school system after one year of
    intervention there was a 100 enrollment
  • After UNESCO evaluations, children of EN learning
    circles obtained the highest level of improvement
    in both language and mathematics
  • (36.1 for language and 30.4 for mathematics.)

Adaptation of the New School approach to
Displaced Populations
  • 5th grade children of the learning circles are
    17.3 points above the national average, with a
    score of 69.3 in math and 13.9 in language.
    (83.6 and 69.7 respectively.)
  • Childrens self esteem was improved by 18.5 .
  • When the intervention began in May 2004, 76 had
    normal self esteem, 22 low and 2 very low.
  • By November, 94.5 of the children had normal
    self esteem, 5.52 low and none required
    therapeutic attention.

Adaptation of the New School approach to
Displaced Populations
Adaptation of the New School approach to
Displaced Populations
Key Factors Included in the New Approach (1)
  • Democratic values, including student leadership
  • Community involvement
  • Individualized and small group instruction
  • Local content (and cultural sensibility)
  • Active learning and teacher as a facilitator
  • Learning centers and classroom libraries
  • Student guidelines
  • Student workbooks and teacher handbooks
  • Local control (and national commitment)

Key Factors Included in the New Approach (2)
  • Cooperative learning
  • Peer tutoring
  • Self-instruction
  • Flexible promotion
  • Integrated versus additive approach
  • Bottom-up Successful experiences maintained by
    teachers or grass-roots NGOs.
  • The student as the center of attention!!!!