Friday, June 25, 2010

Priorities for achieving quality education

Eugenio Severin interview published in the journal Virtual Educa Number 6, June 2010.

1. We would appreciate comment on the major initiatives you are pursuing from the IDB in the education field.

The Education Division of the IDB has identified three priorities for achieving quality education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Early Childhood Development, Transition from school to work and Teacher Quality. Education is a broad concept, and the Bank's experience indicates that to achieve results, it is necessary to focus the work in strategic areas in which we are developing expertise and knowledge.

As for Early Childhood Development, Education Division is implementing projects that have as main objective the extension of coverage of quality services in children of 0-6 years. In the area of transition from school to work, projects are being developed for aligning the training delivered to schools, particularly in secondary education with post-school pathways, either technical training or the world of work. As teachers quality, we know that the difference between good and poor educational performance is strongly conditioned by the effective performance of teachers. And finally, we are putting increasing attention in the educational use of Information Technologies and Communication, in order to support learning.

2. What influence are having information technology and communication, ICTs - in the field of education and professional development in the Americas?

We are convinced that ICTs are essential in increasingly sophisticated processes of globalization and massification of education, that characterize the twenty-first century society, and therefore the question has shifted from whether they should be in school, how We can take advantage of the opportunities that ICTs provide the benefit of the quality of education. The countries of the region are keen to build on this momentum. We have explored various ways to improve education in Latin America, and the use of ICT appears as a new opportunity, a new promise to update education, procedures and results.

At the IDB we firmly believe in this possibility, but we also know that to do so in an integrated and holistic manner, considering all the variables, we can find, in the short term, investments without a clear impact on educational outcomes of students.

Our efforts in this respect focus on supporting countries to develop projects using ICTs in education, with particular emphasis on improving learning, with comprehensive approaches and generating knowledge through monitoring and evaluation of initiatives. The key is to link these initiatives with all the educational efforts to make them consistent and sustainable over the long term.

3. What are the main obstacles and challenges you are facing to achieve universal education and equality in the quality, in Latin America and the Caribbean?

It is not easy to define unique problems, much less unique solutions. For example, inequality is an enormous problem in the region, but it manifests itself very differently in the countries, which forces us to adjust the solutions to each project and not respond with preconceived recipes but proposals to support each country appropriately.

Teacher training is also a shared problem, as is the lack of coverage of initial education, the low level of primary education, high dropout rates in secondary education, especially in countries with larger rural population and the mismatch educational offerings with the demands of society. We have urgent challenges and, as partners of the countries we are working to generate a change which would connect experiences, share knowledge and find solutions together.

4. In your view, what are the educational problems in this region that require more attention? From what initiatives are working at the IDB to reverse these problems?

In all priority areas for the Bank are developing initiatives that allow us to better support countries not only in providing loans and technical cooperation, but also with a selective and profound research agenda, allowing us to generate and share knowledge about problems urgent and important in our education. We are developing studies to adjust the supply of education and the demands of industry, to learn how you can align the incentives of teachers and educational outcomes, to discover innovative ways to organize the provision of education to measure the impact of specific technologies, etc.. We believe the combination of knowledge and experience is vital for us to develop better educational policies in the region.

5. What impact does Virtual Education in educational as in the field of training in Latin America?

Virtual Education has consolidated as an area of important regional dialogue. The IDB's commitment to be part of that effort is a reflection of our belief in this regard. We have much to learn from each other and the spaces are not too many, so we wanted to support this initiative in order to collaborate, humbly, with its strengthening and growth.

Friday, June 11, 2010

One computer to each student in Chile?

Article published in Revista Qué Pasa, on June 11, 2010

Can we improve the quality of education in Chile thanks to the Information Technologies and Communication Technologies (ICTs)?

It depends.

If we imagine as a magic solution, whose mere presence (in the form of notebooks, netbooks, mobile or interactive whiteboards) triggered an inevitable flow of changes and improvements, the answer is no, impossible.

However, if we imagine as a tool, a lever that generates and supports fundamental changes in educational practices of all involved (teachers, principals, students and parents), yes, certainly.

This is the background reflection was in the air between those attending the seminar "From the chalk to Click", organized by the Inter-American Development Bank, the Centre for Microdata from the U. Chile and the CEPPE of Catholic University of Chile. The studies presented by international and national speakers pointed in the same direction: the challenge is not technological but educational. It is not asking whether or not to incorporate technologies, or less what technology, but how to seize the opportunities that ICT use will give us to improve educational outcomes.

The Simce test results released days ago, only confirm the urgent need to concentrate efforts and resources on improving learning outcomes. Despite successes in extending coverage, schools fail to reverse, and in some cases areemphasizing, the differences of social origin.

In the seminar of course, especially after to learn the experiences of using ICTs in education in Korea, Uruguay, and Maine, the idea that round is to deliver one computer to each student. This also carries the hopes and fears that this strategy wake up for each one.

Probably in 10 years we will look towards 2010 and we wonder why we allocate so much time discussing something so obvious: who could doubt the benefits that each child had a computer and internet connection? Will be as absurd as asking why there are computers in banks, travel agencies or hospitals.

Access to a computer for every student is a matter of time. Soon. And the question today is whether Chile is preparing to make this change a chance. This requires of schools able to deliver content and methods renewed by-product of coherent policies, implemented by trained teachers and principals and accompanied by families involved and committed and enthusiastic students and protagonists of their learning.

Chile can afford the "luxury" to consider the delivery of one computer to each student? Doing so will cost approximately $ 250 million annually. Does it seem a lot? Put it in perspective. That figure represents 0.15% of annual Gross Domestic Product of Chile or the equivalent of 3% of the annual budget of the Ministry of Education.

Not all of this amount is enough to fresh resources. Adding the current budget of Enlaces (ICT in education program of Education Ministry), the printing and distribution of textbooks and printing and distribution of Simce Tests, to mention only those most obviously benefit from the advantages of the initiative, and would be available about 20% of the necessary resources.

In Latin America, are developing such a strategy in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and Mexico. In the developed world, has been successfully implemented in Spain, Portugal, USA and Canada. A few months ago, the IDB and the OECD organized an international conference in Austria, whose sole purpose was to learn from the experiences already developed for delivery of computers for students and enlighten the preparation of projects in other countries.

One concern regarding this type of project, is whether are the local context and appropriate institutional environment. In other words, if there is strength in the country to support the project with a digital content industry, technological support and technical assistance, legal frameworks and long term policies. Several countries have seen this apprehension as an opportunity for the country, creating a cluster around, and therefore linking the efforts of competitiveness, employment, innovation and productive development.

In short, Chile has a mature development of access and use of ICTs in the school system, and is urgently trying to provide solutions to improving quality. The distribution of computers to all students is a reasonable cost to the country's development standards and is an opportunity to offer a disruptive strategy regarding current educational practices, which have failed to move a point, despite the resources invested in reasonable policies and programs. A policy along these lines, considering all the variables and consistently integrated with educational policy, would be a bold and innovative attempt to shatter the school system.
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