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.

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