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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

Gordon Whitman
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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

Abstract: Between 1990 and 2004 the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank loaned Ecuador approximately $160 million to finance initiatives to improve the quality of basic education through the development of decentralized school networks. This research assesses the impact of these externally financed projects on classroom instruction and student learning in urban and rural areas in the country. It also identifies lessons for more systemic education reform in Ecuador. The study concludes that while one of the projects helped establish an important new national curriculum, on the whole the efforts failed to significantly improve classroom instruction, which continues to be dominated by dictation and other teacher-centered practices. The study also finds that the decision to operate the projects outside the Ministry of Education sharply reduced the value of these investments in producing long-term institutional change within the education sector. Gordon Whitman FLACSO-Ecuador Comisin Fulbright del Ecuador gordon.whitman@earthlink.net

Gordon Whitman, 2004

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

CONTENTS Introduction
Copying Efforts to improve education in Ecuador Research question Research method What we know about reforming education systems How this study is organized

Student Learning
Classroom visits Student work Quantitative assessments of education quality Relationship between curricular reform and classroom practice Instructional vision in school network projects Official project documents Sources of innovation

Teacher Learning
Professional development events School networks as learning communities How the World Bank and IDB conceived of schools networks and professional development From supervision to coaching Teacher Lessons

System Learning
The system seen from the school School networks as seen from Ministry of Education Institutional change System Lessons

Conclusion and Recommendations Appendix Bibliography

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

Acknowledgements This research was funded through a fellowship from the Fulbright Commission. Academic and institutional support was provided by FLACSO-Ecuador. At FLASCO Betty Espinosa, Carlos Arcos and Alison Vsconez offered invaluable assistance in the design and execution of the research. FLACSO masters students who participated in my course on institutional and system change taught me much about Ecuador and its public systems. Thanks also to Alex Tern for his help with data and technology. Julia Paley taught me how to be an ethnographer. Susana Cabeza de Vaca, director of the Ecuador Fulbright Commission was a great source of support. Many people in Ecuador helped me understand the education system (a list of persons interviewed is in the appendix). The Ecuadorian Ministry of Education, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank generously provided access to data, archival information and schools. At the Ministry of Education, Victor Hugo Viueza in the Subsecretaria and Diego Burbano in the Division of Statistics were especially helpful, as was Germn Parra in the Unidad Coordinadora de Proyectos MEC-BID. Ultimately this research was made possible by the willingness of school directors, teachers and students to welcome me into their schools and classrooms.

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

INTRODUCTION

Copying A boy in Guayaquil sits at a desk copying words written on a blackboard. A girl in Cangahua copies a paragraph from a scrap of newspaper into her notebook. A group of children in Quito trade blue and red pens as they copy questions (red) into their notebooks and look up answers (blue) they find in their workbooks. Despite a fifteen years effort to improve basic education, copying persists as a widespread instructional practice in Ecuador. Across the country talented educators are teaching young people to write their own essays and solve complex math problems, but these experiences are infrequent and unevenly distributed. Efforts to improve education in Ecuador Beginning in the early 1990s Ecuador borrowed approximately $160 million from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to improve the quality of basic education in the country. The funds were used to support three separate projects (EB/PRODEC-1992-99, PROMECEB-1992-98 and REDES AMIGAS-1998-2004) that focused on the poorest children in the education system, those in rural and so-called marginal urban neighborhoods. The primary strategy of all three projects was to reorganize schools into semi-autonomous school networks and to then invest money in improving physical infrastructure of schools, providing didactic material and training teachers. Funds from the international loans were also used to develop a (now defunct) national testing system, improve teacher training and develop a new curriculum. The focus on improving quality followed two decades in which literacy rates and the proportion of children attending basic education increased dramatically in Ecuador, driven by public investment flowing from the discovery of large oil resources. By the late 1980s, however, oil revenues and government spending had declined and the World Bank, and IDB, as well as local officials, identified the quality and efficiency of social systems in the country as the primary priority for public policy (World Bank 1990, Klees, 2002, 16). Decentralization of the education system through the creation of school networks was seen as a way to turn attention from coverage to quality. The development of these school networks represented the largest effort to improve public education in the country during the past fifteen years (Paladines, 2002). Nearly fifteen years later it is possible to point to a list of changes that flowed from the $160 million in loan funds (new schools, new classrooms, books and materials provided to schools, training sessions, a new basic education curriculum, etc) but there is little evidence that student learning has increased significantly as a result. Each of the three projects began without collecting baseline data on student achievement at targeted schools or at control schools. Thus even though the central goal of the projects was to improve education quality, by design or poor planning it is virtually impossible to determine whether

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

students in the targeted schools learned more than that peers in other schools. Nonetheless, national level data evidenced a significant deterioration in student skills between 1996 and 2000, exactly the time when one would have expected that investments in quality improvement during the 1990s would have begun to bear fruit. Nor does it appear that the World Bank and IDB financed projects produced significant institutional change within the education sector. Although the projects were explicitly framed as investments in building the capacity of the Ministry of Education there is a widespread perception in Ecuador that they have left light footprints on the education system. All three projects were managed by separate entities outside the existing Ministry of Education, experienced high levels of management instability and were then passed over to the Ministry when project funding ended. This has resulted in a common belief within the education system that these type of initiatives (school networks, national testing system, etc) end when the external loan funds run out. Rather than being a model applied universally to all schools, which was the original goal in 1990, school networks remain one of the most controversial education issues in Ecuador and serve a fraction of students in basic education. Research Question This study investigates how these three internationally-financed education reform projects influenced (a) teaching and learning in classrooms, (b) teacher professional development and (c) dynamics within the Ministry of Education. It seeks to identify potential lessons for more comprehensive education reform in Ecuador, at a time when the national Congress is debating a new education law, and for World Bank and IDB lending strategy, at a time when both banks are planning a third phase of education reform loan projects for Ecuador. Research Method The research for this study was based in part on schools visits and classroom observations in twenty-five schools that were part of school networks established by the three projects, and on interviews with school directors, teachers and parents in those schools. Interviews were also conducted with bank staff and officials involved in the design and implementation of the programs, administrators in the Ministry of Education, union leaders, local elected officials and educators involved in basic education reform in Ecuador (see appendix for list of these interviews). This ethnographic data was combined with an analysis of the initial loan documents and project proposals for each project as well as interim and final evaluations. The Ministry of Education generously provided data on student enrollment, desertion and repetition as well as results from a national test of student skills (APRENDO) administered in a sample of schools in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000. The research design compared three distinct projects that shared common goals and strategies but operated at different points in time, in different areas, under different management. The fact that two projects (EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB) ended five years ago provided the opportunity to investigate their longer term impact, an explicit objective of all three project. Because Redes Amigas was ending during the year that the 5

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

study was conducted, the timing of the research made it possible to compare similar projects at different points in their life cycle. I conducted the research for this study from January through June 2004 while in Ecuador on a Fulbright Scholarship. In addition to financial support from the Fulbright Commission, I was an associated professor at FLACSO-Ecuador, where I taught classes on organizational change and education reform. Temple University provided me with a leave of absence to pursue this research. My own expertise is in urban school reform in the United States and part of the underlying structure of the investigation is a comparative analysis of reform efforts in Ecuador in light of an important body of recent research on efforts to improve public schools serving low-income children in the United States. The research also draws upon education research literature from Ecuador and other parts of Latin America. What we know about reforming education systems The starting point for this research is that quality in education is solely a question of student learning. While this may seem obvious, education quality if often either conflated with a set of factors (especially physical school conditions) that are important but not directly related to learning or confused with economics-inspired measurements of efficiency (i.e. aos requerido por alumno para culminar la primaria) that cannot account for changes in student knowledge or skill. The only way to assess whether projects such as EB/PRODEC, PROMEB or Redes Amigas improved education quality is to see if there has been an improvement in what students know or can do as a result. While it is difficult, but not impossible, to design instruments to measure student learning across large numbers of schools, it is not hard to walk into a classroom and assess the quality of intellectual work taking place among students. Improving this work is the beginning and end of any quality improvement effort (Nez Prieto, 1998; Newmann, Lopez, and Bryk, 1998). What students learn in school is a function of many factors inside and outside of school, but the condition over which education policy has the greatest influence is the interaction between teachers and students in classrooms, and more specifically the skills and knowledge that teachers bring to this interaction. Students exposed to highly effective teachers over long periods of time learn far more than those exposed to mediocre teaching. Improving education quality necessarily means improving the quality of teaching that students experience in their classrooms (Elmore & Burney, 1997; Ferguson, R. 1991). Research suggests that to improve teaching and learning, those designing and leading reform efforts need to begin with a very clear vision of what they want to see occur within classrooms. They then need to create opportunities for teachers to continuously improve their teaching practice and substantive knowledge. Schools and perhaps also networks of schools need to be learning organizations in which teachers regularly analyze data about their students and get support and instruction to teach more effectively in their classrooms. Investment in teacher professionally development can have a determinative influence on student learning, but only if the teacher learning is directly tied to what they do inside classrooms. The most effective professional development takes place inside classrooms, not in isolated workshops held away from schools (Campos, 1998; Nez Prieto, 1998). 6

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

We also know that the idea of a learning organization needs to apply not just to schools or networks of schools, but also to school systems as a whole. The primary function of a school system is to improve the effectiveness of teachers. While systems may need to engage in other activities to keep schools going, there is growing appreciation that the single activity that has the most direct impact on improving student learning is their investment in developing the knowledge and skills of teachers. Like students, teachers, schools and school networks, education systems need to develop the capacity to analyze data on student and teacher learning and continually learn to be more effective in developing teacher skills. How this study is organized The structure of this study is organized around the three necessary tasks of any school reform effort: improving (a) student learning; (b) teacher learning; and (c) system learning. The first part analyzes classroom practice in schools that were targeted for quality improvement in relation to the instructional goals of the three reform projects. The second part focuses on efforts to improve teacher professional development. The third part deals with the complex organizational and political dynamics that characterized the relationship between the reform projects and the Ministry of Education. The conclusion summarizes the main findings of the research in a series of recommendations.

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

STUDENT LEARNING

Successful efforts to improve education begin with a good diagnosis of what is happening inside classrooms and a clear vision of how teaching practice needs to change. Research and experience suggest that there are many factors within school systems that can be altered without necessarily having an impact on student learning. Improving the physical condition of classrooms, providing teachers with training opportunities, increasing funding for books and materials, creating opportunities for local decision-making and a host of other strategies can each play an important role in improving schooling, but in and of them selves have no direct connection to what a young person learns in school. These secondary strategies need to be anchored in a primary plan that revolves around improving the pedagogical interaction between students and teachers (Samaniego, 2002; Elmore, 2002; Machala, 2000). This section assesses the impact that school network projects in Ecuador have had on teaching and learning in classrooms. The section reviews some of the patterns that are visible in classrooms in schools that participated in the projects, as well as the available data on student skills. It looks at how the three projects each sought to influence what they conceived of as education quality and the results they produced, based on their own evaluations and interviews with teachers and school directors. Finally the section looks at sources of pedagogical innovation outside the externally financed reform projects. Classroom visits The twenty-five schools and approximately 75 classrooms I visited from March to May 2004 provided a very small window into teaching and learning in Ecuador. These were visits to urban and rural schools that were participating or had participated at some point in one of the three school network projects. They included what are known as Hispanic schools (the main type of school in the country) as well as bilingual Spanish-Quechua schools, and schools in several different parts of the country (see appendix for list). The schools were chosen to obtain some level of diversity of experience, but they were not necessarily representative of school networks or schools across the country. Nonetheless, they provided an opportunity to see some of the dynamics taking place within classrooms and to understand some of the ways in which school directors, teachers, parents, and in some cases, students talk about what happens within classrooms. I typically visited the plantel central the main administrative school within the network and then three to five other schools. In visiting a school I would first interview the school director (principal) about their experience directing the school, how they saw their role and spent their time, what efforts were taking place to improve instruction, what their experience had been with the school network project and their ideas for improving instruction. I would then interview teachers, either individually or in groups, focusing on how their teaching practice had changed, what was being done in the school to improve education and what 8

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

their view of the reform project had been. Some times I was able to interview parents during a school visit. I asked almost everyone I interviewed what they would do to improve education if they were Minister of Education. Most of the time during school visits was spent inside classrooms. In visiting a classroom my primary goal was to see authentic student work. While it can be instructive to observe how a teacher is interacting with students, the work product that students produce (essays, projects, drawings, posters, solutions to math problems, etc.) is by far the best evidence of what is happening within a classroom. So typically I would observe the whole class for some time and then sit with students to watch what they were doing and how they were interacting with one another (Gilmore, 1983). Some times my presence in a classroom would stop the activity taking place, but often it was possible to be in the classroom, observing and talking to students, without disrupting the flow of interaction. During the classroom visits I was able to look at hundreds of student notebooks and this was one of the most instructive sources of information about teaching practice (Newmann, Lopez, and Bryk, 1998). Student work With some important exceptions, in the classrooms I visited it was often difficult to find student work. Only two or three classrooms had any student work on the walls. When I asked teachers why, they generally said because it would be distracting, or that there classroom was used by another teacher in the afternoon (it was common for one school building to be used by a morning and an afternoon school). Students almost always had a set of notebooks on their desks and these were primarily filled with material dictated by the teacher or copied from some other source. While I often saw drawings by students, it was rare to find text written by students in their language and communication notebooks or anything but pages of equations they had solved in mathematic notebooks. While I saw a range of instructional strategies taking place in classrooms, by far the most common was students copying information provided by a teacher. Copying had several different variations. Often in social studies or science classes the teacher would be at a green chalk board or a newer white board writing sentences that students were copying into their notebooks. While the teacher might have one color marker or chalk students generally seemed to know to put headings in red and supporting material in blue. Other times the teacher would be dictating orally.

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

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Red and blue pens appear ubiquitous (see boy in right hand corner), along with lined notebooks into which students copied questions and answers. Here, students in Guayaquil are listening to a story and then answering questions found in their text books.

It was also common to see students copying written text from a text book, a newspaper or a scrap of paper, into their notebooks. What was most surprising was how old students were who were engaged in this activity. One example was an eighth grade classroom I visited in a school in Quito. I had been talking to a computer teacher about the school when another teacher came up to us and began to complain about the physical infrastructure; she explained that the point of the CEMs (the initials for school networks under EB/PRODEC) was to give students practical skills that they could use the labor market. That is why they added 8, 9 and 10th grade to the school. But they never completed the promises, never provided workshops (talleres) for the students. She also explained that the students who stay at the school are the ones with the most problems; they have trouble getting into high school (colegios) so they stay at the school. She then asked me if I wanted to see her classroom. I followed her up the stairs. She explained that she taught 8th grade and on the way showed me the walls that had not been painted since EB/PRODEC, but that the parents just helped paint in a minga. We entered her classroom and there were about 15 students sitting at different tables, with two students per table. About four or five had metal plates with rice and lentils. I saw only one student with an open notebook doing work. She was at a table with another girl. I went over to the table, knelt down, and asked what she was doing. She showed me a small square (about two 10

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

inches by three inches) with text. The text was about bank accounts, but it was hard to understand it because it had been cut in a way that it began and ended in the middle of sentences. The student said she was copying what was on the square into her notebook. I asked if I could look at other pages and she showed me page after page (perhaps 20) that had a small square of text taped to the top right hand corner and in blue pen, the text copied into the notebook. In red were corrections made by the teacher, for example a missing quotation mark or comma. One of the pieces of text was about Alan Greenspan. I asked the student why she was doing this. She said so that it could be corrected. I asked again, thinking that she did not understand me, and she said again so that the teacher could correct my work. At that point the teacher came over to the desk. I asked the teacher why the student was copying the text into her notebook. The teacher answered that she was doing this to improve her hand writing (ortografia) and to learn vocabulary. This activity helps the students learn to begin writing. I asked if they did any writing of their own essays or stories (ensayos o cuentos). She said not yet, but then said yes, because they read things in their work book and then have to respond to questions. Then the teacher asked me, is that OK? I responded that I was surprised that students in 8th grade were not writing their own essays at this age instead of copying from texts. The teacher said, remember what I told you before, with these students I need to start from square one. They are not ready and these exercises prepare them, with this many are learning how to write their letters correctly, which many do not know how to do. They are also learning vocabulary that they can use. Then she moved toward the door and made a motion to me that I thought at first meant that someone was at the door and I should wait and she would be back. But then I understood that she wanted me to come to the door. There, away from the student, she explained to me that these children come from families that do not support the school (familias que no dan respaldo a la escuela), parents who do not correct homework (deberes) or make sure that they get done, so we have to do homework at the school. Also the Ministry of Education does not give us the resources we need, the financial support. The work that the student was engaged in and the ways in which she and her teacher explained its purpose illustrated a lack of connection between classroom work and the national curriculum. The basic education curriculum, developed in 1996 in part by the EB/PRODEC project, was designed to shift the focus of teaching in each grade from content knowledge and memorization to intellectual skills. It defines the skills that students were expected to acquire in each grade level. Yet the teacher who had assigned the copying activity (many times apparently) was not able to align the activity with these externally agreed upon expectations of what skills a student at this grade level should be learning. Nor was the student able to explain why she was doing the activity, other than having it corrected by the teacher. Students come to school with very different skill and knowledge levels, but if teachers and students do not have clarity about where they are going, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to move through a rigorous curriculum. The teachers explanation of why this was the best that could be accomplished under the circumstances, also highlighted the ways in which external factors serve as rationalizations for ineffective teaching. While it may have been that some or most of the parents of the 11

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The impact of internationally-financed education reform on classroom practice in Ecuador

young people in this class did not help them with their homework, this did explain why the teacher had chosen to teach in the way she did. When I later shared this story with the teacher who was acting as my guide, he said that it was not correct to have students copying at that age and not writing their own text. He said that they start writing their own texts at 5th and 6th grade. He searched for some student work, but then said that students had taken it home. They write and then I correct it and give it back. He also showed me a work book that had questions following stories that required students to write responses. He said that in the next trimester he was going to have students start their own notebooks with their own writing. The strongest teaching I observed tended to involve teachers who able to place the particular activity that students were working on into a sequence of lessons that led to students learning a new of skills. For example I visited a fifth grade classroom in a rural school participating in Redes Amigas. The students were organized with their desks formed into a big table. They were working in pairs of three. Each pair was given a text book and the teacher had different students read through a story. The teacher then asked the students (as a group) questions about the characters. She had them list out the characters on pieces of paper and then call them out. She showed them how while many people were mentioned in the story, only three spoke. She was dynamic and as the students shouted out answers she challenged them. She then had them pick which of the three speaking characters they were going to be and said that they would be acting the story out and that later in the week or next week they would also have costumes. Each child had to stand up when the character was called. The classroom dynamic was notable because not only were the students and the teacher engaged in an animated dialogue, but they were learning a set of skills for interpreting a text. The teacher later explained that she has always been trying to improve her teaching, that the teacher training (capacitacin) from Redes Amigas has been somewhat helpful, but that they withdrew from the network because of the teacher salaries (partidas) being transferred to the network and the resulting difficulty they faced in transferring to other schools. She said that only recently have then begun to come back to the network. Her teaching was different than what I saw in the rest of the school. The other three classrooms I visited had students cutting out pictures of computers, students watching the video A Bugs Life on AV equipment purchased with IDB funds and a teacher dictating a lesson on farming. Even in instructional practice not based strictly on dictation, I often saw a lot of copying and a clear disjuncture between the activities students were engaged in and the skills and knowledge they were expected to acquire as a result. I saw this dynamic in a lesson that a teacher delivered to his fourth grade students in a school in Quito which had participated years earlier in EB/PRODEC. The teacher had asked if I would come to his classroom. Before he called his students back from physical education to deliver the lesson we spent some time talking together and with a small group of students who had stayed in the classroom.

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When I first came into the classroom I noticed a stack of papers spread out on a student desk. They were essays about personal hygiene, which I learned on my last visit, was a theme of a special program being implemented at this school by an outside agency. I tried to engage the teacher in these essays, asking him what they were, what will happen to them, but he wanted to show me the text book he was using. He said he tries to use a different text book each year to see which is better. These are soft covered books that have all four major subjects in them (math, language, science and social students) in separate sections. To my question again of what will happen to the essays, he said that he will grade (calificar) them and then put them in the students files. More students began to come back into the classroom; I asked one of them which was her essay and she picked up one and read it. Another boy picked out his essay and slowly, with some mistakes, read it. Afterwards another boy says Eduardo knows how to think (Eduardo sabe pensar). Eduardo said that his essay had bad handwriting. Some essays filled 2/3rds of the page, others are two lines. Teacher says that students have different skills. I am not sure how typical these essays are, but this interaction reinforced for me the sense that creative student work, such as writing essays, is something that lies outside the general practice in this classroom. The teacher then told the students come back, were going to have a lesson. Although it is not entirely clear, I believed he was bringing them back for a lesson for my benefit. The teacher stood over his desk and went through the text book; he found a language lesson and began to read it to himself. At one point he asked me how many children are in classrooms in the US. I told him that is varies, but that in Philadelphia in a classroom like his, 4th grade, the number would be capped at 33 by the contract with the union. He said he has 42 students, which is too many. Once the children are back in the room, sitting at double desks that face each other along both sides of a classroom shaped like a rectangle, the teacher said we have a visitor who is here to see how we learn so make sure you behave. He asks the students to open their books. Not all the children had books and he did some rearranging asking some students to share their books. In one case a student kept the book in front of him (it seems to be his) and another student looked on. The teacher began reading a short story from the book. I looked at the work book of one of the students and it said that the purpose of the exercise is to learn the que and gui sounds (but the teacher does not explain this). He asked: how is this story? lindo isnt it.? Lets read it again. The teacher read with a few students reading along out loud in very soft voices. Now continue Jose and he asks different students to read. What is the title the teacher calls out? Where did he live? What did he dream of? The teacher seemed relatively engaged and energetic at this point and the students were more or less following, although the same students were calling out answers. The teacher repeated correct answers. Once he asked a specific person by name, who is the principal character? He told students that they are reading about gui and gue sounds and then handed out blank pieces of paper and told them to put their name of the paper. The teacher then went to the whiteboard (next to the chalk green board) and wrote five questions: 1. What is the title of the lectura; 2. What personajes participate in the story; [at this point he went back to his desk to look at the text book-which was identical to what the students had]; 3. What is the name of the frog; [again back to look at the book] 4. Como lo 13

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dio(?) [at this point a student raised his hand and asked, what is that word, the teacher responded cual] and then continued to write the rest of the question Guillermo la bienvenido [I noticed that this is the same question from the book]; 5. Write the words in the story that have the gui and gue sounds. [This question is also from the book]. At that point a student went up to the teacher and said that he has a red pen and not a blue one; the teacher asked who can lend him one. The teacher admonished him and then went over to a student who he says is on the wrong page and with his hand that has a marker in it, hit the boy on the head, the hit did not seem very hard and the boy did not react, except to turn the page of the book. Later the teacher said to the class, when a student gets up to go to the bathroom and takes a bar of soup with him, were learning about hygiene but all of you are being dirty. At this point I had joined a table of four children as they began to write down the questions and put answers in. One student at my table wrote all the questions in red with spaces in between before writing the answers. The teacher was in the back of the room in the center with his arms crossed, not saying anything. There is a lot of student interaction at my table and at other tables. Much of the interaction at my table is about pens, with students passing different colors between them. Also sometimes students from other tables would come over looking for a particular color pen. Some interaction was also about the questions themselves, with students asking each other the answers. There was a boy to my left who asked me if I know who the main characters are; I said no (honestly). He then asked me to use my pen. I give him my black pen and ask him for his blue pen. At this point my notes go back and forth in blue and black every couple of lines. More conversation about how the writing is. One student at my table, a boy, showed another girl and me how he has left space for the answers as he has written the questions. To me the students seem to be spending a lot of time writing the questions correctly on their papers. If the lesson started about 9:00 and ended about 9:45, I would estimate that a good 10-15 minutes was spent at my table writing out the questions correctly. I look at one childs completed questions, which total 15 words for the five questions. The sixth question the teacher announces is for homework [not sure how this works, since in the end the students hand their papers into me]. Later I ask the teacher, dont you need to correct these, he says no, they will have more work later. One student comes up to the teacher with a paper, the teacher points out some mistakes, such as the need to put the first letter of the name of a character in capitals, which he reminds the whole class. Then another student asks a question of the teacher (not clear what) but the teacher ignores the student and walks to the back of the room. At my table a student explained to me that you can write the question with either red or blue. You could also write both the question and the answer in the same color, but later you would get confused. The teacher opened a dictionary and started to call out words that begin with gue. Most of the students at my table were still working on answering the five questions. The teacher asked who will finish first and the students began to hand in their papers to him. I ask a student at my table what she learned, she says nothing. I ask another student, who had explained the color pens to me, and he says to put answers in blue and questions in red, so as not to confuse them, but I already knew that. Another student says

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gue and gui words and another points to the page and says everything there. A student says that he is going to go wash the plates for lunch. The papers themselves show a mix of creativity and challenge. Many students were able to answer all the questions correctly (top left) or at least several of the questions (top right), others only succeeded in writing down the questions (bottom left); and one paper has the answers written in multiple colors with gue and gui in yellow (bottom right).

While reading a story and answering questions about it is a typical fourth grade activity, what interested me was the nature of the interaction between the students and particularly the amount of time and energy focused on the mechanics of copying the questions and finding the answers in the text. As with the student who was copying the small piece of text into her notebook, the purpose of the activity and its place within the curriculum seemed to be unclear to both the teacher and the students. Nor was the sequence of learning evident aside from following different activities in the work book. Later a parent came in to the classroom and copied his sons homework assignment into a notebook before taking him home. I asked the parent what he thought should be improved at the school. He said more time spent on activities, studying, and less time in recess; more puzzles and games (rompe cabezas) and more didactic materials.

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Many classrooms I observed had no books or educational materials. Here the teacher has a small white board on to which he has written a math problem. The students are preparing to go home for the day.

One of the (few) virtues of dictation is that it provides students with information that they might not know. Yet as teachers dictated, I often saw them miss opportunities to engage students in critical thinking about the subjects being taught. For example, I observed a teacher deliver a science lesson about microscopes to a crowded classroom in a rural school north of Quito. The students were in rows facing the teacher. The teacher had hung a poster of a microscope in the front of the class and was having the students copy the names of the parts of the microscope into their notebooks. As he told them what to write in their notebooks he also made comments and asked them questions. At one point the teacher told the students that a type of microscope was not even in Ecuador and was probably only in developed countries. A student asked if that meant China. He said no, the United States or Germany. Another student then asked, why dont we invent anything? The teacher replied, You have to be better observers, for example, we step on ants all the time, but dont observe them. I asked the older children whether there were more vertebrates or invertebrates in the world? At that point a student called out more invertebrates. The teacher went on well the older students say vertebrates because they are only thinking of cows and sheep, and not observing their world. The teacher then returned to describing microscope parts. This was a dynamic teacher with engaged students, but the real learning seemed to be an aside, an interruption to the lesson being delivered.

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Quantitative assessments of education quality The nature of classroom interaction between teachers and students that I observed may help to explain why students in Ecuador have shown weak problem solving and conceptual skills in national tests. One of the initiatives financed by the World Bank as part of the EB/PRODEC project was a national system for measuring education quality, called APRENDO. The APRENDO system was designed not as a way to measure the impact of the EB/PRODEC project, but to evaluate quality in schools across the country. The APRENDO examinations were given to students in a national sample of schools in 1996, 1997 and 2000 (and then abandoned). In addition in 1998 an examination was applied to a sample of students in urban school networks financed by the World Bank (but not those in the parallel rural networks project financed by IDB). Because no baseline data was collected for the EB/PRODEC schools, there is no way to know what progress was made within these schools from 1992 to 1998. Nor is it possible to compare students in school network schools with similar students in schools that were not part of the project, since no control data was collected. Nonetheless, the results provide a snap shot of student skills as the project was coming to an end.
Table 1: PORCENTAJE DE ALUMNOS QUE DOMINAN LAS DESTREZAS DE 7 LENGUAJE Y COMUNICACION Redes CEM del EB/PRODEC - APRENDO 1998 DESTREZAS
1.1 Identificar elementos explcitos del texto: personajes, objetos, caractersticas, tiempo, escenarios y datos. 1.2 Distinguir las principales acciones y acontecimientos que arman el texto y el orden en que suceden. 2.1 Comparar dos elementos del texto para encontrar semejanzas y diferencias. 2.2 Clasificar elementos mediante un criterio dado en el texto o propuesto por el evaluador. 2.3 Distinguir causa-efecto. 2.4 Diferenciar los hechos y las opiniones que contiene el texto. 2.5 Establecer las relaciones pronominales que contiene el texto. 3.1 Inferir el tema o la idea principal que plantea el texto. 3.2 Inferir el significado de palabras y oraciones a partir del contexto. 3.3 Derivar conclusiones a partir del texto.

Inicio
28,93 28,62 61,56 49,89 30,24 52,22 31,48 44,10 41,40 37,22

Advance
14,82 15,78 21,42 31,04 27,88 26,14 30,72 28,71 28,08 30,39

Dominio
56,25 55,59 17,02 19,07 41,88 21,64 37,79 27,19 30,52 32,39

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Table 2 PORCENTAJE DE ALUMNOS QUE DOMINAN LAS DESTREZAS DE 7 MATEMATICA Redes CEM del EB/PRODEC - APRENDO 1998 DESTREZAS
1.1 Establecer la relacin de igualdad y de orden en parejas o conjuntos de nmeros. 1.2 Establecer relaciones de divisibilidad entre enteros positivos. 1.3 Completar una sucesin. 2.1 Resolver ejercicios sobre proporcionalidad. 2.2 Resolver problemas sobre proporcionalidad. 2.3 Resolver ejercicios y problemas sobre porcentajes. 3.1 Resolver adiciones, sustracciones, multiplicaciones o divisiones. 3.2 Resolver problemas que requieren las operaciones fundamentales o su combinacin. 3.3 Estimar el resultado de ejercicios y problemas con las operaciones fundamentales. 4.1 Resolver problemas sobre el permetro o el rea de paralelogramos. 4.2 Resolver problemas sobre rea o volumen de paraleleppedos.

Inicio
76,55 60,55 50,45 62,25 63,51 72,53 78,90 74,44 76,20 80,20 79,68

Advance
18,13 24,73 23,06 21,08 24,69 20,73 15,76 19,80 18,41 15,65 15,87

Dominio
5,33 14,71 26,49 16,67 11,80 6,74 5,35 5,76 5,39 4,15 4,46

Source: Ministerio de Educacin y Cultura, Resultados Nacionales de la Aplicacin de las Pruebas APENDO 1998, Redes CEM del EB/PRODEC, 1999. The interpretation offered of these results was that: Que el alumnado de los CEM se concentra mayoritariamente en el nivel inicial de aprendizaje de las destrezas [y] que las destrezas ms alcanzadas revelan que el aprendizaje estudiantil se concentra en el nivel bsicamente operatorio, mientras que el aprendizaje menos consolidado y extendido es el relacionado con la resolucin de problemas. (APRENDO 1998, 63) At a national level it is possible to compare student learning between 1996 and 2000. These results suggest that if anything the quality of education in Ecuador deteriorated during this time period. As the chart 1 and 2 below show, the percent of seventh grade students proficient in key language and communications and mathematical skills declined in almost every area between 1996 and 2000.

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Table 3: PORCENTAJE DE ALUMNOS QUE DOMINAN LAS DESTREZAS DE 7 LENGUAJE Y COMUNICACION - NIVEL NACIONAL - APRENDO 1996 Y 2000 DESTREZAS
1.1 Identificar elementos explcitos del texto: personajes, objetos, caractersticas, tiempo, escenarios y datos. 1.2 Distinguir las principales acciones y acontecimientos que arman el texto y el orden en que suceden. 2.1 Comparar dos elementos del texto para encontrar semejanzas y diferencias. 2.2 Clasificar elementos mediante un criterio dado en el texto o propuesto por el evaluador. 2.3 Distinguir causa-efecto. 2.4 Diferenciar los hechos y las opiniones que contiene el texto. 2.5 Establecer las relaciones pronominales que contiene el texto. 3.1 Inferir el tema o la idea principal que plantea el texto. 3.2 Inferir el significado de palabras y oraciones a partir del contexto. 3.3 Derivar conclusiones a partir del texto. Total de alumnos

1996
54,83 42,64 46,62 38,16 50,25 18,75 66,08 32,98 50,97 44,74 13,937

2000
43,09 34,73 36,86 28,99 40,45 14,15 54,96 25,46 41,03 32,87 17,799

Cambio
-11,74 -7,91 -9,76 -9,17 -9,8 -4,6 -11,12 -7,52 -9,94 -11,87

Table 4: PORCENTAJE DE ALUMNOS QUE DOMINAN LAS DESTREZAS DE 7 MATEMATICA - NIVEL NACIONAL - APRENDO 1996 Y 2000 DESTREZAS
1.1 Establecer la relacin de igualdad y de orden en parejas o conjuntos de nmeros. 1.2 Establecer relaciones de divisibilidad entre enteros positivos. 1.3 Completar una sucesin. 2.1 Resolver ejercicios sobre proporcionalidad. 2.2 Resolver problemas sobre proporcionalidad. 2.3 Resolver ejercicios y problemas sobre porcentajes. 3.1 Resolver adiciones, sustracciones, multiplicaciones o divisiones. 3.2 Resolver problemas que requieren las operaciones fundamentales o su combinacin. 3.3 Estimar el resultado de ejercicios y problemas con las operaciones fundamentales. 4.1 Resolver problemas sobre el permetro o el rea de paralelogramos. 4.2 Resolver problemas sobre rea o volumen de paraleleppedos. Total de alumnos

1996
9,81 49,66 46,55 25,08 18,92 9,25 24,73 10,27 8,08 3,59 4,67 14,104

2000
7,86 40,65 42,33 24,89 13,15 7,69 14,52 6,54 4,56 2,18 3,64 17,811

Cambio
-1,95 -9,01 -4,22 -0,19 -5,77 -1,56 -10,21 -3,73 -3,52 -1,41 -1,03

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The results of the 2000 examinations are particularly disheartening because they come at end of a decade in which more than $100 million was invested to improve basic education in the country. They raise the question of why resources and apparently good ideas did not seem to translate into improvements in student learning. Relationship between curricular reform and classroom practice Interviews with teachers about what they do in there classrooms suggest that the obstacle to improving education may not be the unwillingness of teachers to consider changing how they teach, but the difficulty in translating good ideas about pedagogy into practice (Campos 1998). Despite the amount of dictation taking place in schools, with few exceptions teachers I interviewed expressed overwhelming support and admiration for the 1996 curricular reform, sometimes referring to it as the consensus curricular reform, and for the changes it called for in teaching practice. One group of teachers did complain that high schools (colegios) continued to evaluate students for admission based on knowledge rather than skills, which made it difficult for students in schools which had adopted the curriculum reform. But even these teachers were not questioning the virtue of the shift to skills.1 Teachers also described their teaching as having changed over the last decade as a result of curricular reform. Before the teacher was the last word, now we are guides for students, was a common sentiment expressed by teachers when asked how their practice had changed. There is more of a horizontal relationship with students, and this is a cultural change dealing with technology and other things, said a teacher in a school in Quito. I asked, How has teaching changed? She replied, We teach a more limited subject matter, more focus on skills (distrezas) which are valued more. What type of skills? Knowing, thinking, writing, and critical thinking; whereas before the focus was on memorization. These comments by teachers suggest that the challenge of shifting to instructional practice that engages students as active learners is less a question of will than capacity. I tried to visit classrooms of teachers who I had interviewed and was often struck by the contradiction between their discourse and their practice. Desks may have been organized into groups but students continued to engage in activities that left them as passive learners, consuming material provided by the teacher. The 1996 curricular reform provides a valuable new model for classroom practice. Interviews with teachers and classroom observation suggest that the critical challenge is to help teachers translate new concepts of teaching into their everyday classroom practice. Susana Araujo, who led the design of the original school network projects and managed EB/PRODEC from 1992 to 1996 agreed that the curricular reform was one of the major accomplishments of the project, but that it was not applied sufficiently and that there was little follow through to help teachers apply it in their classroom. Nonetheless she believed that one of the important contributions of the curricular reform was that it led teachers to realize that they were not equipped to teach in new ways. Since teachers also understood
1

Eight years after the Basic Education Curricular Reform no corresponding curriculum developed for secondary education in Ecuador.

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that the Ministry of Education was not preparing them, many have sought higher education, and this, she said,explains the increase in the number of teachers with university degrees.
Table 4: Porcentaje de Profesores con el Mnimo Ttulo Exigido
Tipoe de Red PROMOCEB PROMOCEB/Redes Amiga EB/PRODEC Redes Amigas TODOS LOS REDES NIVEL DE PAIS
Fuente: Ministerio de Educacin y Cultura.

1993-94 61,88 58,56 58,99 58,59 59,85 n/a

2001-02 82,34 76,08 71,00 68,48 74,31 n/a

Cambio 20,46 17,53 12,01 9,89 14,45 n/a

The potential of the 1996 curricular reform was also evident in an interview with Ernesto Castillo, President of the Union Nacional de Educadores (U.N.E.). As with the teachers I interviewed, he expressed unequivocal support for the importance of the 1996 reform. The problem was that it was left truncada with large numbers of schools not providing primer ao basica and language not be taught in early grades. He also agreed that la instruccin es muy repetitivo, muy memoristanos consideramos alejado de la realidad de los estudiantes; dicta a los nios y los nios no se investiga; no hay pensamientos crticos. Given the amount of conflict that has characterized the education system in recent years, the degree of consensus around what is arguably the most important question what young people should learn in school would seem to represent an valuable piece of common ground for future reform efforts. Instructional vision in school network projects Teachers and school directors expressed a variety of opinions about the influence of the three school network projects on teaching and learning. The most common pattern described high expectations at the beginning of the project, especially when there was money, then a lack of follow through which resulted in people being more disillusioned in the end. Comments by teachers and school directors as well as the official evaluations of the three projects suggest that pedagogical change was one of a number of priorities and in practice not always the central focus of these initiatives. The most positive comments referred to the curricular reform and teacher circles associated with EB/PRODEC in urban schools. The teacher quoted earlier saying that her teaching practice became more horizontal looked back positively on her initial involvement in the school network. She said that the focus of the CEM project was positive in the beginning, that it helped develop a good infrastructure, that the physical space improved, although no equipment was provided, and that it involved a new form education (didactica y pedagoga). She pointed to teacher professional development (capacitacin), teacher study circles (crculos de estudios) and the new curricular reform as valuable. According to her:

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At the beginning it was more or less good, but they started it and then never evaluated the program; they never looked at whether the impact was positive. There was energy at the beginning but it died out, trailed off. This school was the Centro Matrice, the central school that generally received the lions share of attention and resources under EB/PRODEC. A second teacher added: Some people did not want to support the network because it involved more work, without any more pay. Not just more work, but also more pressure on teachers. We were subjected to a new model, experimented on and this was imposed on us. They filled us with new work. She said that being a Centro Matrice meant that teachers had much more work, since they were a pilot school. She was not sure if the other schools had as much pressure, because the main school had all of the authorities, which resulted in more pressure. But, she said, when the money ran out the capacitacin (and the teacher circles) really stopped. It was common for teachers in interviews to connect their mixed feelings about the impact of the projects on pedagogy to the fact that they were not consulted in the design in the first place. An interesting example came from another urban school that had participated in EB/PRODEC. A teacher who had been at the school for fifteen years said: The aulas were not placed in the right direction, so that sun would enter. As a result there is very little light and the rooms are cold. Should have been occidental/oriental. But there were no consultations with teachers. There was no pedagogical input (consejo pedaggica). He went on to say: In terms of education there have been many irregularities in this CEM. There has not been a policy of reaching goals (No habia politica de llegar a una meta). We are spontaneous, empirical, without planning (Estamos espontneos, empir, sin una planificacin.) And even though there is a plan we dont complete the plan (Bueno hay un plan pero no cumplen el plan). In the beginning there was great optimism. We formed groups of teachers to work together. But then there was a time of chaos. The prior director is currently in an administrative process (proceso de jucio). The director [of the school and the network] is improving things now (mejorando las ambientes). But what we are doing has nothing to do with the school network. Teachers in schools that were part of school networks under all three projects often argued that those who directed the projects were much more interested in physical construction than technical-pedagogical matters. One director of a school participating in Redes Amigas said she appreciated the resources provided, but that officials from BID and the UCP (Unidad Coordinador de Proyectos-which manages the project) only visited to see physical construction (obras), never to visit classrooms and that they have no interest in the 22

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pedagogical. A staff person at a non-governmental organization that works with schools that are part of school network projects commented that we have taken our greatest educators and made them builders of classrooms. While dynamics in each school and network vary greatly, there is clearly a common theme of teachers and pedagogy not being at the center of the projects. Improving teaching and learning might be a goal, but in practice it was one of a number of tasks to be accomplished. Indeed, when asked about any of the three programs, most people talked first about physical infrastructure. Official Project Documents Loan Proposals The original proposals and loan documents for each of the three projects define the primary purpose the loan to be improving the quality of basic education. Yet none describe what quality education is or what they want to see occur inside classrooms as a result of the loan. The documents also make no effort to analytically connect the changes they propose in administration, training events and investments in physical infrastructure and materials to teaching and learning within classrooms. The closest that any of the project proposals come to describing classroom practice are several statements in the 1991 EB/PRODEC Staff Appraisal Report (effectively a project proposal). Under the title of Low Quality of Basic Education the report notes: In the area of educational inputs, one of the most serious problems is acute scarcity of textbooks in the public schools. Reflecting this, teaching follows highly inefficient patterns: teachers dictate material or copy it one the blackboard, children copy the text into notebooks and use these in place of textbooks. Teachers make very poor use of classroom time and receive no inservice training in how to use time effectively to improve learning. (World Bank, 1991, 7) [emphasis added] While these comments raise a critical pedagogical issue they represent the only analysis of what happens inside classrooms in the 42 page report. Nor does the report describe in any significant detail how the quality improvement program would influence teaching practice. The closest connection it draws between investments to instruction is the following teacher professional development proposal: In-service teacher training would be provided to teachers in all schools in each urban network, on the basis of curricula already developed under the IDB project, emphasizing improved use of time in classrooms, better utilization of textbooks and teaching materials and other quality-enhancing methods and information. (World Bank, 1991, 18)

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Unfortunately the proposal for the rural PROMECEB project provides no additional information about the content of the IDB-developed curriculum or what other qualityenhancing methods and information entail. Nor does the original proposal for the Redes Amigas project contain a description of the kind of instructional change it seeks to accomplish in order to improve school quality. The Redes Amigas design emphasizes the role of local communities (school directors, teachers, parents and community members) in tanto el diagnstico de las necesidades educativas locales como el diseo de los proyectos mismos. (BID, 1999, 3) The project description mentions mejoramiento pedaggico but do not define what it means. The lack of clear statements about pedagogy is particularly surprising given the apparent consensus within Ecuador in the 1990s about how teaching and learning needed to change. The 1996 curriculum reform and the content of the APRENDO exam both demonstrate a clear vision of what students should be learning in order to improve education quality. Yet neither this perspective which focused on shifting from memorization to the acquisition of problem solving skills nor any other substantive view about pedagogy was part of the official proposals of any of the projects. While this does not necessarily mean that those who designed the projects did not have a pedagogical vision or strategy, it does suggest that particular instructional change was not central to the loan projects agreed to by the Ministry and the banks. The silence on pedagogy appears to be related to how the project proposals described the problems facing the education system. The analysis of need in the loan documents speak of increases in school enrollment that are not accompanied by improvements in education quality, of management systems that are overly bureaucratic and do not provide adequate supervision of teachers and of teachers who are poorly trained. They also refer to quality in terms of the internal efficiency of the school system, for example, the number of years on average a student needs to be in basic education to complete all seven grades. But no where do they directly address what occurs within classrooms. The failure to bring the discussion of quality into the classroom is a recurrent failure in education reform in Ecuador and elsewhere. In this case it seems to have left reform strategies at a level of abstraction that severely limited their ability to influence student learning. It is not surprising then that to a greater or lesser extent the official evaluations of each of the three projects reach similar conclusions about the place of instructional change within the initiatives. EB/PRODEC Implementation Completion Report The Implementation Completion Report (ICR) evaluation of EB//PRODEC by the World Bank rates the Banks own performance in designing the project and the Ministry of Educations performance in implementing the project, both as unsatisfactory. The final report explains how the project, which began in 1992, was restructured in 1997 to focus more attention on education quality improvements vs. construction. The authors of the assessment argue that the school networks ultimately resulted in important innovations such 24

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as teacher study circles and training for teachers in the new curriculum reform. However they conclude that the project was too complex and that its many activities were not sufficiently linked to achieving the desired result of improving education quality. They also criticize both the World Bank and the Ministry of Education for failing to design and implement a system for measuring the impact of the project on student learning. As was the case with all three projects, the evaluation report for EB/PRODEC described an imbalance between physical construction and quality-improvement activities: [R]apid disbursement under Part A of the Project led to very favorable ratings, but missions overlooked the growing disparity in the pace of implementation of infrastructure and the quality-related activities. Thus, it was not until 1996 with the change of project management and new task management in the Bank, that firm action was initiated on the part of the Bank to refocus the Borrower's attention on the ultimate objectives of the project, culminating in the Project restructuring in 1997. (ICR, 2000, 19) The mid-term review resulted in a stepping up the non-infrastructure quality-improvement activities in 1997. (6) The ICR evaluation concluded that while EB/PRODEC accomplished a list of important things and had an impact on the quality of education, it was designed with too many objectives. First, the Project design was overly complex and ambitious for the constraints recognized in the country at that time. The project objectives related to areas as diverse as special education; pre-school; primary education; adult education, vocational training and small enterprise support; teacher training; educational assessment; didactic materials; and living standards measurement surveysSuch complexity should have been avoided especially in view of the weak implementation capacity that were recognized at the time. (18) To avoid similar problems in the future the report recommended that there be a closer connection between the activities pursued and the ultimate purpose of the loan (improving the quality of basic education). In addition, appropriate measurable indicators that clarify the linkages between the objectives and the interventions to be undertaken between project outputs and the achievement of desired results-are important both to implementation itself and to maintain focus on the desired results. Linked to this point is the importance of designing and providing financing and terms of reference for periodic monitoring of outputs and evaluation of outcomes or impacts; legal requirements for evaluations are, by themselves, of limited usefulness without providing the means and guidance to carry them out, especially in a complex project. (21)

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Both the World Bank evaluation and the comments to it by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education also recognize that the project was designed and implemented in a way that made it impossible to know for certain what impact it had on the schools and students targeted for assistance. Beginning with the Mid-Term Review, Bank supervision missions repeatedly urged that the Government undertake a full evaluation of the model, as well as of the various innovations and inputs provided under the project. Regrettably, this was not carried out. (11) APRENDO has administered evaluation tests and questionnaires to both project target areas and non-project areas (i.e. those with Redes and those with conventional school structures). However, despite repeated urging by Bank supervision missions, there does not appear to be any baseline established by which to compare these groups. (13) The comments at the end of the World Bank report by the Ecuadorian government are quite limited. However the concur on the inability to determine the impact of the project on the quality and efficiency of basic education. Resulta difcil determinar con exactitud cual ha sido el impacto del Proyecto en cuanto a la reduccin de las tasas de repitencia y desercin, que fueron los objetivos principales en la parte "A" del Proyecto, ya que no se ha realizado una evaluacin tcnica, que nos proporcione datos exactos. (24) The question about the balance between obras and pedagogy in EB/PRODEC is a matter of significant debate. Whereas, the World Bank evaluation argues that until 1997 construction outstripped teacher training and instructional improvements, Susana Araujo, the manager of the project from 1992-96 argues that the reverse was true; that, there was a great deal of training for teachers and school directors up until the time that she resigned in 1996, and that after that the project dedicated itself to building classrooms. She blamed this in part on the World Bank focus on spending down dollars (a veces en estos proyectos se predomina el mentalidad bancaria y no les importa la calidad). Whichever of the two perspectives was more accurate, it is clear from the evaluations of all three projects that there was a built-in tension between construction and instructional change. PROMECEB Final Report The final report on the IDB financed PROMECEB project also questions the impact that the project had on education quality, criticizing its orientation to physical construction and arguing that it lacked a pedagogical proposal. El programa se ha caracterizado por su discontinuidad y cambios de rumbo, lo que afecta su eficiencia y eficacia. Nace con una clara orientacin educativa pero rpidamente sus inversiones se concentran en infraestructura y obras civiles descuidando los componentes de formacin de profesores y distribucin de 26

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recursos de aprendizaje y equipamiento para el mejoramiento de las prcticas pedaggicas. (PROMECEB 1998, 175) Although the original project documents identified the need to improve curriculum, teacher training and the efficiency of the education system, and the project was named Programa de Mejoramiento de la Calidad de la Educacin del Sector Rural the final evaluation concluded that el Programa anduvo sin conduccin estratgica, ni propuesta pedaggica. (PROMECEB 1998, 179). The evaluation recommended the need for an intensive focus on classroom practice: Se require un intensive y persistente proceso de sostenimiento del cambio pedaggico, en funcin de procesos y resultados que enfaticen la importancia de variables que inclinan en actividades y prcaticas de la sala de clases. (PROMECEB 1998, 180) The report also reiterates that it is difficult to assess the impact of the project based on its stated goal of improving education quality, and provides no direct or indirect evidence of the influence of the activities financed by IDB on student learning. Redes Amigas Interim Evaluation BID financed Redes Amigas as a follow up to PROMECEB and made a number of changes in this second phase. Perhaps the most significant modification was to deliver a significant amount of money directly to the school networks. This may explain why the issue of didactic materials is not a problem identified in the evaluation of Redes Amigas. Nonetheless, Redes Amigas appears to have had a similar failure to put its central focus on pedagogy and student learning. The interim evaluation of the Redes Amigas presented orally at a conference in Quito in March 2004 reported, based primarily on interviews with school staff, that there has been a privileging of the acquisition of things and se tiende a ejecutar ms rpidamente los componentes de dotacin de infraestructura y equipamiento didctica y mas lento la capacitacin y desarrollo comunitaria. The report went on to recommend la formacin y ejecucin de un modelo pedaggico y una institucionalizacin de una instruccin apropiada para la educacin rural.2 [It should be noted that while this was officially an interim report, it came in the final year of the Project.]

The interim evaluation compared student performance at a sample of Redes Amigas schools with a sample of non-participating schools, but it provided no baseline data, making any firm conclusions about impact suspect. The snap-shot data, which was presented orally, suggested that students in Redes Amigas schools slightly outperformed their peers in non-participating schools in some areas, that schools that had participated in both PROMECEB and Redes Amigas showed the best results and that the length of time that a school had participated in Redes Amigas actually had a negative correlation with test results.

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Sources of Innovation Almost all of the innovative teaching and learning I observed had roots outside the projects by the World Bank and IDB. Indeed one of the most striking things about these schools was the creativity of teachers, parents, school directors and community leaders in seeking out support for improving their schools outside official channels. One notable example of what sometimes is referred to as auto-gestion was a school in rural area north of Quito. The school was part of a network which was originally financed by IDB as part of the PROMECEB project, but which did not continue on to participate in Redes Amigas. Although the network no longer received IDB funding it continued to be staffed with a network director and a sub-director, paid for by the Ministry of Education. The school I visited was located right outside a small village on a wide open piece of land next to a church, and also next to the main road that went from the Pan American highway up into the town where the school network was based. I arrived on my own to the school and the director of the school was away, so a parent and group of teachers greeted me and then we all sat down to talk in one of the classrooms. The teachers, all of whom were young, explained that on paper the school was uni-docente, meaning it had just one teacher assigned to it and paid for by the Ministry of Education. Despite this, parents and community leaders had managed to create a complete school with eight teachers and seven classrooms. They had done this through financial contributions from parents, obtaining projects through non-governmental organizations and bringing student teachers to the school. This required raising money both for teacher salaries and for the cost of building classrooms to expand the school. The teachers said that one of the reasons they needed to build more classrooms was that students from outside the community wanted to come to the school.

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The school also had a computer room with five new computers obtained from the provincial government. Students were working in pairs of three or four at each computer on language games. One classroom I visited was small, with a teacher and fifteen students at wooden desks. Students were working on a graphing mathematics problem that the teacher had placed on the board. Some students worked alone and others in groups of two or three and then took their answers to the teacher to be reviewed. The teacher moved between the students checking on their work. Toward the end of the lesson the teacher went to the board and walked the students through the problem and a second similar problem. This was one of the few classrooms I visited where student work, relief maps of Ecuador, was on the wall. It was also evident from the interactions between the teacher and the student that both were engaged in serious intellectual work. The teacher was literally amidst the students, working with them and had his desk in the middle of the classroom, although he also went to the front of the classroom to summarize and extend the lesson.

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The teacher is having one student explain her solution to the graphing problem, as two other students look on. The third classroom I visited had second grade students writing sentences that expressed past, present and future. On the board were boxes for ayer, hoy and maana next to which the teacher was putting sentences written by the students (see photo below).

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The teachers explained that what was happening at the school depended on the will of parents and teachers, that older teachers might do their own thing, but that they brought new perspectives to teaching. They said their goal was to prepare the children to be successful at schools in bigger cities and that the believed that the standards of the education they were receiving was as good as in these cities. When I asked them about the school network, the newer teachers said they knew nothing about it. One teacher said that it involved sports teams from different schools in the area. Several teachers knew that their school director went to meetings at the network, but they did not know what other schools were involved and were clear that it had nothing to do with their school. The teachers agreed that the idea of a network was good, but that it had to function with communication and information. This school may not have been typical but it highlighted the contradictions in efforts to improve basic education. The school network, originally financed by IDB, continued to function in name and staffing, but despite its close proximity, it had almost no connection to the school. Neither the school network staff nor the Ministry of Education, which provided just one teacher for a school of more than 100 students, and little or no supervision, functioned as a source support around pedagogy or resources. Instead it was teachers and parents who were making the school. Most interesting was the ability of a group of young teachers to innovate in their classroom practice, focusing on personalizing instruction for students and engaging them in concrete lessons with the goal of preparing them for success in high schools outside the community. Moreover the teacher and parent I talked to at this school were describing what might be described as a virtuous cycle of innovation. Building new classrooms and providing what was perceived by the community as good education, was attracting students to the school from outside the community. Rather than rejecting this change, the teachers and parents seemed to be using the energy to move the school forward. In her book the Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs describes how economies and societies innovate. She writes: la gente que dirige las actividades del Gobierno en todo el mundo, tiende a buscar soluciones rpidas a los problemas; es decir, soluciones capaces de ser aplicadas en su totalidad en el instante en que se adoptan. Los individuos que trabajan en el Gobiernono parecen dedicar sus mentes a resolver un problema particular, a menudo aparentemente pequeo, en lugar determinado. Y sin embargo, es as como pueden empezar las innovaciones de todo tipo. (Jacobs, 1971, 230) Similarly, when I asked a teacher what he would do if he were the minister of education, he said, you mean what innovations would I bring about, well first I would go out to schools and visit classrooms and see what the reality is, what the problems are; I would do a study and then based on what I learned, I would get to work solving problems. 31

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One of the best examples of autonomous innovation in education is the movement for Bilingual education in Ecuador. Bilingual Quechua-Spanish education has its roots in the work of indigenous community organizations, church groups and non-governmental agencies dating back to the 1960s and 1970s. It was not until 1988 when the Direccin Nacional de Educacin Indgena Intercultural Bilinge-DINEIB was created within the Ministry of Education, that many of the Centros Educativos created by the community were transferred to the public system, as state-financed bilingual schools. The central role of pedagogy in the history of bilingual education is evident from secondary material on the system and from conversations with teachers and school directors, even as they acknowledge the challenges involved in implementing a new model of instruction. According to people I talked to in the Ministry of Education, the Direccin Nacional de Educacin Indgena Intercultural Bilinge has embraced the school network concept and encouraged all bilingual schools to participate in Redes Amigas. In the province of Cotopaxi, where bilingual education in Ecuador has its roots, there are seven school networks participating in school networks. These networks encompass 92 schools and almost 6,500 students. The bilingual schools are not the only public schools in the area; in a number of cases there are Hispanic schools across the street or down the road from bilingual ones. However, the only schools in Redes Amigas in Cotopaxi are those that are part of the bilingual system.3 The network I visited in was made up of eight schools strung out over a wide mountainous area. One uni-docente (one teacher) school, for example, required an hour walk on steep trails to reach from the nearest school.

Students at an uni-docente school in the Cotopaxi Province play chess on sets donated to the school by a Non-governmental organization.
In contrast PROMOCEB established networks with a mixed of bilingual and Hispanic schools, a dynamic that provoked controversy and confusion.
3

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Most of the teachers and school directors I interviewed in this bilingual school network said that the Redes Amigas project provided valuable resources, especially didactic material, and that it supported their efforts to promote community participation in the schools. They described Redes Amigas as one of the only sources of funds for infrastructure and materials and praised it as a good strategy for getting resources to where they need to be. However, as one person involved in the network said there is not pedagogical support from UCP (Unidad Coordinador de Proyectos), most contact deals with resources. Teachers and school directors made it clear that they looked elsewhere for vision and support in improving pedagogy. As I drove with the director of the network to visit schools on the first day he explained that the curriculum and the teaching approach, not just the language, is meant to be distinct in bilingual multi-cultural education. The instructional method in the ideal is based on Pablo Freire and an Andina approach, which in part means using the concrete tools from the environment and the community to structure lessons. He said that: Especially in math this [Andina] approach is to solve problems not deal with cold numbers, such as summing, which is the traditional. Students should be active learners, not simply copying dictation. However, in practice, this is an area where they have to focus attention, especially now that they are completing their strategic plan under Redes Amigas. The reality is that teachers have had very different experiences. Those who come out of bilingual colegios understand at least somewhat the method; those who went to traditional Hispanic colegios tend to use a traditional teaching method, because this is what they know. He added that of course they also use capacitacin and talleres to help teachers learn new methods, but that it is often each persons own educational experience that shapes how they first approach teaching. At one of the schools we visited I had a chance to observe a teacher who had come to the school as a result of pressure by parents to have an inexperienced teacher replaced. The children in his class were sitting in a semi circle at the front of the classroom in front of the whiteboard. There were 10 children in 3rd and 4th grade. The teacher, a youngman, with a green hat, was in front of the circle. Each student had a notebook and most had a few pages of newspaper on their desks. The teacher started off the lesson by saying OK this is what we are going to do, first we are going to do the four operations in math and then we are going to do lectura. He led the students through sums of four digit numbers at the board, asking them questions, repeating, explaining operations. He had the students come up with the numbers that were being used in the equations. He also led a call and response on the math problems, so that all the students responded together. Tengo 10 naranjas, voy a chupar 9, cuanto sobre, tengo 10 33

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naranjas, y a un vecino voy a dar 6, cuanto sobren. The children were engaged. Then he said ok you be the teachers and I will be the student. Were going to all work equally. He had the first student in the circle go to the board; the student wrote out a problem and then began to solve it with help from the teacher and the other students. Three students went to the board, and each time the teacher went and sat in their seat.

A student stands in front of the class and reads from a newspaper in this classroom equipped with supplies through the IDB-funded Redes Amigas project. Several important things were taking place in this classroom. First the teacher explained to the students what they were going to learn, a small but important step in helping them understand why they were doing what they were doing. Second, he had the students create the equations that they were resolving. As with his taking the seats of students who went to the board, he forced students to actively participate in creating the lesson. This seemed to contribute to their engagement in the class. And third, he used concepts close to the students experiences, naranjas and vecinos, to bring basic math problems alive, putting into

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practice the conceptual framework that the director of the school had explained to me as we drove to the school. Moreover this teacher was working at the school because parents had pressured for a more experienced teacher to be brought to their community. In meeting with a group of parents and with a community leader, a man in his late 20s who described himself as a community promoter, it was clear that there was a lot of organization in the local area and that education was a main focus. In our discussion I would ask a question and then the parents would step aside and discuss it together in Quechua for several minutes and then report back, with one of the parents or the community leader acting as translator. When I asked how education had changed in the community, they described how they had started a colegio semi-presencial (meaning it meets only on Sundays) in the community twelve years ago. [Today there are 110 students and it takes 6 years to graduate; they have about 1215 graduates each year; and the colegio is totally auto-finanaciado por la comunidad y estudiantes.] In the beginning people rejected the colegio; but now that they have had 12 years of experience with it peoples ideas have changed. The community leader said that antes decimos que la tierra era la herencia, pero ahora decimos que la educacin es la herencia. He later told me that he was currently a student in the colegio. The parents explained that to study young people generally have to migrate. Mostly it is the boys who leave. Their dream is to have a colegio presencial in the community. They said that they wanted their children to go to colegio and university. There was agreement that in the community ideas about education had changed a lot, that people wanted a better education for their children, but also that the school and the part-time colegio were not preparing students for what they needed. This was a contradiction, a problem and the parents said that is what they are working to improve. I asked if it was just them who had these ideas and they said they were widespread in the community. They told me the story of asking for a more skilled teacher, that sometimes teachers come to the community and do not want to work; they leave right away or before the time that school ends. So the whole community asked for a new teacher to be sent to help prepare the children better.

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Parents and community leader discuss a question I asked about what needed to be done to improve education in their community. During the two days I spent in this school network I observed a mix of student-centered instruction and more traditional dictation and memorization. I shared what I had seen with a supervisor in the Direccion Bilinge who spends a lot of time in the schools in this community. He said that his personal analysis was that there was a sistema nica that was deeply rooted, that to create change they had to create a bilingual intercultural system that was separate, but that the way of thinking and pedagogy repeats itself because teachers repeat what they have experienced. So even though the approach of bilingual education is different, in practice teachers, even in their system, go back to the traditional. It is very hard to change education because it is hard to break the traditional views in the mind of teachers. Despite the difficulty in making a different model of instruction more universal it was promising to see that teachers, school directors and others were directly focused on solving problems related to pedagogy. Like the young teachers in the uni-docente school in the network north of Quito, I heard clarity of purpose that is essential for instructional improvement. While IDB funds were still providing concrete support for the work of the schools in Cotopaxi, in both cases the school network project was distant from the core pedagogical challenge of preparing young people for higher learning.

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The director of the school works with one table of second grade students in a multi-grade classroom. He is using cards to help the students identify and sum numbers. From one perspective the story of the bilingual network describes the kind of process that Redes Amigas has sought to promote. Rather than dictating a pedagogical approach, the IDB project was providing resources for the community to develop its own educational vision and strategy. Yet no one in the network who I talked to was asking to be left alone. Indeed there was agreement that not only was pedagogy was the central problem but that improving the quality of teaching was exactly the area in which schools needed external help. Yet despite its stated goals of improving quality, Redes Amigas was not viewed as a pedagogical resource. One of the lessons of school reform is that teachers need to work together as a professional community to develop curriculum and instructional practices and build effective schools. Good teaching cannot be mandated or handed down pre-packaged. The school network concept is especially valuable in rural areas because it provides an opportunity for teachers in one and two-room schools to be part of a broader professional community. What is needed from the projects that finance these networks is less that they dictate a curriculum or approach to teaching than that they be a source of vision and support for transforming teaching practice. As the next part of this paper argues the key challenge is changing our conception of schools (and school networks) as places where adults as well as children are being challenged to learn complex skills. Ultimately this requires mix of local autonomy and high quality external support.

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TEACHER LEARNING

Of all of the factors that influence student learning the most important one over which public policy has some control, is the quality of teaching students receive. Research comparing investments in reducing class size and other strategies for improving education, suggests the money spent improving the knowledge and skills of teachers may produce the greatest return (Greenwald, Hedges & Laine 1996). Of course not all efforts to improve teaching are successful. There is an increasing understanding that professional development needs to be rich in subject-matter content (teachers need to know well what they are teaching to teach it well), continuous and classroom-based (Nez Prieto, 1998; Campos, 1998; Elmore & Burney, 1998). One-time training events in teaching strategies not connected to classroom-based learning are likely to have little value. Instead education policy needs to support teachers in creating strong professional communities in which their own continuous learning is a norm. If teachers are not engaged themselves in challenging intellectual work around their teaching, it is highly unlikely that they will ask for similar work from students (Elmore, 2002; Fullan, 2000). This section looks at the impact of school network projects on teacher learning, how the projects envisioned promoting teacher development and what teachers and school directors say needs to be done to improve the teacher training system. It discusses what seems to be a consensus in favor of school networks as a way to create professional learning among teachers as well as widespread agreement about the need for new ways of thinking about professional development. Professional development events Teachers generally described professional development as either events that happen occasionally or as the courses they take to move up the salary scale. They also said that almost no one visits their classrooms or works directly with them on improving their teaching. Although collaboration between teachers at a classroom level is valued it appears to be largely ad hoc. Nonetheless, as with the 1996 curricular reform, teachers comments as well as their practice suggest an interest in a different model of professional development. At a school in Quito I was able to participate in two days of professional development that reflected many of the contradictions described by teachers. The meetings, which focused on evaluation, took place in the central school of an urban school network; however, only teachers from this school participated in the training. Teachers were clear that the school had little connection to other schools in the network. And the director of the network (who was also the director of the school) told me that her work was focused on the central school, although she had plans to begin working with the other schools. During the two days, teachers managed their own work together, with minimal involvement from the school director and no outside presenters or facilitators. On the first day, school 38

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ended at 11:00am and teachers gathered in groups of four or five by grade. Each group prepared to present part of a text on new concepts of evaluation. The group I was part of was responsible for defining evaluation and distinguishing between medicin and assessment. At one point one of the teachers drew a picture of a child with an arrow pointing to the head as assessment and the heart as medicin. She also drew a tree with branches illustrating the different elements of evaluation. She said to me that pictures were a better way to learn, more active and creative, but not common. The rest of the teachers worked on a piece of newsprint that listed the elements of evaluation and a definition: Evaluacin es un proceso integral y cientfico para obtener conocimientos, habilidades, destrezas, hbitos de estudiono es una etapa fija ni final. The dynamic between the teachers, who ranged in experience from a woman who had taught for three years to a older man who had retired after teaching for forty years and was now back in the classroom, was warm and friendly. It looked as if they had a lot of experience working together, liked being together. One of the teachers said to me that study groups were common and that they often collaborated. Substantively, the discussion about evaluation in the small group and particularly the struggle over the difference between assessment and medicin took place without any common standards on what students were expected to learn in each grade. Nor was there any data on student learning either in the small group or in the large group presentation on the following day. This gave the discussion an abstract quality. The teachers seemed to agree that evaluation involved an ongoing process, yet they were not clear on what they were evaluating or whether it was common across their classes in the same grade. The following day, in a room with 25 teachers sitting in chairs lined up along three walls, a teacher from each grade presented on a different part of the text they had read. The presentations covered the difference between formal and informal evaluation, a flow chart of the steps that make up evaluation and how different pedagogical perspectives (cognitivo constructivista, social cognitivo, tradicional, etc) define evaluation. There was virtually no discussion after each presentation, although the teachers clapped for the tree that the young teacher in my group had drawn. Even when a teacher put up newsprint that asked questions it was followed by a second piece of paper that answered the questions. The school director came in and out at different times. At one point a well-dressed woman came entered and the director introduced her as the supervisor for the area. The supervisor said that people should continue what they were doing, that she was solamente aqui como amiga de Antonia [school director]. Then the director stood up for the first time and began talking about the purposes of evaluation and the legal obligations on teachers to follow the curriculum. I noticed that when the supervisor was first introduced the room became quiet and I asked the teacher sitting next to me if she noticed anything change in the room. She said that there was tension, that the supervisor is seen as someone who is there to calificar but with the purpose of putting people down.

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After the presentations were completed a teacher asked the director if she could give them a book or a tool for evaluation. The director said that this year they were learning what evaluation was and then the next school year the Ministry of Education was going to put in a new evaluation system. The supervisor responded that all change cannot happen at once, that the old traditional way was to evaluate students with tests, that now work had to be centered in the child, that it is now quality not quantity and that teacher attitudes needed to change, even if there were no additional books or resources. Another teacher said this is very beautiful what we have done, but very traditional. How many pieces of newsprint have we used? he asked. He criticized his colleagues for failing to use debate and for failing to talk about what they use in their classrooms to evaluate students. Instead, he said, we talked about evaluation as something that comes from another world. The school orthodontist then gave a long discourse on the need for self-evaluation. The session ended without a discussion of next steps. The teacher who sharply criticized the workshop was saying that the method teachers used to educate themselves contradicted their pedagogical vision. He was describing a lack of connection between the conceptual discussion of evaluation and what teachers do on a dayto-day basis in their classrooms. This problem was exacerbated by the lack of a conversation about on what students should know and be able to do and an absence of any data on student achievement, both of which made it difficult to discuss evaluation in a concrete way. The only discussion of teachers coordinating their practice was a comment by a teacher that the faculty had agreed that grades would be rounded up in calculating final marks. The workshop also highlighted dynamics related to instructional leadership and supervision. It was evident that the teachers in this school had experience working collectively. This may have been due in part to the fact that they did not have a school director the prior year. The role of their current director, especially as an instructional leader, appeared to be unclear. Was her primary job to support all of the schools in the network or just the central school? Was she a bridge to the Ministry of Education who sought out information or resources? Was she expected to lead teachers in rethinking how they evaluated their students? The way she participated in the evaluation workshop raised these questions without clearly answering them. While the history and dynamics of this school were unique, it was common in other schools as well to hear confusion among teachers about the role the school director and the school network director. Some networks have both a director, responsible for administration, and a sub-director responsible for pedagogy. In other cases there is just a director. In almost all cases, the director of the network is the director of the central school. The director of a Redes Amigas network explained that a school director would not want to give up his school position to become a network director, because that job only last for three years (renewable) and had no other next career step. Some sub-directors described their role as visiting classrooms to work with teachers; others as limited to providing materials and organizing professional development activities. Nor did I hear a consensus on the role of school directors; some teachers described their directors as involved in supporting teachers, while others saw the classroom as being the responsibility of each teacher. 40

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The professional development workshop at the school in Quito also provided a glimpse into the relationships between teachers and supervisors. It seemed to confirm the comments by teachers that supervisors were absent from classrooms but also feared by teachers. Supervisors are the link between the Ministry of Education and the schools. That this supervisor needed to be introduced to the teachers and that she then needed to explain that she was only there as a friend of the school director reinforced the distance between the ministry and the school. It was clear that this was not a supervisor who had spent much time at this school, let alone its classrooms. While teachers who I interviewed at this school and others did not universally say they wanted people to come into their classrooms to help them with their teaching, this was a common theme. Teachers often said that professional development activities lacked follow through and did not provide them with tools they could use in their classrooms.

A school director in a bilingual school in the Cotopaxi Province works with students in each classroom in the school once a trimester to assess their progress and the effectiveness of his teachers. He describes this as a strategy he developed to help teachers improve their teaching. School networks as learning communities Not only did teachers often talk about wanting a different kind of professional development, but they pointed to school networks as a way for teachers to share knowledge to improve their teaching. Thus while almost all teachers, as well as school directors, I interviewed

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harshly criticized the implementation of the school network projects and the lack of follow through, they did not challenge the concept of school networks. Some teachers I spoke to pointed to the early years of the school networks as having provided opportunities for teachers to share knowledge. As one teacher in a network in Quito said, the most valuable part of the CEM was integration of the schools that are part of the network and the capacitacin de maestros basada en la misma experiencia de los compaeros. Another teacher said that capacitacin helped bring the curricular reform to the school. An example of the potential that people see in networks to function as learning communities is the experience with teacher circles (crculos de estudios) which brought teachers from different schools in the network together to learn from one another. While teacher circles were not part of the original loan proposal for EB/PRODEC, like the curricular reform, they came to be seen by teachers and school directors as well as people involved in the implementation of EB/PRODEC as one of the most important components of the project: The director of an urban school network in Guayaquil told me that one of the values of the school network has been the crculos de estudio, but then when asked, said that it has been at least two years since any have met in her network. Marta Grijalva, a member of the EB/PRODEC technical team and a professor of Mathematics at the Catholic University in Quito, describes the teacher circles as one of the three important contributions (along with the curricular reform and the APRENDO assessment system). Yet she too acknowledges that few function in 2004. Ernesto Castillo, the president of the Union Nacional de Educadores (U.N.E.) taught in a satellite school that was part of an EB/PRODEC school network in Guayaquil. He describes how the union denounced los altos sueldos de los consultores that managed the project, but also says that help did come in la preparacion de maestro, y que los crculos de estudio reunieron, pero solamente cuando haba dinero, y despus, nada. These comments about teachers circles are good examples of a broader consensus I heard that school networks could play an important role helping teachers share knowledge and learn together to improve their practice. The interest in school networks as vehicles to create learning communities parallels an apparent agreement among key actors in the education system on the need to decentralize instructional planning at the school and community level. The U.N.E. offered what seemed to be the clearest model for balancing national and local (community-level) decision-making, a framework where 30% of the curriculum would be defined at the national level, 50% at the local community level and 20% at the level of the institution. While there may be differences on the relative contribution of different levels, the U.N.E. framework paralleled

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comments by individual teachers and school directors about the need for local decisionmaking about curriculum and instruction. There also seemed to be agreement that parents should play a role in decision-making around education, since they and the community know what their children need. This is strongly supported by the Constitucin of Ecuador which provides that: El sistema nacional de educacin incluir programas de enseanza conforme a la diversidad del pas; incorporar en su gestin estrategias de descentralizacin y desconcentracin administrativas, financieras y pedaggicas. Los padres de familia, la comunidad, los maestros y los educandos participarn en los procesos educativos. Art. 68. The vision of local educational development presented in the constitution resonates not only with many teachers and school directors, but also with those involved in advancing bilingual education and with the views of progressive educators in Ecuador (Torres, 2001). Given this, it is remarkable that almost fifteen years after the World Bank and IDB projects were launched school networks are among the most controversial ideas in Ecuadorian education and professional development continues to function primarily as isolated events. How the World Bank and IDB conceived of schools networks and professional development Part of the controversy over school networks derives from conflicting perspectives on their purpose. Whereas teachers generally explained the networks in their ideal as a horizontal means of sharing information and resources across schools, the bank project documents present them primarily as a vertical tool for delivering resources and professional development more efficiently to a set of schools. Schools networks are neither unique to Ecuador nor an invention of the banks. Latin America countries, including Argentina, Peru, Columbia and Chile, have organized schools into decentralized ncleos over the past three decades in order to reverse the highly centralized nature of their education systems and the address the isolation of rural schools (Castro, 2002, 335; Delannoy, 2000; Laverde & Paolucci, 2000; Prada 1998, 39). These strategies are often referred to as nuclearizatin of education. In Ecuador, the effort to connect educational and community development in defined geographic area has its strongest roots in the movement for bilingual education in the Sierra, where the connections between schools and communities are the strongest. Interestingly, the name used to describe school networks in EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB, Centros Educativos Matrices (CEM), is taken from a term used to link rural schools together under Ecuadorian President Eloy Alfaro at the end of the 19th century. While the idea of school networks clearly predate the World Bank and IDB projects, the banks along with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education embraced the idea as the central tool for improving the quality of basic education. However they appear to have brought a somewhat different meaning to the idea of a school network, with a particular emphasis on 43

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their value for delivering things. For example, the World Bank proposal for EB/PRODEC defines school networks as: [A] decentralized network for school management that will deliver these services (textbooks and other education materials, in-service teacher training, pre-school and special education programs for needy children and the enhancement of physical facilities). (World Bank, 1991, v) Similarly, the PROMECEB proposal identifies six objectives for Centros Educativos Matrices, including incrementar la supervisin tcnica de las escuelas and modernizer gestin administrativa de los establecimientos but none related to the horizontal potential of the school networks as a vehicle for sharing knowledge between schools and teachers. Moreover, the decision to establish one central school that would receive extra resources and be a model for the rest of the network undermined the potential for collaboration between schools. As the final evaluation of EB/PRODEC notes, the presence of a favored school often created conflict within networks (World Bank, 2000, 5). A central school contradicted the idea of a group of schools functioning as a learning community. In my interviews with teachers it was common to hear very different perspectives on the network among teachers in different schools, with teachers in the central school often complaining that their director was pulled away from his or her school responsibilities, and teachers in the satellite schools saying that they did not get the same information or resources as the central school. The evaluation of PROMECEB similarly highlights how the project design impeded interaction between schools and teachers. The report describes confusion among participants about whether the purpose of the school network was to centralizer la capacitacin de los maestros or create an instancia de comunicacin y traspaso de informacin. The authors explain that: En realidad la estrategia utilizado hasta ahora por el PROMECEB al generar los CEMs se asocial ms a la idea de escuelas en torno a un plantel central que al de una red integrada y que funciona en forma horizontal. De esta manera, en los profesores de las distintas escuelas no est siempre presente la coordinacin entre ellos, por sobre la relacin con el plantel central, esto a pesar de que las distancias entre las escuelas es muchas veces menor entre ellas que con el plantel central. (Fernndez, 1998, 177) Based on the tensions created by having central schools and satellite schools, Redes Amigas eliminated this distinction between schools. Although one school would be designated an administrative center, in design at least, this school would not receive any special privileges or be seen as a model for the other schools. This was one element of a broader tendency in Redes Amigas to place greater emphasis on local school autonomy. Nonetheless, the Redes Amigas project documents share with those of EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB a conception of professional development as something that is delivered to teachers from outside the school, rather than coming out of shared knowledge and learning. 44

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Indeed all of the projects describe capacitacion in terms of either meses hombre de asesora y capacitacion (BID, 1999, 1), the number teachers to be trained or the number of hours that teachers will participate in training. And they almost always describe external persons and entities, usually consultants, as the primary agents of teacher learning. Teacher circles, the professional development practice that teachers as well as those who managed the EB/PRODEC project point to as having the most value were not part of the original World Bank project proposal. Nor were they adopted in the Redes Amigas proposal. The development of teacher circles outside the official proposals and the failure to adopt this strategy in subsequent projects is an example of the contradiction between local conceptions of school networks as learning communities and the external view, predominant within the banks, of networks as management tools. Loan-funded projects are under intense pressure to spend down funds on specific measurable activities. Without a goal defined by changes in student learning, the number of teachers trained or hours of training provided or classrooms built serves as a poor but apparently necessary indicator of success. With professional development, this pressure to show an increase in inputs appears to have ultimately reinforced a conception of professional development as the delivery of information to teachers. Nor do the projects appear to have resolved the central problem of who is responsible for working with teachers in their classrooms to help them improve their teaching. EB/PRODEC supported the decentralization of the supervision system, an important achievement, but did not fundamentally change the role of the supervisor in Ecuadorian education. This failure is evident in comparing the proposal for PROMECEB with the final report on the project. The project proposal identified supervision, both at the Ministry of Education and school level, as a critical issue: Fundamentalmente, la accin supervisora se restringe a los aspectos administrativos sin alcanzar jams los procesos pedaggicos para los cuales no estn preparados. Algo semejante sucede con los directores de las escuelas primarias, de los cuales un 67% poseen tan solo ttulo de secundaria. (BID 1990, 15) Eight years later the final report on PROMECEB identifies the same problem using similar if sharper language. La supervisin pedaggica, tanto a nivel del Programa como del sistema es una funcin que requiere de una profunda revisin. La forma en que ella se est ejerciendo dista mucho de acercarse a ser el apoyo calificado y puente entre las redes y la Unidad Ejecutora y/o las Direcciones Provinciales. Los supervisores estn muy desprestigiados en lo social (asociados algunos de ellos a corrupcin y abuso de poder), y sin ninguna legitimacin a nivel pedaggico, ya que estn prcticamente ausentes de ese plano. Una excepcin la constituyen los supervisores bilinges de la Sierra ecuatoriana. (Fernndez, 1998, 176)

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The report does not detail what it means by tanto a nivel del Program but it seems to suggest that if anything the project replicated the ambiguity about who works with teachers in their classrooms. From supervision to coaching In one case in my own research I walked into a classroom and found a supervisor modeling instructional practice for a classroom teacher. This was, as the excerpt above from the PROMECEB evaluation notes, in a bilingual school in the Sierra. The supervisor was someone who spent most of her time walking between rural schools in the province. When I first came to the school I saw a male teacher and a female teacher both working in the same classroom. The female teacher was organizing the classroom, which had about 25 students organized in groups of tables of different sizes. Each student had a large piece of construction paper in front of them; the teacher, who I later learned was a supervisor with the Direccin Bilinge, was at a white board drawing a box on the board; as she drew on the board she talked to the students, mostly about moral lessons. When I came in she had her back to the students and was telling them that people are small because they do not eat well when they are young; people say this person is short because her parents were short, but it is not asi.Every person has the right to meat every once in a while; parents should buy their children meat instead of spending money on trago. After markers were handed out; she said there are enough for everyone; then gave a lesson about solidarity; in the community we share, si or no; but the person who borrows something should make sure they take care of it, right? I talked to a student who has drawn a near perfect picture of a cow on his paper even as the teacher is in the middle of drawing the square on the board; no other students have drawn anything from what I could see. I asked him why a cow; he said he has a cow. The assignment was to draw your family. Later, as we are driving to another school, the supervisor asked what you call it when a child does not know the colors of things; she explained that there was a child who was drawing the animals in all the wrong colors. I said creative; and then told the story of the boy who had drawn the cow. It was the same boy. Later he drew his whole family around the cow; but the cow was most loved, she said. The supervisor explained that this is the first assignment of a longer project that focuses on communication. It begins with teachers understanding better what is important to their students and how communication takes place in their homes. She told me that of thirty supervisors in her office there are two who go out and visit schools on a regular basis. They are punished for this, she says, because the attitude is that you should remain at your desk. Her story and work illustrated the complexity of creating new learning environments for teachers. On one hand the work of these two bilingual educators in this community seemed to be closely linked to the innovative practice that could be seen within classrooms. Yet even within the bilingual system, she described this work as an anomaly.

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The next day I interviewed the other person she mentioned who spends a lot of time visiting schools in the area. He said that for him Redes Amigas was important in bringing materials and in providing money directly to the community, which helps support participation, also in infrastructure. But there is a but. This was all done with the same mentality, without changing the pedagogy, so teachers get new materials, but they do not use them or do not use them differently, so it is still the teacher a the board with a marker. He described the network project as being a change in authority in the manejo de recursos, but not in tcnicopedaggica dentro el aula. Nunca autoridades visitan las escuelas. From his perspective there needs to be more help for teachers in learning to use materials in practice; mas obreros acompaando los maestros en la practica; y capacitacin en al aula, no masificado. And the system of supervisors does not work. They just do fiscalizacin and not even that. Lessons Two primary lessons about teacher learning arise from the school network projects. First, school networks need to be seen as tools for sharing knowledge and resources across schools in a community. Particularly in rural areas, with large numbers of uni-docente schools, the networks have the potential for creating learning communities that involve not only teachers but also parents and other community members. Without intensive and collective work by adults to improve their own knowledge and their teaching practice in the classroom, it is unlikely that students will learn what they need to in order to succeed in a rapidly changing country and world. Ecuador is fortunate to have a strong tradition of collaborative effort to draw on to help meet this task. The second important lesson is that the system of supervisors within the Ministry of Education needs to be redesigned around a team of highly skilled Ecuadorian educators whose mission it is to go out into classrooms and work with teachers. This work needs to involve both pedagogy and increasing the subject matter knowledge of teachers, but above all it needs to be rooted in the reality of what is currently taking place within classrooms across the country (Calvo Pontn et al. 2002). The next section looks at the role of the Ministry of Education in reforming basic education, and an obvious starting point is the need for a new mission that revolves around the promotion of teacher learning.

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SYSTEM LEARNING

The main responsibility of those parts of an education system that do not have direct contact with students on a day-to-day basis is to support the professional development of teachers. Effective schools systems come to see improving the skills and knowledge of teachers not as a function assigned to a particular department (for example an office called Capacitacin de Docentes in one of the Ministry of Education buildings in Quito), but as the essential mission of the system (Elmore & Burney, 1997). It is not possible to transform an education system in one stroke. The key is for the Ministry of Education to develop the capacity to learn from its own experience and from best practices in other places so that it can gradually improve how it operates and restructure its mission (Senge, 1990). It is especially important for those in the system to continuously analyze data on the skills and knowledge of both teachers and students and then have the opportunity to act on that analysis to improve how they support teachers and students. The greatest flaw in efforts to reform basic education in Ecuador over the last fifteen years may ultimately be that the externally funded projects were designed in a way that made it extraordinarily difficult for the central Ministry of Education to learn from their experience. This section analyzes the impact that the World Bank and IDB projects have had on the Ministry of Education, and in particular on its understanding of its role and its capacity to support the development of teachers and schools. Each of the three projects explicitly sought to create institutional change within the Ecuador education system that would live beyond the five to seven year loan period. Yet all were designed in a way that made it highly unlikely that they would strengthen the existing education system. The section looks at why and what lessons can be drawn for future efforts to redesign the Ministry of Education. The system seen from the school Five years ago the original school network projects funded by the World Bank and IDB ended. A total of 45 of the 96 school networks involved in PROMECEB went on to participate in Redes Amigas, while the remainder, along with 36 urban networks created by the EB/PRODEC project were left in a kind of institutional limbo. These networks continued in name and still receive staffing for directors and in some cases sub-directors, but they operate without clear supervision or support from the Ministry of Education. Teachers and school directors in networks that no longer received external funding told me a remarkably consistent story about their experience during and after the projects. During the project period they described the core activity of the school network project as having been investment in the infrastructure of the central school. In describing this work, people almost always said that it was of poor quality and over-priced and that there was much corruption involved. A director of a school in Guayaquil took me to an area behind her school to see piles of broken desks that she said were provided with World Bank funds but were of such poor quality they had to be thrown away. Teachers were constantly showing me problems 48

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with EB/PRODEC construction, such as ceilings that were falling in and floors that were coming apart.

Desks heaped in piles behind a school in Guayaquil. Teachers and administrators said that there were purchased with funds from the World Bank EB/PRODEC loan, but were of such poor quality that they had to be thrown away after several years. A related theme was the failure of the projects to follow through on promises. Teachers in urban school networks told me that their schools were promised workshops that would help prepare students for manual trades. The physical classrooms were built for these workshops, people said, but the equipment was never provided. School directors also complained to me that the Ecuadorian government did not meet its financial communities during or after the projects to provide extra resources to schools in the networks. For example, one director said that during the project the Ministry of Education was supposed to designate her school as an experimental school, but this was not done, so the school did not receive any extra resources. When funding ended, according to network directors I spoke with, each network faced the question of whether it would continue to function on its own devices. The director of a network in Quito said that she believed that of the eight original networks in the city, three were still functioning more or less as they were intended and continued to meet together. In her network, which was functioning, she said that there was a lot of unhappiness when the funds ended. Many teachers and schools did not want to continue. When I asked two teachers later why their school continued to be part of the network, they said that they do not know; that it did not make sense to them; but that I should ask the director. It was clear

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from talking to teachers and network directors that while they were allowed to continue to exist there was little support from the Ministry for their work as a network.

A first grade classroom in a school in Guayaquil that participated in the World Bank-financed EB/PRODEC school network project. In 2004, the networks participating in Redes Amigas were apparently being transferred back to the Ministry of Education. It is possible that their experience will be different from the networks that participated in EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB. Staff at the project coordinating unit administering Redes Amigas described intensive efforts to prepare provincial staff to administer the school Redes Amigas school networks. Yet comments by teachers and directors at schools in Redes Amigas suggest that these schools may face a similar set of challenges as earlier projects. Teachers often told me that they were discriminated against because they were in Redes Amigas, that staff in the provincial offices would deny them help on transferring to another school or dealing with paper work problems because they were part of a school network. The ambivalence of the existing bureaucracy to the Redes Amigas project raised questions about whether the provincial officers would embrace the networks once IDB funding ended. I also heard a great deal of confusion at a school level about what would happen once the project ended. The director of one school complained to me about the lack of information and communication. We do not know what happens when the program ends; since no information is provided; I tell my teachers what is happening next week and next month; but I do not get this information from the network, he said. Comments like these seemed to belie the notion that there was a clear plan in place to insure that networks would continue to function. 50

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School networks as seen from Ministry of Education The view of school networks within the Ministry of Education is apparent in opinions and actions that might best be described using the psychological language of passive-aggressive. When I began my research it was not clear to me whether the CEMs, the school networks funded as part of EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB, still existed. Staff within the Ministry of Education had different opinions on this question but no one could point me to the office or department responsible for the management of school networks. Nor could anyone in the Ministry of Education provide a complete list of schools and school networks that were created by the three projects. Ministry staff complained about the high salaries and generous expense accounts given to consultants who administered the school network projects. They said that the banks ignored the talent within the Ministry and that any staff from the ministry who went to work for the projects would never return because public sector salaries were so low compared to what the banks paid. At a conference on Redes Amigas I had an opportunity to have lunch with a group of mid-level Ministry of Education functionaries. The official discussion at the conference focused on the accomplishments of the initiative, but the lunch table conversation reflected extreme cynicism about the value of externally-funded projects. One person described projects like Redes Amigas as used cars, only given over the Ministry once they are worn out and no longer have any value. These and other comments suggest that there is virtually no ownership of the school network projects within the Ministry. It is common wisdom that work is done when funds are flowing, that there is a rush to spend down money at the end of projects and that nothing happens after the money is gone. And there appears to an acceptance that the banks will continue to lend money even though there is no follow through. Institutional Change The cynicism with which different actors within the Ecuadorian education system view the externally financed efforts to improve basic education appears to be closely tied to how the projects were managed. In 1990 the World Bank, IDB and the Ecuador government set out to fundamentally change the public education system in the country. They decided to invest most heavily in creating a set of model of rural and marginal urban school networks as a first step toward making these networks as universal strategy. The World Bank proposal said that total enrollment in the schools to be included in the project would be 345,0004 or an estimated 75% of urban public enrollment in low-income areas and that ultimately the concept will be extended to all parts of the country. (World Bank, 1990, 65)

EB/PRODEC CEMS ended up serving about half this number of students.

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The EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB proposal documents strongly criticize the leadership and management skills of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education and define as a primary goal strengthening the capacity of the Ministry to operate the education system. The World Bank proposal sought to strengthen decision-making and management of public institutions involved in the delivery of basic education. (World Bank, 1991, v) The 1990 IDB proposal identified the critical need for mecanismos e instrumentos capaces de acelerar los procesos administrativos y dinamizar funciones bsicas tales como las de planeamiento, supervisin, comunicacin y toma de decisiones. (IDB, 1990, 15) Based on this analysis, the projects included national components designed to improve teacher training (PROMECEB), to create a national student assessment system (EB/PRODEC) and to improve planning, budgeting and public policy development within the Ministry. Yet despite the goal of fortalecimiento institucional there was a strategic decision made by those who designed EB/PRODEC, PROMECEB and Redes Amigas to create separate management entities for each project outside of the existing Ministry of Education organizational structure. According to Ecuadorians involved in project design, this was a requirement of the banks. These parallel management units were designed to be jointly controlled by the Ministry of Education and the bank that financed the project. Thus, while EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB were launched at roughly the same time, with the same goals and strategies, each project had a separate organization responsible for its implementation. And according to participants, these organizations competed not only with the existing bureaucratic structure of the Ministry, but also with each other. The rationale for creating parallel structures under the joint control of the banks and Ministry is no where directly explained in the loan proposals. The most obvious conclusion is that neither the World Bank nor IDB trusted the Ministry of Education to successfully carry out these complex reform projects, or to necessarily spend funds appropriately. Yet the consequence of the decision not to operate the projects directly out the Ministry of Education appears to have been that the projects weakened, rather than strengthened the institutional capacity of the existing education system. The strategy of financing a parallel structure might have had merit if the goal had been for that structure to ultimately replace the existing system, but these were time-limited projects, designed in a way that their work would be transferred back to the Ministry of Education once project funding ended. The final evaluations of EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB make clear the problems created by the way in which these two projects were managed. In its evaluation of its own project the World Bank gives itself an unsatisfactory rating for project design based on [e]xcessively complex institutional design and inadequate provision for overcoming the weak institutional capacity of implementing agencies. The evaluation goes on to say: Weaknesses were to be overcome by establishment of independent project implementation units (PIUs). In the event, three separate PIUs were set up (one for each of the major components/activities). At various points during implementation, one or more of the PIUs was viewed by the corresponding ministerial authority as providing technical support for policy decisions; at other

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times, the PIUs were viewed as parallel to, and even competitive with the ministry. (World Bank, 1999, 8) [Emphasis added]. Although the authors of the evaluation express hope that the strategies undertaken as part of the EB/PRODEC project would be continued by the Ministry of Education, they also implicitly acknowledge how the use of parallel management units creates a rush at the end of the project to transfer responsibility to the Ministry. The Ministry of Education decided to continue with the Redes CEM model and to expand its application. The unique nature of the Redes required a special liaison capacity within the MEC, which would provide an institutional anchor after project completion. Efforts to create an effective liaison in the MEC began in the last year of implementation, though it was not fully established before project completion. (World Bank, 1999, 11) [Emphasis added] The final evaluation of PROMECEB is typically more direct about the conflicts created by the project. The report says that despite the potential of the strategy, the original design did not consider the conflicts that such a proposal was likely to create. The authors describe one element of this conflict more specifically: Una situacin de conflicto que PROMECEB heredo desde su origen proviene de su constitucin como entidad ejecutora autnoma de MEC, desplazando a los actores tradicionales. La dependencia burocrtica que tradicionalmente (ha tenido) a su cargo al administracin y gestin de la educacin ruralse sinti excluida, marginada y relegada al desempeo de funciones de segundo categora. (IDB, 1998, 87) The tension between the Ministry of Education and the project management units derives from a set of factors, including that project staff paid out of IDB and World Bank loan funds often earn many times more than Ministry employees and have access to expense accounts and much greater administrative resources. The creation of a well-funded parallel structure also creates the appearance, and at times, the reality that education policy and management is being driven by the banks rather than the Ecuadorian government. The final PROMECEB report describes an example of the power struggle between lender and borrower that characterized the project. Los entrevistados coincidieron en que hasta 1995 gran parte de las dificultades del PROMECEB estuvieron asociados con la presencia de uno de los sectorialistas del BID quien manejaba de manera directa e indiscriminada la unidad ejecutivael seor se crea que estaba en un haciendamandaba directamente a la gente de la unidad. (IDB, 1998, 84). Even short of the degree of direct intervention by IDB described in the PROMECEB evaluation, the management of the school network projects outside the existing Ministry of Education structure reinforces the belief that policy initiative rests with the banks not with the government. Because these projects represented the most important reform strategies 53

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over the last fifteen years it is possible to conclude that despite their official goals of building policy capacity, their ultimate result was to undermine the Ministrys role in reforming the education system. While the World Bank did not fund a second school network project, IDB did, and rather than design the follow up project to be operated more closely within the Ministry, Redes Amigas abandoned the institutional reform goals that were central to both of the earlier school network projects. Unlike EB/PRODEC and PROMECEB, Redes Amigas had no national reform component, but instead focused exclusively on the approximately 20% of rural students targeted for assistance under the project. And to a much greater extent than the first two projects, it operates independently of the Ministry of Education. The lesson learned from the problems implementing the earlier school network projects seem to have been that the best hope for success was to take a set of schools and operate them as much as possible outside the existing structure of the education system. Redes Amigas is often criticized by teachers and the teachers union as either privatization or a strategy with a hidden agenda of privatization. Since schools in the networks created by Redes Amigas continue to be public schools, funded with money from the Ministry of Finance, the privatization argument may not be entirely fair (particularly since the entire system is characterized by a degree of privatization in the amount of money that parents are required to pay to cover the salaries of teachers at their schools). But the criticism of Redes Amigas does reflect what seems to be a genuine sense that the project has broken off a set of schools for a special initiative without a clear strategy for moving the entire system forward. Redes Amigas has been referred to as the primary education reform strategy underway in Ecuador (there is a large logo of Redes Amigas right next to the name Ministry of Education and Culture on the ministrys headquarters). Yet the lack of a plan for translating its experience into a broader policy appears to contribute to a sense of drift in education policy and a narrowing of the horizon of what is possible. The absence of a broader strategy is evident in the lack of clarity about what will happen to the school networks that are not part of Redes Amigas. These networks encompass as many as 300,000 students (see chart 1). Yet current efforts to transfer the Redes Amigas networks, do not address the status of existing networks currently administered by the Ministry. As the Redes Amigas project comes to a close there are three distinct groups of school networks and no overall strategy for how they relate to one another or to the rest of the education system. Not only do these networks have little or no contact with each other, but they appear to be competing for attention from the Ministry.

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Chart 1: Distribution of students in basic education by type of school network


Area 1992-1999 PROMECEB 96 networks, 1,940 schools 133,655 students 1999-2004 Rural Redes Escolares 51 networks, 1,000 schools, 70,000 students) Redes Amigas 185 networks, 2,224 schools 136,019 sudents

Rural Schools Approximately 620,00 rural students outside school networks Approximately 550,000 rural students outside school networks

EB/PRODEC 36 networks, 700 Schools Approx. 200,000 students

Urban Redes Escolares 36 networks, 700 Schools Approx. 200,000 students

Urban Schools Approximately 600,000 urban students outside school networks

The tension between different types of school networks was illustrated for me sitting in the office of a rural school network not part of Redes Amigas. I told the director that I could not come back to the school the following week because I was attending a conference on Redes Amigas at the Swiss Hotel in Quito. He asked if he could attend; I said I could call the Unidad Coordinadora de Proyectos (which manages Redes Amigas) inquire. Then, using his phone, I called a staff member who told me no, that they (people in the CEMs) have been our biggest opponents. This interaction drove home how difficult it is for different parts of the education system to learn from the experience of each project when those projects are each independently managed.

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The fractured nature of the education system in 2004 runs much deeper than confusion over the future of school networks. Almost fifteen years after the first projects were launched to strengthen the basic education system, public investment in education as a percentage of the total economy is down sharply, teachers salaries are at poverty levels, there is virtually no annual investment in books, materials and school infrastructure, enrollment in private education has increased significantly and tensions between the Ministry of Education and the UNE are extremely high. In December the UNE and the Ministry reached an agreement that ended a forty-day national teachers strike. While much of the conflict between the Ministry and the UNE has been over salaries and levels of investment in education, the school network projects have been a key point of tension. The third paragraph of the agreement that ended the 2003 strike states that [e]l Ministerio de Educacin realizar una auditoria integral a los Proyectos y Programas Educativos con financiamiento externo, particularmente el denominado Redes Amigas, precautelando la vigencia de los derechos de los docentes. The school network projects are not the sole cause of conflict within the education system, but it would be hard to argue that they have contributed to greater consensus among key actors on how to proceed with improving education. Redes Amigas in particular appears to have had the most polarizing effect. The union has unsuccessfully challenged the project in court and been a vocal critic at both a national and local level. Officials from the UCP and IDB involved in Redes Amigas point to the union as an obstacle to reform and argue that once teachers have an experience with the project they come to support it and reject the unions positions. Nonetheless it is clear that the strategy is to implement reform over or around union opposition, rather than find a way to work based on consensus. While this strategy may work in a defined set of schools it is unlikely to provide an answer for moving the system forward, particularly if the primary focus is upgrading teacher knowledge and skills. The question of the role of the union in education reform is a complex one. The union has instructional reform as a major part of its public strategy. Yet many people involved in the education system say that the union is the primary obstacle to change. Others say it is used as a scapegoat for by political leaders who are unwilling to invest resources and political capital in the public education system. Many of the teachers I asked about the union said that while they might differ with its politics (alignment with a left-wing political party) or its strategy, they viewed it as their best defense to protect their rights. In my interview with the president of the union I was struck by the amount of negotiation and collaboration apparently taking place between the union and the ministry, despite the public perception that the two were at war. The union president had just come from a meeting at the ministry and showed me a packet given to him by the Minister of Education of national initiatives, such as holding a third national forum on education in July, 2004. The union was supporting many of these projects, and the union president told me that he had good relationships with all four of the education ministers who had occupied the position over the past year.

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Yet when I asked about the World Bank mission that was in Ecuador that week, he said that he knew nothing about it. He claimed that they never tell us about external projects, never even tell us they are considering them, just do them in secret and then tell us when they are ready for us to be guinea pigs. His comments and those of teachers who said that they were not consulted in the development of the school network projects, raise the question of whether the ways in which the externally financed projects are designed and implemented may be aggravating tensions between the union and the Ministry of Education. Given the power of the national teachers union it is difficult to imagine obtaining input from teachers without engaging the union and without far greater transparency in the design and management of external projects. System Lessons The decision to design loan projects Figure 1: Vicious Circle without significant teacher involvement and manage them Inversion de through parallel entities has clearly Recursos en reduced their value to the Ecuadorian Escuelas education system. The design contributed to a vicious cycle in which Proyecto the initiatives and strategies employed by the projects were rejected by the education system and abandoned once Proyecto de loan funds ended. This dynamics is Reforma financiado desde afuera similar to processes that Peter Senge identifies in the corporate environment, in which a pilot initiative produces a cycle of rejection in the rest of the organization (Senge 1990). Sistema The cycle is diagramed in figure 1. Rechazo y Those working inside the initiative Oposicin believe that they are creating a model for the rest of the system, and cannot understand why they are not viewed in positive ways. Yet despite what may be good intentions, the special treatment received by the initiative and its isolation generate resentment and anger and impede communication. The dynamic is especially problematic in projects like EB/PRODEC, PROMECEB and Redes Amigas because these tensions make it virtually impossible for those in the system to learn from the experience of the pilot effort. There were clearly serious management failures in all three school network projects. Each one had to be restructured and experienced instability in leadership at different points in time. For example, just in 2003 the unit managing Redes Amigas had five different executive directors. They also operated at a time during which Ecuador experienced high levels of political instability. Nonetheless, many of the problems in the management of the projects were predictable dynamics associated with reforming public institutions (Girishankar, 2001, 4). Conditions such as the instability within public sector agencies, the tendency of 57

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politicians to use education systems as a source of jobs and contracts and the long cycle need to produce change in classroom practice are intrinsic parts of school reform, not as one person I spoke to suggested, tragic culture flaws. The World Bank and IDB proposal documents recognize many of the risks associated with a major effort to improve the quality of basic education. Yet rather than move toward those dangers, as Senge suggests organizations need to do if they want to create a learning culture, the projects were designed to bypass two of the most important problems facing the system, the weakness of the Ministry and lack of consensus on reform between the Ministry and the union. This might not have been a problem had the goal been to replace the existing structure of the Ministry with a new model created and tested in the school network projects. But this was never the goal and inevitably the loan-funded projects come to an end without having had much influence on the regular structure left to manage the schools. Research on organizational dynamics suggests that a better strategy would have been to directly invest in the Ministry of Education and to have treated the union as a necessary partner. While this may have slowed down some aspects of the project, in the longer term it probably would have helped build the capacity of the Ministry. By designing the projects as they did, the World Bank and IDB along with their Ecuadorian partners, shifted policy initiative from the Ministry to the parallel management units. Whether intentionally or not this dynamic reinforces for many observers the perception that the ultimate goal of the loan projects is to weaken or dismantle the public system rather than strengthen it. Reversing the vicious cycle that seems to be undermining the public education system requires rethinking both how external projects are designed and how the Ministry of Education defines its mission. The section that follows makes a series of concrete recommendations based on the experience of the school network projects.

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Conclusions and Recommendations [1] Future initiatives to improve the quality of education should have at their center a strong instructional vision that includes ending dictation as an instructional practice. Efforts to improve instruction need to be based on a careful analysis of what is currently taking place within classrooms and must provide a credible strategy for changing interactions between teachers and students. The focus on pedagogy cannot be one of a set of goals but needs to be the objective around which all other actions revolve. The 1996 consensus curricular reform provides a powerful starting point for changing instructional practices across the country; the key is to exploit the contradiction between widespread support for this curriculum and the reality of rote instruction in classrooms. [2] The current system of supervisors within the Ministry of Education should be redesigned. The role of supervisor as it is currently structured provides virtually no value in improving instruction. Supervisors should be replaced by a corps of talented Ecuadorian educators whose job is to go out into classrooms and work with teachers to increase their knowledge about what they are teaching and their skills in teaching young people in an active and engaging way. These master teachers should both observe and provide feedback and role play effective teaching. They would be a key element to bringing curricular reform to the classroom. [3] The Ministry of Education needs a new mission. Although this will not change overnight, the Ministry needs to come to see that its primary purpose is to increase the skills and knowledge of teachers. Practical steps toward this goal would include a thorough analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of teaching in different types of schools and areas of the country and a revision of the current activities that the Ministry is involved in to promote professional development. Changing the supervision system would be an important component to restructuring the mission of the Ministry. [4] The Ecuadorian state needs to make a far greater financial investment in public education as a necessary precondition for improving school quality. Without doubling or even tripling teacher salaries it is unlikely that the quality of teaching can be increased to the extent necessary to meet the development needs of the country. This does not mean that other reforms should be put on hold until more money is invested or that money would in-and-of-itself translate into greater student learning. However, it is essential to have a frank policy and political discussion about what can be asked of teachers in changing their practice when salaries leave most teachers living in poverty and require many to work two or three jobs to support their families. There also clearly needs to be a financial commitment to purchasing books and didactic materials. [5] School networks should be a policy or eliminated as a strategy. After nearly fifteen years there is no reason why school networks should exist in just of fraction of schools, nor why there should be three different types of networks operating independently of one another. If school networks have value, which most persons I interviewed believed, then

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there should be a policy that all schools are organized into networks and these networks should be supported by the Ministry of Education. [6] Decentralization can only work if it is accompanied by an accountability system. This means that there needs to be basic agreement on what young people are expected to learn to know and do in each grade in every part of the country. There is room for local innovation and definition of curriculum, but without a standard against which to hold local actors accountable it makes no sense to decentralize authority. Accountability clearly needs to apply to students, teachers, administrators, political leaders and to the banks.5 A logical concrete step would be to resuscitate the APRENDO examination and look for ways that it could be applied more universally within schools to give teachers ongoing feedback on their efforts to improve teaching. [7] Reconsider future loan projects. There is a strong argument that the education system in Ecuador does not need additional loan projects from the World Bank and IDB, that at this point in time it would be better to design and finance reform locally. The experience with all three projects over the last fifteen years has left a major credibility gap. It is not clear that new projects, even if designed more effectively, would have the support needed from key actors, especially teachers and Ministry officials. If the political realities do lead toward new externally financed projects then it is essential that two criteria be met: (a) that there be a public process to identify the goals and strategies so that key actors, including the teachers union sign off on any new projects; and (b) that investment be directly in the Ministry, not in separate management units. [8] The question of secondary education needs to be addressed. There should be a clear policy on whether young people are expected to finish secondary education. If school networks continue to be an important organizational strategy, then the connection between colegios and these networks needs to be clearly defined. [9] Escaping from the vicious cycle that characterizes the education system requires the active participation of new social actors in the education system. There are a several actors who could transform the politics of education. They include: Parents, who are organized well at the school level, but have no organizational voice in the national arena. Local governments, which have experienced significant development as the national government has struggles over the past decade, have little or no education agenda (municipalities may not have the capacity to manage schools, but they have political influence and some resources that could be applied to the education system). The indigenous movement, which is sometimes written off as only interested in bilingual education, but has a pedagogical vision that could help transform the entire system. The private sector, which has a great deal at stake in the quality of education, but has not made an assessment that investment in education supports its economic interests.

Given how the World Bank rated its own performance on EB/PRODEC why should Ecuador continue to pay back the full value of the loan?

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[10] Abandon the distinction between pedagogy and public policy. For those who both study and influene education policy it is critical to see pedagogy as the central object of policy. Educational policy need to be rooted in classroom practice if it is to have any real influence on student learning.

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Appendix List of Formal Interviews Marta Grijalva, Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Ecuador Victor Hugo Viueza, Ministerio de Educacin y Cultura Germn Parra Alvarracin, Unidad Coordinadora de Proyectos MEC-BID Juan Pablo Bustamante, UNICEF-Ecuador Baudouin Duquesne, Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo Ernesto Castillo, Union Nacional de Educadores Susana Araujo, Ministerio de Educacin y Cultura Marcia Gilbert de Babra, Consejo Municipal de Guayaquil Roberto Arauco, Direccin Bilinge Seven school network directors* Twenty-three school directors* Teachers at school network schools* Parents at school network schools* School Network Visits* Quito CEM-EB/PRODEC Quito CEM-EB/PRODEC Guayaquil CEM-EB/PRODEC Pichincha-CEM-PROMECEB Pichincha-Redes Amigas Pichincha-Redes Amigas Cotopaxi-Redes Amigas (Bilinge)

* Names and exact locations not listed to protect confidentiality.

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