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La Educación
Número: (123-125) I,III
Año: 1996


I. Introduction

The present consolidated evaluation report on the Multinational Basic Education Project was drafted by Dr. Eduardo Ortiz (Colombia) and Dr. Keva Bethel (Bahamas), who were contracted by the General Secretariat to conduct an external on-site evaluation of the Multinational Projects in the participating countries. This paper is a summary of the reports submitted by the evaluators based on the trips they made to the countries involved. The report was drafted by the outside consultants at a meeting held at OAS headquarters in Washington D.C., in October 1995. In addition to the assistance rendered by the Department of Educational Affairs (DAE), the external evaluators had access to the background data and documentation available from the country reports, pursuant to the evaluation guidelines approved in due course.

The external consultants visited the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Grenada, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

No provision was made to cover all the countries participating in the project owing to budgetary reasons and the time constraints on the consultants.

To date, the following country reports have been received: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

II. Background and Scope

The multinational projects of the OAS were created by the Inter-American Council for Education, Science and Culture (CIECC) based on the “Evaluation of the Resolution of Maracay” (CIECC/RES. 736/87), which divided the regional education programs into three areas: Basic Education, Education for Work, and Secondary and Higher Education.

Resolution CIECC/RES. 770/88 defined 12 priority regional areas in education, science and culture in order to promote integration, multinationality, and horizontal cooperation. The resolution adopted goals, fields of work and emphasized cooperative regional programming beginning in 1990, with a view to attaining comprehensive development.

Resolution CIECC/RES. 771/88 called upon CIECC to focus on its policy- making functions in the area, based on a diagnosis of conditions in the region and on a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of the regional programs. In the new programming system (1990-1995), the following aspects were emphasized: the gathering of financial resources; cooperative action of a multinational nature; horizontal cooperation; and the ability to find and promote real solutions to the problems given priority by the countries of the region.

The evaluation missions were conducted in August and September 1995. The overall framework of the evaluation called for adherence to the general purposes of the evaluation process defined by the Organization of American States (OAS) working through the Inter-American Committee on Education (CIE), as follows:

1. To comply with the mandates and guidelines of CIECC on the evaluation of multinational projects.

2. To foster an understanding, comprehensive analysis and overall view of project activities, as well as the major results and impact derived therefrom, both at the country-institutional and multinational level of the Regional Educational Development Program (PREDE).

3. To make recommendations to the decision-making bodies of the OAS and the member States, including those in charge of the project executing agencies, on the course and future direction of the cooperative activities in 1996 and thereafter.

The methodology used in the evaluation was made up of three basic components: 1) the retrieval, processing and analysis of data, reports and documents; 2) interviews and surveys covering a broad range of people having a bearing on the projects in the area of basic education; and 3) field trips.

The countries participating in the projects are: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

III. Project Implementation

The principal factors that affected the projects adversely were:

1. The quantity and variety of lines of work covered by PRODEBAS, which made comparability difficult.

2. The considerable difficulties posed by coordination, as well as technical and financial problems that stood in the way of start-up of SIEBAS.

3. The impediments to implementing an educational data processing system.

4. Changes in government, administration and coordinators, which had an adverse impact on the project in several countries (Bolivia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela).

5. Country failure to faithfully adhere to the General Secretariat’s indications in the preparation of reports, and the application of evaluation guidelines.

6. Interruptions or delays caused by irregularities in the payment of country quotas or by the slowness of bureaucratic procedures.

7. A poor theoretical approach to the work (humanistic constructivism in Panama and Nicaragua).

8. A certain lack of follow-up, both nationally and internationally, despite the efforts of the General Secretariat in Washington, D.C., and the local OAS offices.

9. The limited ability of the countries to come up with a multinational approach or horizontal cooperation, both of which depended more on the work of Headquarters than on country initiatives.

IV. Principal results

1. Comprehensive care of children six years of age and under, with some countries successfully arranging for the coordination of centers operable at different levels (national, regional and local) in order to attract the necessary support from other institutions and the community (Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador).

2. Creation of learning resource centers (CRA) in several countries (Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, etc.)

3. Preventive drug education (Costa Rica).

4. Use of computers in special education (Costa Rica).

5. School innovation and organization (Chile).

6. Linkage between kindergarten and primary education (Chile).

7. Improvement in the quality of basic education for indigenous sectors (Chile).

8. Educational innovations for children and young people at high risk in marginal urban areas (Colombia).

9. Expansion of four grades of rural post-primary education (Colombia).

10. Development of methodologies to support the work of multi-grade teachers (Panama).

11. Training and development of basic education teachers, including a project for a Master’s Program in Basic Education (Chile).

12. Publication of The Latin American Review on Educational Innovations,one of the major multinational achievements of the Latin American educational community (Argentina).

In addition, the project took considerable steps to train, develop and upgrade administrators, supervisors, teachers and officials in the education sector of a number of countries.

Likewise, PRODEBAS provided momentum for or encouraged efforts far beyond its own resource capabilities so that government-sponsored projects (Venezuela, Argentina) or those sponsored by international organizations would continue (PAMPALE/UNESCO project in Nicaragua).

The activities carried out under the project covered:

1. Research in early education.
2. Innovations in the classroom and in teacher training and development.
3. Preparation and publication of manuals, textbooks and other materials.
4. Efforts to set up an Educational Information System for Basic Education (SIEBAS).
5. Attendance at multinational coordination and programming meetings called by the General Assembly. Also provided funding for courses and internships in other countries.

V. Conclusions and Recommendations

1. The role of PRODEBAS should be highlighted both in terms of specific results and as a process that has helped sustain the interest of educators in the quality of education.

2. The appreciation for the work of PRODEBAS expressed by officials and educators throughout the region proves that this project left quite a significant imprint despite the discretion that apparently was typical of much of its performance. Similar efforts in the future should assure that the mark of the sponsoring institution is more clearly imprinted so that it will be given due credit as a means of identifying the products and facilitating their later evaluation.

3. Among the reasons that account for the results of PRODEBAS and its impact in the region despite its relatively modest funding (somewhat over US$1,700,000) is the fact that it has been operating for six years in a number of countries, thus stimulating and creating awareness, in addition to the systematic support it has provided in key areas. In the opinion of officials from some countries, the impact of the projects might possibly have been greater with more concentration.

4. Within the limited multinational thrust of the project, the key role played by the General Secretariat in the area of coordination and the interaction brought about by the programming meetings called by the General Secretariat should be highlighted. In addition to the specific goals of such meetings, they succeeded in bringing together the leaders of the project. More frequent meetings of a specialized nature on matters of common interest (improvement in the relationships between school/parents or community, teacher training strategies, etc.) would have been desirable. The OAS should continue using a multinational coordinator even after the project is over.

5. One of the lessons derived from the present evaluation concerns the desirability of setting the evaluation guidelines from the start of the project. Closer follow-up and evaluations during the life of the projects would also be desirable, drawing on the support of the OAS local country offices. Consistent with this, certain means of comparison should be determined at the start (children’s size and weight standards). The control groups needed to guarantee the objectivity of the evaluators.

6. The coordination effort made by institutions, communities and individuals (Bolivia) made it possible to work out a new arrangement for operating schools. This endeavor deserves to be supported and repeated. Duly oriented and supported, such coordination poses considerable potential with respect to children in marginal urban areas.

7. The formal adoption of PRODEBAS initiatives as part of official policies and planning, the joint or coordinated work done by various administrative sectors, and the increase in counterpart funding are additional indicators of the project’s success in various countries. Some type of follow-up beyond the life of PRODEBAS should be attempted to ensure that the work is not left unfinished.

8. Some key activities may be in jeopardy once PRODEBAS ends because there is still no assurance that they will be self-sustaining nor has their transfer to competent authorities been sufficiently prepared. Provisions should be made for resources to ease the transition to a totally self-sustaining effort.

9. Although SIEBAS could not be implemented, much work was done and many contacts were made, which should not be underestimated. Rather, these efforts should be salvaged and harmonized with the fresh possibilities offered by networks moving in the same direction, such as the INTERNET and the Banco de Experiencias Pedagógicas in Argentina (MCBA) and its REDUMATICA network.

10. Numerous publications and other materials edited as part of, or in conjunction with, PRODEBAS are not adequately known in the various countries and could be useful as support for national efforts and the avoidance of duplication. Subject to review by the General Secretariat, an attempt should be made to publish and circulate those materials most relevant to country interests in the various areas.

11. After more than five years of publication, an evaluation should be conducted of The Latin American Review on Educational Innovations, with the support of its advisory council and interested institutions, to determine its projection and line of action in the future.

12. Although its strategic goals and those having to with the quality of education were reached, PRODEBAS has not had a major impact on the expansion of coverage. In many cases, the countries themselves lack the resources needed to support expansion. This is a topic that deserves special study. Member states should be urged to get in touch with organizations able to provide financial support. As stated in the report, appropriate presentation of the project’s best achievements might help attract the additional needed resources.

13. Studies should be undertaken, with the support of specialized consultants, in such areas as:
  • Publications
  • The revival and start-up of SIEBAS and data processing in the schools
  • Expansion of coverage and its financing
14. In the countries where it was active, PRODEBAS has made a major contribution to human resource development in education. This training capability might be focused in the future on the development of new OAS priorities, which will require human resource development and outreach efforts such as those made under PRODEBAS. The best way to increase knowledge of issues such as environmental protection, integration and non-discrimination is to introduce such topics in the basic education curriculum. Here too, past experience and contacts made under PRODEBAS may prove to be a valuable asset.