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


I. Introduction

The present consolidated evaluation report on the Multinational Project in Secondary and Higher Education Project was drafted by Dr. Keva Bethel (Bahamas), Dr. Ivan Carvajal (Ecuador), Dr. Luis Aureliano Gama de Andrade (Brazil), and Dr. Georges Goulet (Canada), who were contracted by the General Secretariat to conduct an external on-site evaluation of the Multinational Project 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, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

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

To date, the following country reports have been received: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominica, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

II. Background

The multinational projects of the OAS were created by the 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 regional cooperative programming beginning in 1990, with a view to attaining comprehensive development. Resolution CIECC/RES. 771/88 called upon CIECC to base its policy-making functions in the area on a diagnosis of conditions in the region and on a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of the regional programs. In the new programming cycle (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 outside evaluation called for adherence to the general purposes of the evaluation process defined by the OAS working through the CIE, as follows:

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

2. To foster 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 with 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 PROMESUP were: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

III. Project Implementation

A. Executing Agents

The program was coordinated nationally by four types of institutions: Ministries of Education or public agencies under the Ministries, state-run universities, private universities and non-governmental organizations. Regardless of the type of institution involved, the project was generally well run during the five-year period considered.

As a rule, whenever the participating countries chose two priority lines of action, there were two institutions in charge of project execution. If on occasion tensions occurred between the participating institutions at the start, a way was found to negotiate and settle the operational differences and an agreement was reached that facilitated the pursuit of the project’s goals.

In some instances when the participating institution was an autonomous body, such as a university or non-governmental organization, the results were quite satisfactory insofar as the scheduled goals were concerned. Drawbacks were noticeable in terms of the dissemination and national cognizance of the project and its achievements.

B. Style of Planning

PROMESUP adopted different types of planning and worked with a variety of methodologies in order to give the project the flexibility required to take into account the specific nature of each of the participants, the objectives, and the available technology.

Whenever pursuit of the goals was subject to technological uncertainty—in the fields of, teaching, managementor evaluation know-how—or whenever success depended on consensus, the style of planning was guided by practices that fostered participation and horizontal integration. Since the technological steps could not be determined ahead of time, experimentation and exchanges were emphasized. Otherwise, whenever proven know-how or technologies were available, planning tended towards a more centralized program. Even so, during the course of the program the beneficiaries made suggestions, which provided an appropriate level of participation and integration of goals.

PROMESUP highlighted integrated monitoring and evaluation as parts of properly conducted planning and execution. Over the five-year period, planning and evaluation procedures were defined and the means of carrying them out were improved. Technical coordination meetings played an important role in this respect.

C. Flow of the Project

As a general rule, the project did not experience the administrative or programming problems habitual in most social development projects. The results were quite outstanding and attest to the effectiveness and efficiency of the project’s management. It is important to point out here that the project’s actions were embodied in the structures and programs of the executing agencies themselves. This set the conditions for the dissemination of results and made better use of the human, technical and economic resources available to the project. This, quite correctly, kept the project from being an enclave separate and apart from the participating institutions themselves.

Despite the self-evident constructive nature of project management, there were instances when delays in the availability of funds postponed programmed activities or made it necessary to realign objectives. Changes in coordinators led to a lack of continuity in the project. The dropping of some participating institutions, caused by non-payment of quotas on the part of some OAS member states adversely affected the conduct of joint programs and the continuity of activities launched by the national agencies themselves.

D. Multinationality

At the start, the multinational aspect was limited to three institutions from different countries which joined in funding the project, problem-solving, and the involvement of professors or experts and beneficiaries in upgrading efforts. Inter-agency planning and programming were negotiated and included in the project once it was in motion, simultaneous experimentation with working models was conducted, and occasionally other agencies from the region with goals similar to those of the project were brought in and fed their own funds into some of the activities.

IV. Principal Results

The consistency and high degree of efficiency achieved by the project through its various components and activities should be highlighted. The evaluation shows that, despite the limitation on the amount of resources available to the project, the pre-established goals were accomplished. The diagnoses performed, initial studies and the design itself of the project were appropriate and provided a realistic view of the needs and means available to pursue the project’s goals.

The following are some brief considerations based on the results attained in each of the four thematic areas of PROMESUP.

A. University Management and Evaluation

In this area two major experiments were conducted in Chile and Argentina, which, while organized differently, were based on the same premises. The point of departure for the projects was that university management problems and evaluations should be subject to agreements that take into account the type of universities involved, any changes made in terms of the State’s function in the field of higher education, the new social challenges facing the universities and changes in the roles of science and technology. Consistent with these principles and considering the need to create a tradition of university evaluation and public accountability, priority was placed on reaching a consensus on higher education policy and creating mechanisms conducive to exchanges between and among the universities themselves.

Another important PROMESUP undertaking was its co-sponsorship with the Inter-American University Organization (OUI) of the IGLU review, undoubtedly the only journal in the hemisphere specialized in university management and leadership.

B. Centers to Develop and Improve Teachers for Elementary and Secondary Education

Although this program does not involve technological innovations, the importance it has had in those countries that chose this thematic area for their project should be highlighted. The training and upgrading of teachers set out to introduce new working methodologies: to train science teachers in an effort at curriculum renewal and to produce new teaching materials. PROMESUP provided support in this sense for the work of the Ministries themselves (Panama and Argentina). It also gave support to universities conducting teacher development activities in regions with less educational development, (Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil). In the case of Mexico, the project encouraged efforts to implement new strategies for selected schools and involving educational experiences with teachers, students and business. How appropriate these steps were is noticed in requests from the beneficiaries themselves for the programs to be continued and expanded. Also, new countries were added to the project (Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Dominica). The prospect of developing learning resources for Spanish or English as a second language opened the way for an interesting experience in cultural exchange and mutual understanding in Latin America and the Caribbean.

C. Teaching Technology, Distance Education, and Telematics

Among the new challenges facing higher education in Latin America are those that arise from the need to develop professionals and train instructors for all teaching levels in order to address new educational conditions: a population scattered over a wide territory (the Amazon region), an adult student population (which thus combines education and work), and a student population that speaks two languages. These new requirements presuppose innovations in teaching technology. Joint efforts have been made along this line by a number of countries (Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil).

Following the III Meeting on Technical Coordination, Programming and Evaluation, this component was expanded to include telematics as a teaching factor and a factor for communication between and among the project’s participants. Thus, the PROMESUP Electronic Community was launched.

D. Higher Education, Development of the Amazon and Environmental Education

Efforts under this heading were based on initiatives that combined indigenous education, technology innovation and distance education, with due attention to the need to promote a culture for sustainable development. The unquestionable progress made in this area may serve as an incentive for future development programs and activities in other regions of the hemisphere.

The inclusion at the III Technical Coordination Meeting of environmental education under this PROMESUP heading made it possible to summarize ongoing experience in the project and led to cooperation and discussion that culminated in the First World Conference on Environmental Education, held in Caracas, June 1995. The conference was planned jointly by various participating institutions, with Venezuela acting as coordinator. The conference was attended by delegates from countries and non-governmental organizations from several continents.

Another noteworthy aspect was PROMESUP’s help in fostering the creation of inter-institutional cooperative networks (UNAMAZ, the PROMESUP Electronic Community, the communication network of technology institutes in Mexico). These networks are a major resource, conducive to the exchange of documents and information among project coordinators, experts and users of PROMESUP programs. In the future it will help facilitate planning and the sharing of resources in the region.

In addition to the development of communication networks, a large number of publications were edited with PROMESUP funding during the six-year period.

V. Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on the preceding sections, it may be concluded that the project attained a significant level of integration and horizontal cooperation and followed multinational criteria in planning, implementation, co-financing and exchanges among the participating institutions. It promoted innovative responses to similar higher education problems and the development of learning resources and educational technologies in the region. PROMESUP adhered to the criteria of equity, effectiveness, and efficiency set out at the time of its creation, to the benefit of broad sectors of the population in the countries participating in the project.

The achievements went beyond the fulfillment of pre-established goals and objectives. Throughout the process, new resources were pinpointed and used and potential developed that had not been foreseen. Project implementation itself furnished substantial lessons in administration, programming and project evaluation and created an awareness of comparative benchmarks. In conclusion, PROMESUP complied with the purposes set for the six-year period and surpassed initial expectations.

By way of special recommendations, the following suggestions are made:

1. Considering the potential importance in the planning of future OAS programs as a result of the positive results of PROMESUP, it would be desirable if the General Secretariat and the countries held a seminar attended by the national project coordinators and guest representatives of boards of regents and/or higher education in the member States as well as delegates from international development agencies, at which the results of the PROMESUP evaluation would be validated. Without such a seminar, the formative process geared to the negotiation of projects of this type would be incomplete and the evaluation results would not be properly reflected in the programming of any new activities to continue PROMESUP strategies. Such a meeting would at the same time make it possible for development agencies to consider the headway made in terms of possible investments in similar projects to broaden the impact of PROMESUP.

2. Promote the strengthening of comparative research. In Latin America there is a lack of proven know-how of a general nature to sustain social development programs and activities, especially in response to present-day educational needs. The very nature of the project facilitates exchanges as a starting point for a more systematic research effort.

3. Based on the multinational experience acquired under the project, programs and activities for the sharing of experience and ideas should be promoted in the area of new issues affecting integration in education, particularly in higher education (professional development and institutional evaluation and accreditation).

4. Continue investment policies and strategies in education projects. The evaluation of PROMESUP showed that small projects have an important function, aside from their objectives and goals, because they allow for experimentation with new ideas and methodologies, make it possible to learn from one’s own experience and provide an incentive for innovation. Larger-scale projects can benefit from the methodologies and findings of projects such as PROMESUP. It is believed that one of the OAS’ effective functions is to develop initiatives of this type that aim above all to turn out and test models which do not compete with nor are they covered by the major international development organizations.

5. Continue policies aimed at better and broader communication among the countries in the area of education. In this sense, it would be well to sustain the line of support for specialized publications, such as the IGLU review, and the impetus given by the OAS to electronic and telematic communication networks.