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Colección: La Educación
Número: (129-131) I,III
Año: 1998

Results of the Evaluations

The evaluations from the first workshops indicated that courses tended to be “too theoretical”. The feeling was that there was a lack of practical experience on the part of the instructors and a failure to use good case study materials and techniques such as role playing and participatory exercises. The participants wanted to experience “real world” situations under classroom conditions. In addition, they often expressed dismay with the use of North American or European case studies that had little application within the local context. The instructors also had a very difficult time interpreting the salient points of a case study, the technical details of which they knew very well, to the local context. Comments on the EA methodologies stressed that sophisticated techniques developed in academic surroundings in developed countries and requiring great amounts of detailed data and sophisticated databases and modeling procedures were not applicable to their reality. It may be a self-criticism, but at the outset the Bank neglected the more simplistic EA methods that have been found to be of the greatest practical relevance in field situations in developing countries, in favor of the state-of-the-art technologies.

These findings parallel earlier work undertaken by Ham, Sutherland and Meganck.6 They identified many questions related to the transfer of U.S. environmental education models and materials to Central America. Beyond the language and biophysical differences between countries, the content and focus of environmental teaching materials are based on many assumptions about the educational backgrounds and cultural context of both student and teacher. What is accepted in one country may have a radically different meaning to students in another nation. When these assumptions are examined and compared to the situation in different countries in rural Central America, wide differences can be found. The practice of simply translating materials for use in all countries may not contribute to the transfer of new information and technologies in developing countries. A better approach would be to support in-country development of materials and programs. Without question these principles can be extrapolated to other nations in the hemisphere whether continental or insular.

The workshops strive to develop problem-solving skills that generate creative solutions arrived at through dialogue within multi-disciplinary groups. Acquiring the skills to make judgments, conduct analyses, and communicate effectively normally take place on the job. Emphasis in the workshops was therefore placed on the analytical content and the ability to support decision-making (i.e., identification of impacts, determining magnitudes and indicators, analysis of alternatives and mitigation plans) rather than on the descriptive or procedural aspects associated with assembling baseline data or completing a diagnostic. The use of guidelines that can lead to a “boiler plate mentality,” in which too much information of little intrinsic value is produced, is not encouraged. The need for a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates data from various sectors is stressed.

There is a substantial body of international experience in completing and applying EAs.7 Therefore, utilizing the workshops as a forum to disseminate techniques and, more importantly, build acceptance depends on three key elements: identifying the impacts of the proposed activity, defining realistic priority actions and mitigation plans, and creating the conditions for effective implementation.