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La Educación
Número: (132-133) I,II
Año: 1999

5. How Faithfully is New School Methodology being Implemented?

The Data

The data used in this study were collected in a 1992 survey of educational quality.8 A random sample of schools in three departments, Valle, Cauca, and Nariño, together referred to as the Pacific region of Colombia, was conducted. They are a representative sample of the population of “B calendar” urban and rural primary schools, both private and public, in these three departments. No private rural school was sampled, consistent with their extremely small numbers. The schools belong to the “B calendar” with a September to June school year rather than the “A calendar”, which runs from February to November.9 This study analyzes the sub-sample of rural schools. There are data on 52 rural schools, 24 classified as New Schools, 712 third grade students, and 689 fifth grade students. Survey forms were completed by each school’s principal, the teacher of the surveyed classroom, and the students. In addition, students were administered tests of mathematics and Spanish. Because the survey was not conducted with the explicit goal of evaluating New Schools, no criteria were used to limit a school’s inclusion, such as length of time participating in the program. Because there is no information on this, results could conceivably be biased if fifth grade students have not been exposed to a five-year New School education.

Effectiveness of Program Implementation

To examine how faithfully New Schools adhere to stated methodology and to what degree traditional schools also utilize New School-type inputs, tabular information is examined. New Schools have a higher average number of supervisory visits per year, a gauge of the quantity, if not quality of administrative advising (see Table 3). Two-thirds of New Schools have a library, surprisingly low in light of the emphasis placed on this input; however only one-third of traditional schools have this input.10 Between 33 and 45% of New School classes are utilizing the official self-instructional guides, a fact which provides cause for some concern. Nonetheless, in both grades and subjects, New School classes are better supplied with textbooks of all types. The shortage of texts in traditional schools is particularly striking in mathematics.

Table 4 describes instructional methods used in New and traditional schools in language and mathematics. Language teaching, frequency of group work, library use, directed text reading, free reading, and student presentations are especially high in New Schools in both third and fifth grade. Frequencies of directed and free composition and dramatization are comparable in third grade, while in fifth grade, New Schools start to utilize these methods more intensively. In mathematics, New Schools emphasize individually solving problems, exploration outside the classroom, and group work more than traditional schools. Traditional schools emphasize solving problems on the chalkboard more than New Schools. There is little difference in emphasis on working with objects in third grade, but fifth grade teachers in New Schools emphasize this more than their counterparts. Evidence points to a greater use of active learning in New Schools, emphasizing student creativity and abilities of written and oral expression. Group work, a key aspect of New School methodology, is extensively utilized.

Other information on New School inputs is absent from available data. Tables 5 and 6 refer to the evaluation of Rojas and Castillo, subject to the caveats mentioned above. Of particular New School inputs, over 90% of schools have a library, learning corners, classroom decorations, a suggestion box, records on families of students, and a map of the community. Inputs less commonly used include the community monograph, student journals, the agricultural calendar, the student government, and the self-instructional textbooks. The absence of the latter two is troublesome, especially given their central role in New School training courses and methodology. Measures of community involvement in Table 6 uniformly suggest that New Schools are an important part of their communities.