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

1. Introduction

Since 1975 over 17,000 rural schools in Colombia, almost half, have adopted the New School (Escuela Nueva) methodology. New Schools generally have one or two teachers for the full five grade primary cycle. They promote active, participatory, rural-oriented learning. Students are allowed to advance at their own pace and need not repeat school years. Communities and parents are intimately involved in their children’s schooling. This contrasts sharply with the traditional rural education, which emphasizes passive, urban-biased learning and often does not provide a complete primary education. Schedules are rigid, so that students who leave to participate in agricultural activities must repeat the year. Finally, traditional schools have low levels of involvement in their surrounding communities.

This paper evaluates the educational effectiveness of the New School program. Part 2 of this paper reviews the state of rural education in Colombia. In Part 3, the New School program is briefly described. Part 4 reviews the findings of the evaluations already conducted. Divergences between the ideal and actual implementation of New School methodology are identified in Part 5. In Part 6 the educational effectiveness of New Schools versus traditional schools is gauged, first with an analysis of mean Spanish and mathematics test scores, and then with a regression analysis controlling for student and family background. The paper concludes by summarizing key results.