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How is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supporting Latin American Ministries of Education to respond to specific educational needs of their early-grade students? The objective of the poster presentation will be to socialize USAID-funded innovations and strategies that are resulting in educational achievements in the LAC region, namely the LAC Reads Capacity Program.
We describe a USAID-funded model for improving reading in the Latin American/Caribbean region that is designed for relevancy and sustainability. The LAC Reads Capacity Program (LRCP)¬, the third component of the USAID LAC Reads Project, incorporates a development approach that considers the needs of the region as a complex whole, the needs of the participating countries (Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Peru, Haiti and Jamaica), and strengthens local alliances and partnerships to support education. The program builds on and strengthens the interconnectedness of system actors and interlocutors who lead the dialogue towards relevant educational change. To this end, the program is designed to support Ministries of Education (MOEs), teachers and other key stakeholders to choose, develop, implement and evaluate early grade reading (EGR) strategies to build successful and sustainable reading interventions throughout the region. The project model is inclusive of local research and implementing organizations as leaders in the creation of self-sustaining conditions. They represent diverse voices and enrich the discourse of relevancy, equity and access to education in the LAC region, including cultural and language minority communities. Specifically, the project’s reform model depends on:
• Ministry of Education representatives and their regional and national partner organizations ensuring sustained support of strategies and implementing proven EGR interventions in classrooms.
• Teacher professional development and pre-service training, provided by local entities under the guidance of the project, that incorporates effective strategies for improving EGR outcomes.
• National governments and societies informed and empowered to assume ownership of the cause of EGR and the goal of improved EGR practices so that outcomes are high on the national agenda to ensure equity and access by all citizens.
• National governments committing resources in support of the implementation of proven interventions for improved reading instruction as well as continued research and evaluation to address critical gaps.
• International funders prioritizing funding for support and investments in EGR interventions and evidence generation.
• Municipalities, the private sector and education sector NGOs investing resources in support of EGR, thereby promoting a community of learning that includes all social stakeholders.
• School directors prioritizing EGR as a school and community priority.
While the project has just begun, its potential for generating sustainable responses derives from: a) Its comprehensiveness to respond to the region’s shared challenges, b) Its sufficient flexibility to respond to the specific needs and demands of the participating locations (examples of specific local needs include, but are not limited to, the needs of cultural and minority language groups such as the Maya of Guatemala, the Miskito and Rama of Nicaragua, and the Jamaican Patois-speaking community), c) Shared participation of all stakeholders, from Ministries of Education to the private sector, communities and families, and d) Consideration of the opportunities and resources available in each participating country for the improvement of their educational systems. The LRCP draws on resources and participation both horizontally and vertically, meaning that implementation relies on the existing educational sector structure to upscale innovations and the participation of local stakeholders as well as families to motivate change. The project does not propose a one-size-fits-all approach, as its developers recognized the complexities of the region with its shared history but also a multiplicity of realities, including unique ethnic and racial group contributions, and the diverse political, cultural and social ideologies which have shaped the Latin American landscape. In sum, the project proposes a model for regional educational improvement which is designed to be self-reinforcing, such that actions defined by the model at the national, regional and central levels build on and reinforce work at mid and local levels, creating a virtual cycle that bolsters sustainability.