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Learning from Ecuador’s attempt to reform teacher policies

Wed, March 8, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Sheraton Atlanta, 1, Georgia 5 (South Tower)

Proposal

Research of recent education reforms in Latin America rarely includes Ecuador. Since 2007, this country has attempted to deeply reform its school system by transforming, among others, its teacher policies, and so far it has accomplished some successes. In the Latin American context Ecuador’s reform is interesting because of three reasons:
• It is an unusual case of a country that moved abruptly from having a nearly abandoned school system to having it as a central part of its public administration. Between 2006 and 2013, the country tripled its budget for non-university education, and adopted and applied several policies that attempted to achieve integral educational reform. Central among these policies were teacher policies: those aimed at attracting (and maintaining) the best possible candidates for the teaching career, as well as at screening current teachers through evaluation and professional development programs.
• There is (limited) empirical evidence that supports the hypothesis that such reform partially worked. Results from UNESCO’s 2013 assessment of student learning in Latin America (TERCE), compared with those from the 2006 assessment (SERCE) suggest that Ecuador is among those countries in the region that most consistently improved education quality, as measured by student learning (UNESCO, 2015), as it went from being one of the lowest scoring countries in SERCE, to being near the Latin American average in TERCE.
• Ecuador is one of the few Latin American countries with “progressive” governments that have shown some success in improving education during the past decade, at a time when national public discourse centered on re-conceptualizing education as a right rather than a commodity, restoring the value of public education and professionalizing teachers, opposing privatization and decentralization of the education system, and striving for high-quality education with equity. This could be significant because it represents an alternative to better-known models of education reform in the region, that focus on privatization and deregulation, in accordance with “neoliberal” recommendations.
This presentation will summarize the essential elements of a story that would take up a lot more space if explained in detail (cf. Cevallos Estarellas & Bramwell, 2015), and condense the most important lessons learned from it. The story began in 2006, when Ecuador’s school system was in a terribly bad shape, after the country had just passed its most unstable decade in recent history: between 1996 and 2006, three democratic governments were overthrown, and seven people occupied the presidency of the republic. In November of 2006, the Ten-year Education Plan was voted by the majority of the population, and became binding national policy. In January 2007, Rafael Correa’s government began; it espoused the Ten-year Education Plan as part of its government program, and began a series of reforms, among which was a controversial system of evaluating public school teachers.
A decade later, things have changed notably. Although Ecuador’s school system still has many problems, there is some evidence that suggests that it has improved. However, some problems remain, and this presentation will try to conjecture some key “lessons” that could be drawn from this experience.
References
Cevallos Estarellas, P., & Bramwell, D. (2015). Ecuador, 2007-2014: Attempting a radical educational transformation. In S. Schwartzman (ed.), Education in South America (pp. 329-361). London: Bloomsbury Academic.
UNESCO. (2015). Resumen ejecutivo. Informe de resultados: Logros de aprendizaje TERCE. Santiago, Chile: Author.

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