Juarez & AIR: Building education systemwide self-reliance in Latin America and the Caribbean

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By LAC Reads Capacity Program

A key element of the 2018 U.S. Government Strategy on International Basic Education is the road to self-reliance. To achieve self-reliance, capacity and performance of the education system must be prioritized.

 The five-year regional USAID/LAC Reads Capacity Program (LRCP), implemented by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Juárez and Associates (J&A) and financed by USAID, focuses on fostering capacity, sustainability, and self-reliance of early grade literacy (EGL) interventions in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. The program realizes this through leading workshops, developing innovative solutions to national and regional issues around literacy, and providing technical assistance to host country government and stakeholders to improve EGL opportunities and outcomes for the LAC children.  The program works in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Peru, as well as Eastern Caribbean states.  

In 2018, LAC Reads Capacity Program led 3 national conferences and 4 workshops on pre-reading and pre-writing in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Over 500 members participated in the conferences and over 150 participants in the interactive workshops, including Ministry staff, local key stakeholders, academics, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

As capacity building is a core element of the USAID/LRCP program, the workshop provided participants with fundamentals on early grade literacy methodology, pre-reading and pre-writing strategies to use in the classroom, teacher monitoring, evaluation and support methods, and innovative pedagogical approaches.

To assess the capacity built and the quality of learning from the workshop, a pre-test and a post-test was administered to all participants in each country. The surveys included workshop expectations, four technical content questions aligned to the workshop’s objectives, and how to apply their learnings to their work.

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Participants were eager to learn new pre-reading and pre-writing methodologies and evaluation methods. A participant from the Ministry of Education in Guatemala shared in their pre-test, “Nuevas metodologías para orientar y sensibilizar a los docentes y autoridades en la forma más apropiada, pertinente e interesante para desarrollar habilidades” (New methodologies to guide and sensitize teachers and authorities in the most appropriate, pertinent and interesting way to develop skills). Participants from Honduras looked forward to learning about pedagogical strategies that could be implemented in classrooms and early childhood education (ECE) centers to support pre-reading and pre-writing skills.

The technical content questions included four qualitative, open ended questions with the purpose to better understand participant learning as a result of the workshop. The question, “What are the characteristics of a successful methodology to promote pre-reading and prewriting skills for young children?” yielded more specific and actionable post-survey responses. In Honduras participants’ post-survey responses emphasized concrete characteristics, such as taking individual needs and differences of children into account. In the Dominican Republic, a participant from UNIBE/Proyecto Leer described a successful methodology for promoting pre-literacy skills in a similar way: “Que atienda la diversidad en el aula [por] instrucción diferenciada” (That it addresses the diversity in the classroom to differentiate instruction). Other participants from Guatemala and Honduras highlighted the need for playful activities, print-rich environments, active participation, the importance of verbal expression and story dramatization.

When asked to “Describe an effective practice and ineffective practice that supervisors use to monitor and provide feedback to teachers,” participants revealed that teachers should receive more on-going support and modeling of pre-reading and pre-writing practices to improve their implementation. A MINERD participant in Guatemala wrote, “Es importante que los supervisores participen en los talleres con los docentes para que luego puedan hacer los acompañamientos y monitoreos con propiedad” (it is important that supervisors participate in the workshops along with the teachers so that they can then support and monitor them properly).

Though capacity building is commonly administered through workshops in USAID-funded international education projects, it is critical to ensure that the capacity building trainings is truly effective through evidence-based results. Through the regional pre-reading and pre-writing workshops, USAID/LAC Reads Capacity Program aimed to measure participant knowledge before and after the workshop, as well as to measure the impact of the training on participant knowledge. The project is currently following up with stakeholders who attended the workshop to understand the behavioral and organizational based impact to validate that the participants are gaining the capacity necessary to create sustainable, systemwide self-reliance to improve EGL outcomes and opportunities for LAC children.

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