“My school is better than yours” said a 13-year old to his classmate in the school that I was visiting. I approached him and asked him why he had said that; blushing, he answered: “Because my school is bigger and does have everything we need”. In a couple of words, this young student reminds us that, for many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, providing adequate resources to promote learning is still an objective to be achieved. Then, how can education systems in the region face this particular challenge?
Although it might seem as a straightforward issue, resource management in education systems is a particularly complex process; often, isolated actions are taken to improve efficiency ignoring structural and background problems tend to be ineffective. The solution is to articulate a set of actions that recognize the diversity of factors and actors that take part in the education community and processes. I share with you four specific actions to take:
1) Maintain a dynamic and updated inventory of available infrastructure in order to have a precise diagnosis of the needs of each school. Experts in education economics, such as Paul Glewwe, have argued that the lack of centralized information has been one of the main obstacles to correct and effective planning in the field of school infrastructure. Initiatives such as the Regional Census of School Infrastruture (CIER, for its Spanishy acronym) from the IDB seek to respond to that need.
2) Planning targeted investing according to the needs and contexts of each school, maintaining quality standards across schools, districts, and regions. In the words of Helen Ladd, systems must “promote equality in education investments and access to resources”.
3) Make meaningful investments that promote learning. Evidence shows that school infrastructure, such as libraries, science labs, ICTs and the creation of new and more resilient schools can increase learning outcomes among students (Glewwe, 2016).
4) Manage correctly the use of resources across all levels of the systems, involving communities in the process. Increasing resource allocation is essentially pointless if they are used with efficiency and efficacy.
The region has taken steps in the right direction. In Ecuador, for instances, the considerations I present have influenced the construction of “Millenium Schools” (Unidades Educativas del Milenio). These schools have been designed to optimize the use of resources and maximize the amount of local resources they can take advantage of. The success of the region will depend on how well we keep our commitment to the idea that investing in education today is our best bet to ensure tomorrow’s development.
Adriana Lopez serves as the Director of Education Evaluation Models in the National Institute for Evaluation in Education of Ecuador. She holds a master’s degree from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador and a B.A. from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.