Accueil > Innovating Education in Rural Communities: A Study of Escuela Nueva from Local Project to National Policy to International Star

OAFP 4765 - Innovating Education in Rural Communities

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


A basic knowledge of education systems and the organization of primary and secondary schools is required.

Course Description

Successful education systems around the world aim to achieve both quality and equity. In rural communities, this can be particularly difficult due to multiple factors, such as higher levels of poverty, increased rates of illiteracy, and limited access to both human and material resources when compared to urban areas. The Escuela Nueva project was introduced in the 1970s to try to address the educational challenges faced by rural schools and to raise the quality and equity across Colombia's education system. This case study will analyze the effects of Escuela Nueva as a local project and explore its expansion into national policy and an international model for education reform. The case study will also encourage students to think critically about the process of social innovation as a key policy tool for change in education policy, the issues that arise when scaling up an education project and the impact such projects and policy can have on stakeholders and education reform in general. Students will be invited to explore whether such education policy can be implemented in other contexts and if so how.


ZAPATA, Juliana (Assistante de recherche)

Pedagogical format

Sessions will require students to actively participate in-class exercises, such as role play and debates. Working in small groups of 4-5 people, students will present and discuss education issues, while representing different stakeholders. Each session is organized so as to raise key education issues related to the case study and to allow students to explore different education policy dimensions from the school level to the international context.

Course validation

Students will be assessed on their group work (60%) – presentation, preparation for the class simulation and follow-up written assignment; an individual final policy brief (30%); and active participation and involvement in each session (10%).


Students are expected to prepare individually and as a group for each session (3-4 hours). In addition to completing all assigned reading, students will also research and analyse different education issues and arguments from the point of a view of a specific stakeholder in preparation for in-class exercises. This might include the preparation of literature reviews, background notes, argumentative notes, and/or policy recommendations. Students will also be expected to actively participate in all sessions.

Required reading

  • Colbert, V. (2009), “Improving Education Quality and Access in Colombia through innovation and participation: The Escuela Nueva Model”, Journal of Education for International Development, 3:3, January 30, 2009
  • Colbert, V. Chiappe, C. and Arboleda, J. (1993). 'The New School Program: More and Better Primary Education for Children in Rural Areas in Colombia' in Levin, H.M. & Lockheed, M.E (1991), Effective schools in developing countries. Population and Human Resources Department. Education and Employment Division background paper series; no. 91/38. Washington, D.C. : The World Bank.
  • McEwan, P. J. (1998). Efectividad del programa Escuela Nueva en Colombia. International Journal of Educational Development, Vol. 18, No. 6, pp. 435–452, Bogotá: Federación de Cafeteros
  • Psacharopoulos, G. Rojas, C and Velez, E. (1993). “Achievement Evaluation of Colombia's Escuela Nueva: Is Multigrade the Answer?”, Comparative Education Review, 37(3): 263-276
  • Castro, C., A. Verdisco (2002), Making Education Work: Latin American Ideas and Asian Results, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC

Additional required reading

  • OECD (2016), Education in Colombia, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI: or visit
  • OECD (2015), “Part II. A special focus on reforms”, Education Policy Outlook 2015: Making Reforms Happen. OECD Publishing.
  • Fundación Escuela Nueva Volvamos a la Gente website:
  • Colombia's Ministry of National Education (english website):
  • Colombia's Ministry of National Education - “Escuela Nueva”: