Escuala Nueva assumes that rural schools involved with the program are multigrade, and all innovations and inputs are arranged around this model. Key components of Escuela Nueva have included:
• Self-instruction study guides: follow sequenced objectives and activities, these guides allow children to work at their own pace across four areas (science, math, social studies and language); students are promoted to the next level when they have individually mastered objectives and activities; study guides are based on the national curriculum, locally adapted and are printed at the national level-these are further complimented by Learning Activity Centers in the classrooms which are referenced in the study guides and where students complete observations and specified activities-these are further complimented by school libraries.
• Continuous teacher training: self study units are prioritized for teachers to follow independently, in the same manner as the children in classes follow; these study units include the adaptation of children’s guides to understand how to utilize them for multigrade teaching; monthly follow up workshops are then organized for teachers to exchange ideas with the ultimate goal of localized microcenters for teachers to exchange ideas and analyze and carry out projects;
• Demonstration Schools: during trainings, teacher visit effective demonstration schools in which they can gain a first hand understanding of efficiency and effectiveness;
Numerous evaluations of Escuela Nueva have highlighted the following successful components of the program, run at scale and meeting the needs of rural children: • Strong involvement of communities • Learning strategies are adapted and adjusted to encourage engagement • Children learn at their own pace with flexible promotion to the next grade level-they can study at school or home, allowing additional flexibility
Personal questions remain about the duplicability of this model in other developing world contexts with more limited inputs than in middle-income Colombia. Key constraints to be overcome in these more resource scarce environments would include:
• Limitations in materials support-most specifically including the learning centers and libraries which would require outside investment (but could potentially be tied to existing library programming, such as through Room to Read-type organizations, to maximize/multiply effectiveness)…how could locally-created/produced materials be incorporated to reduce centralization-biases in many countries? Could small grants be incorporated for local production and/or adaptation of resources?
• Limitations in oversight and training support-with weak administration structures and training structures, especially in rural areas, how can suitable alternatives be found to direct training and observational support? Could this come from enhanced peer support? ICT-based support/remote support? Enhanced community oversight of classes?
• How does the program cope with children’s assessment, and specifically with children without basic levels of literacy and numeracy skills? It is much more difficult to implement “self-learning” programs with children who lack even the most basic number and letter recognition-this often would require more expensive ICT-based frameworks which will simply not be available in the most remote and rural communities
• How does the program deal with teacher incentives and teacher motivation? As in many “independent” focused programs, teacher will and motivation is absolutely central-especially when requiring teachers to adapt/adjust/input creativity into processes. How is this being incentivized?