By: Carolina Villada Narváez (CRECE Consultant)

CRECE initiates the mid-term evaluation of the “Education for Competitiveness”, where the greatest challenge of the program turned out to be to close the gaps between rural and urban education. 

At CRECE we have had the opportunity to systematize and evaluate different educational initiatives developed in Caldas and in the rest of Colombia. In particular, we have accumulated significant experience in evaluating the department’s rural education projects and programs, implemented through the public-private partnership between the Governance of Caldas, the Committee of Coffee Growers and, more recently, the Central Hidroeléctrica de Caldas (CHEC). This Alliance has made it possible to strengthen the “Escuela Nueva” model at different educational levels and expand it to higher education, in an intervention that combines objectives linked to the coverage, quality and relevance of this training. 

Rural education benefits all. Photo credit: Manon Koningstein

Rural education benefits all. Photo credit: Manon Koningstein

Our trajectory and learning in the monitoring of this policy allow us to have conceptual and methodological tools focused on the key dimensions and variables involved in the transformation of the educational field, in particular those related to the processes of policy management, school factors And contextual factors that influence its application and the changes and strategies deployed at the individual, family and community levels. Thus, the analytical perspectives we use are nurtured by interdisciplinary methods as well as the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods in order to comprehensively explain the processes evaluated at the macro, meso and micro levels. 

We are currently in the initial stage of the Intermediate Evaluation of the Education for Competitiveness Program, contracted by the Committee of Coffee Growers of Caldas. In 2014 we also made the baseline of the intervention of the program. This program has three components: I)Education for work through the Middle Education with a focus on Work, Evaluation and certification of labor competencies and Entrepreneurship; II)Access to higher education,  based on the secondary education articulation policy the extension of the project “La Universidad en el Campo” and the Entrepreneurship project; and III) Labor Connections, through the Insertion of Labor and Rural Microentrepreneurs projects. 

The purpose of this evaluation is to determine the results achieved by the intervention around the conditions of educability and labor insertion of the rural population of Caldas, specifically of the graduates. Some of the biggest challenges are related to the identification of changes related to: the possibilities for the generational splice; the capacities of rural youth for their productive insertion, either through their own businesses or employment in companies associated with the rural sector; and the generation of new family and community dynamics from the empowerment of young people. 

This evaluation has a great relevance to deepen the knowledge of the type of institutional designs required to overcome the breached traditions between rural and urban areas in the main educational indicators. We also hope to contribute in the analysis of the trajectories built by the graduates and their relationship with the educational experience obtained, facilitating the understanding of the limitations, successes and challenges of the current rural educational offer of the department in front of the needs and expectations of the young people of the countryside. We are particularly interested in producing relevant information for decision-making by the actors involved in the design and implementation of the policy, so that progress is made in the qualification of rural education offer and in the construction of a long-term project under a Territorial Approach;  in which Caldas is positioned as a reference in the national and international context.