I have spent the last three months interning in the offices of the USAID/Education Reform in the Classrooom (USAID/REAULA) project in Guatemala City. The project is an immense multi-year capacity-building effort that touches on virtually every activity related to education reform in Guatemala. I have mostly been involved with several USAID/REAULA institutional capacity-building and reform initiatives aimed at the Ministry of Education.
I was assigned early on to work closely with a special commission from the Ministry of Education that was established to create a new nation-wide education supervision and pedagogical support system (Sistema Nacional de Acompañamiento Escolar, SINAE). Aside from completing the technical proposal, we have had to navigate the often murky waters of Guatemalan politics, as several previous attempts to reform the supervision system in the country have been killed by union opposition. To avoid the pitfalls that undermined these previous efforts, we have had frequent meetings with the Minister and Vice-ministers of Education, the National Education Counsel, union leaders, and representatives from the two largest bilateral education donors in the country, USAID and GIZ (the German counterpart of USAID), to try and hammer out the technical and legal details of the system in a way that more or less satisfies everyone involved. Not an easy task!
At the same time, the commission has been under pressure to finalize the system design and begin a pilot project in 24 school districts before the next round of presidential elections in September. There is a big problem in Guatemala with policies being completely abandoned once a change of power takes place, regardless of the effectiveness of the previous administration's efforts. The hope is that if a pilot project is already under way it will be more difficult politically to simply throw it out.
Needless to say, our work over the last few months has been incredibly complex and challenging. However, I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to participate in this crucial reform effort. In spite of the difficulties, the experience has been immensely rewarding, personally and professionally.
I´ve attached two photos. The first is of me and Abilio Girón and Amarilys Ortega de Franco, two of my USAID/REAULA colleagues, finalizing the USAID/REAULA proposal for the creation of SINAE. The second is of me and the Comisión Técnica del SINAE in the garden of the Ministry of Education.
Matthew Valerius, Humphrey Public Leaders Fellow, Master of Public Policy Candidate, 2012, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
Pasante en políticas educativas / Education Policy Intern
USAID/Reforma Educativa en el Aula, USAID/Guatemala
Avenida La Reforma, 6-64 zona 9, Plaza Corporativa Reforma, Torre II
Nivel 9, Oficinas 901