Sistema Interactivo Transformemos Educando

Country Profile: Colombia

Population

47,120,770 (DANE, 2013)

Official Language

Spanish

Other recognised languages

Quechua, Wayuu, Paez, Embera, sikuany, piapoco, curripaco, puinave, romani, among others (total: 65)

Poverty (Population living on less than 1.25 USD per day, 2000-2007)

16%

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP (2011)

4.5

Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance (2005–2009)

90%

Total Youth Literacy Rate (aged 15 to 24 years, 2005–2008)

Male: 98%
Female: 98%
Total: 98%

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 2005–2008)

Male: 93.5%
Female: 93.7%
Total: 93.6%

Statistical Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleSistema Interactivo Transformemos Educando
Implementing OrganizationFoundation for Social Development Transformemos (Fundación para el Desarrollo Social Transformemos)
Language of InstructionSpanish
Programme PartnersNational Ministry of Education and Private Funders (e.g. Ecopetrol and Petrobras)
Date of Inception2006

Background and context

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For the past two decades, Colombia has made great educational strides towards improving access to primary and secondary schooling as well as the internal efficiency of the system, such as the increase in its life expectancy rate (11.6 to 13.3 years, 1999–2008) and the decline in the repetition rate in early primary grades (11 per cent to 3 per cent, 1990–2008). Such improvements have also been captured by the Human Opportunity Index, a measure that provides valuable information on the availability of fundamental services for children to succeed in life. According to the index, substantial positive changes have been in evidence since 1997, but there are still significant opportunity gaps in several domains, including education and access to the Internet. For instance, gross enrolment in the upper grades of secondary education is notably lower than in the earlier grades of the same level, 72 per cent and 100 per cent respectively (2008), and internet access remains limited to the minority of the population – the rate of internet users per 100 people equals 45.5 (2009).

The four-decade long civil war that Colombia has witnessed since the late 1960s has shaped the country’s development by leading to many of the challenges the nation still faces today, including a marked social and income inequality. The conflict between governmental military forces and anti-government guerrillas has been marked by severe violence since many of the peasant armies and oppositional groups were largely funded by drug trafficking and kidnappings of civilians. A study published by the World Bank, which documented the perceptions of a sample of poor urban persons about the country’s violence and its consequences on society, found that violence-related problems, such as drug use, are the most serious problems that the poorest populations strive to overcome. Strong links between illicit substance addiction and low levels of education have been demonstrated as drug consumption has been reported to start with eight-year-olds, leading many young students to drop out of school, a phenomenon that has been a serious issue in the country: there are approximately 255 million out-of-school adolescents (2008).

Despite the recent decline in the intensity of the armed conflicts, combined with economic and educational growth experienced by Colombia, there is still a great demand for programmes designed to develop and enhance the country’s human resources in order to bring youths and adults who are victims of poverty, violence and other unfavourable circumstances back into the formal education system. The non-profit organisation Fundación Transformemos, established in 2006, aimed to address this need by promoting social and digital inclusion of illiterate and underserved youths and adults from the poorest regions of the country in the provision of an education programme. The foundation works in partnership with the National Ministry of Education (NME) in order to increase the coverage of education opportunities in the formal system for vulnerable groups through an innovative approach that combines traditional teaching methodologies with the use of up-to-date technologies such as interactive multimedia and the Internet. Although Transformemos has a general pedagogical model that guides the implementation of the programme throughout the country, the curriculum, resources, timetables and locations of classes are flexible and differ in each region. Furthermore, prior to developing the implementation plan in a given area, the foundation carries out a qualitative and quantitative investigation of participants’ needs and cultural characteristics in order to design an intervention that is specifically tailored to the requirements of the target population. Transformemos does not, however, only aim to improve individuals’ literacy and digital abilities. Activities and resources are also invested in promoting the development of the learners’ community through the implementation of over 500 projects, such as the establishment of community kitchens and vaccination campaigns.

The programme Transformemos

Aims and Objectives

The Fundación Transformemos believes that education is essential for the social inclusion of marginalised persons in order to promote equity and democratic coexistence among citizens in Colombia. The programme was first implemented in Catatumbo, in the north of Santander, with 2,000 learners. To date, the foundation has reached over 300,000 youths and adults who are illiterate or have low levels of schooling, by providing high-quality educational opportunities that integrate participants into the formal educational system. The programme’s main objectives, however, are not limited to increasing literacy rates or expanding coverage of educational services and contributing to increasing access to education among vulnerable groups. It also aims at:

Recruitment and training of facilitators

A very successful characteristic of Transformemos is the recruitment of highly qualified educators. In order to be a part of the workforce in this programme, prospective candidates must have a teaching licence as well as be willing to participate in ongoing professional development opportunities which include six-month virtual classes on youth and adult education, a minimum of three group meetings per academic year where facilitators have the opportunity to learn from one another by exchanging experiences, challenges and good practices, and ongoing follow-up and support. The vast majority of facilitators are female and between 25 and 45 years old. Candidates are initially recruited by public announcements in each region, which are followed by a written examination and an interview. Facilitators earn a stipend of about USD5.00 per hour and are required to work for 400 or 220 hours per academic year (depending on the level they teach). They have a threefold role which includes the design of the curriculum by planning lessons, implementing teaching strategies and evaluating learning achievement, teaching the curriculum and guiding learners throughout the learning process by facilitating reflections in class as well as connecting learning to the outside experiences lived by learners.

Enrolment of learners

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Prior to the establishment of the programme in a given community, the foundation carries out a needs assessment in order to evaluate the needs and characteristics of the group it will serve. Next, it executes the selection and training of facilitators who then will undertake the recruitment of prospective learners by carrying out home visits to advertise the programme and explain the benefits of (re-)entering the formal education system. The target population are youths and adults from vulnerable groups with no or low levels of schooling, such as persons in situations of forced displacement, former combatants in the process of reintegration into civil society, ethnic minorities, African descendants, female heads of households and groups from rural zones and marginalised urban areas. The majority of learners are women (about 67 per cent) and aged from 20 to 45 years. Most of those who are employed work in informal jobs or agriculture; of these 90 per cent live on no more than USD200 per month for the entire family. The primary reasons for enrolling in classes include the relevance of the programme in relation to their needs, flexibility of location and timetable, opportunity for improving conditions of life, enhancing knowledge and socialising with other members of the community. Currently the programme has been implemented in five administrative departments (Cesar, Boyacá, Meta, Nariño, Cauca) and in addition in five municipalities (Cartagena, Barrancabermeja, Duitama, Sogamoso), reaching over 75,000 learners through 1,200 interactive classes (2010). The minimum requirements for participation are being out of the formal education system as a result of having either dropped out of school or having never been part of it as well as being over 15 years of age.

Teaching/learning approaches and methodologies

The National Literacy Programme and Youth and Adult Basic Education (Programa Nacional de Alfabetización y Educación Básica de Jóvenes y Adultos) is a programme established by the NME in order to increase the provision of flexible learning opportunities to youths and adults by cultivating partnerships between the federal government with public, private and civil society organisations, such as the Fundación Transformemos, based on a national framework known as the Special Integrated Academic Cycle. This framework structures the delivery of services into six stages, or “cycles”, which are equivalent to certain levels of formal education and integrated in sequence for continuation through one stage after the other until the secondary level has been completed, as illustrated in the figure below.

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Fundación Transformemos is a very comprehensive programme, as it offers classes throughout all six cycles and meets the national requirements not only by providing the minimum of 400 or 220 hours for the primary and secondary levels, respectively, but doubling this amount with additional extra-class activities. For example, students at the primary level are expected to participate in 400 hours of “hybrid courses”, which correspond to a mixture of classroom-based/online instructions and activities, in addition to 400 extra hours of activities outside the classroom that are usually aimed at integrating students into their surroundings, such as working in a community garden. The total duration of the academic year differs between cycles (Cycles 1–2 last six months, Cycles 3–4 last nine months and Cycles 5–6 last five months) totalling 40 months that can be completed in average of five years. However, students do not need to start from the very beginning; rather they can begin in the cycle that will follow the previous grade for which they have an official certification. Timetables of classes are flexible varying from one community to the other, but the majority occur in the evenings and at weekends and take place in educational institutions, such as public primary schools, which are close to participants’ homes.

The programme is based on a multi-disciplinary approach which offers a variety of subjects that include language and communication, mathematics, and social and natural sciences. For the last two cycles there is also physics, chemistry, philosophy and English. During Cycles 1–2, the facilitator is in charge of teaching all subjects; from the third cycle onwards there is one facilitator per subject. Teaching of each subject is not limited exclusively to its academic content, but extends to learners’ context by empowering and stimulating learners to use their newly-acquired knowledge in the world and reality that surrounds them. It encompasses broader contents like culture, citizenship, multi-ethnicity issues, music, literature and history in order to increase their awareness of their rights as citizens, expand their personal views on gender roles, recognise democratic values and build democratic relationships, exercise active citizenship, promote sustainable development and learn how to benefit from the legal system if necessary

This practical and related-to-real-life type of learning is the result of the combination of traditional classroom-based learning with activities outside the school which do not only include conventional homework, but also several opportunities for learners to involve their community members in the learning process. Examples of extra-classroom activities are community work, such as community gardens, small businesses and road/aqueduct building; social work, like vaccination campaigns, workshops and advocacy initiatives against child abuse and domestic violence; and the building of dialogue with public authorities aimed at providing policymakers with necessary and relevant information about the communities they serve. Products of these extra-classroom projects include textiles and other hand-crafted merchandise, community stores and music production, as well as the publication of a cookery book called Cocina Criolla Cartagenera de Veddá Veddá, the best-known product up until now. The book was the result of a project started in 2010 when students from Cartagena, while learning how to read and write, were invited to submit traditional recipes from their region. Out of 600 recipes submitted, 60 were selected by a group of professional cooks. The book was not only published, but also presented by learners at the prestigious Cookbook Fair in Paris as one of the nominees of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

An additional innovation of this programme is the design of context-based materials by a multidisciplinary team including educators and designers who are in charge of writing the content, selecting material, editing and producing the multimedia resources. Transformemos has published over 20 different collections of textbooks totalling 800,000 books which cover all six cycles of the programme, and produced about 800 videos of classes which are a great complementary resource used from Cycle 3 onwards – as well as broadening learners’ knowledge about and abilities in digital technologies they allow learners more flexibility, since half of their work can be executed independently.

Funding support

Approximately 95 per cent of the funding is provided by the National Ministry of Education and the remaining 5 per cent comes from donations made by private corporations such as Petrobras and Ecopetrol. The annual cost per learner is about USD250 and includes the expenditure on the development and publication of pedagogical resources such as books and multimedia, infrastructure for classes, such as classrooms and computers, facilitators’ stipends and professional development, and resources for the execution of special projects like the publication of the cookery book.

Monitoring and evaluation

The indicators used to monitor the progress and shortcomings of the implementation of the programme include attendance, repetition, progression and drop-out rates, and information on participants’ gender, geographical location and socio-economic status. All individuals are registered not only in the foundation’s database, but also in the national education management information system. Data are also collected by educators at various opportunities (i.e. group meetings taking place at least three times a year, surveys, follow-ups by telephone and e-mail, monthly reports), classroom visits and student assessments. To date, there has been one external evaluation of the programme, which was carried out by the National University of Colombia in a study that assessed and compared the outcomes of several different youth and adult education programmes in the country (2009). Results revealed that the educational services offered by Fundación Transformemos, among all programmes evaluated, achieved the best textbook quality and the highest degree of social development promotion.

Impact

Additional results provided by the foundation show that its programme has reached over 300,000 youths and adults since its inception. For instance, during 2009, approximately 46,600 students were enrolled in Cycles 3–6 and the progression rates varied from 70 to 90 per cent. Also, drop-out rates were registered as being significantly small, about four to seven per cent, when compared to other large scale programmes. Outcomes vary according to different geographical locations, given the different context, economic resources and particularities of each region. In the city of Cartagena, for example, Transformemos has provided services for 73.72 per cent of the illiterate population. The foundation has also documented positive effects on participants’ lives as a direct result of their enrolment in the programme. Students have reported having higher hopes for a better future as well as a greater sense of empowerment to change their lives; many of the project’s initiatives started during classes in the communities such as community gardens are being kept up after students’ graduation, Development of interpersonal skills among learners resulted from the great amount of collaborative work done in the extra-classroom activities. Also many illiterate students who started in 2006 are to currently in Cycles 4, 5 and 6a nd moving towards completion of the secondary education. The following testimonies illustrate how learners have perceived such benefits:

I have never felt so free, so happy. Being seated with a group of young friends while holding a pencil in my hand, I felt more powerful than with a fire gun, it is better [that I can] change the weapon for a tool with which I can defend myself and get what I need in a peaceful way, without doing harm to others, on the contrary changing the way of thinking of many people (V.T.).
I have found the studies at Transformemos to bevery good because we see issues related to our department in the North of Santander and I identify myself with them because [the programme] teaches topics as they are, practical and applicable to real life (S.C.T.).
I only completed first grade [of elementary school] and I left school because studying seemed boring and soon I started to work to get what I needed. When Transformemos’ pedagogical model arrived to Camp Giles, friends encouraged me to study, I spoke with the teacher Andrew and I got excited to start studying; as I saw he was a very good teacher I registered and came to class. Now I do not wish that the weekends and school days go by so fast because I am happy to study and learn very good things. I have learned reading, writing, reading comprehension, maths, human values, rules of citizenship and much more (J.I.V.A.).

Challenges

Because one of the main populations targeted by the work carried out by Fundación Transformemos is the underserved groups from rural zones, difficulties in bringing technological resources and the Internet to these areas constitutes the greatest challenge experienced by the organisation so far. For communities with restriction to the Internet alone, the foundation provides televisions so that even if they cannot enjoy the online resources, learners can at least take advantage of the classes on video. However, there are still many communities with no access to electric power which prevents the use of any technology besides textbooks. Additional challenges include a great number of learners who do not progress to the next cycle, about 10 to 30 per cent, due to failing the national examination or being fearful of taking assessment and dropping out of the programme prior to its completion; increasing awareness that for an efficient youth and adult educational programme is necessary to recruit highly qualified teachers as well as providing ongoing professional development; showing the importance of using technology while teaching youths and adults in order to integrate them into the digital sphere and broaden their abilities in and knowledge on modern technologies; and obtaining support to carrying out needs assessments in the communities prior to starting the implementation of the programme, so that services can be tailored to the requirements and specificities of a given group.

Lessons learned

Initially, teacher training was limited to guiding the facilitators throughout the specificities of the programme offered by Transformemos: its model, curriculum, activities and integrating the technologic resources into classes; to date, the importance has been recognised of upgrading the training to a more comprehensive approach by promoting a holistic professional development of educators. Also, the foundation has learned that in order to enable underserved and vulnerable youths and adults to move out of poverty, it is necessary to provide educational services that are equivalent to the formal educational system, i.e. providing certification of learning and following a national and structured framework with a great amount of hours of classes, variety of learning experience and a multidisciplinary approach. Finally, annual reviews of the curriculum and pedagogical materials are closely connected to improvements in the delivery of services since up-to-date materials and content have shown to better meet the needs of learners, teachers and communities.

Sustainability

The most remarkable indicator of the sustainability of the programme offered by Fundación Transformemos is the significant increase in the coverage of geographical locations and the number of learners enrolled in classes. The programme expanded from attending to 2,000 learners in the city of Catatumbo in 2006 to enrolling over 15,000 in the following year, 27,000 in 2008, and 75,000 in 2010, amounting to an annual total of about 300,000 participants in ten territorial entities (i.e. five departments and five additional municipalities). Furthermore, the programme is a response to the General Law of Education passed in 1997 which, for the first time in the history of Colombia, provided a structured legislation for the provision of adult education. The foundation provides services aligned with the guidelines presented by the NME and, in turn, receives almost all of its necessary funding from federal sources.

Sources

Contact

Rodolfo Ardila
Director de Desarrollo Social
Fundación para el Desarrollo Social Transformemos
Km 13 Vía Bogotá, La Calera
Cundinamarca, Colombia
Telephone: +571 860 95 32
rodolfo (at) transformemos.com

Last update: 10 February 2012