Members of the National Rectors Council (CONARE) Tuesday presented President Oscar Arias and Public Education Minister Leonardo Garnier with recommendations to improve the country’s education system in the form of a long-awaited report. The council’s work began in 2003 when a group of citizens including Arias met with then-President Abel Pacheco, asking that work begin on a national education reform proposal.
Among the suggestions in the report: an independent National Evaluation System to provide feedback on the Education Ministry, structural reform of the ministry, and improved distribution of resources for schools.
Yamileth González, president of CONARE and rector of the public University of Costa Rica (UCR), said at a press conference at Casa Presidencial that one major focus of the plan is university efforts to improve teacher education programs.
“Our children are what their teachers are,” Arias said, reiterating the importance of teacher education and training.
The 178-page report begins by outlining “the crisis in education,” citing inadequate financing, unmotivated teaching staff, insufficient infrastructure and poor performance on national standardized tests among the problems. Costa Rica has never reached the educational spending level mandated by the Constitution, 6% of the gross domestic product, and poor results on mandatory graduation tests in recent years have prompted criticism of teacher preparation and the tests themselves (TT, June 30, July 28).
One of the system’s major flaws, the report states, is the existing evaluation system for education is entirely in the hands of the Education Ministry, which “produces disorientation among educators” and results in an over-emphasis on standardized test results.
An independent group should evaluate not only test results, but also the performance of high-level education officials, the report states.
The report also calls on the ministry to analyze and reconsider its distribution of resources, to increase efficiency.
The plan expresses public universities’ willingness to work with the Education Ministry to improve education, and calls for the creation of a national education policy including quality standards for schools and teachers.
“More than a finished book, this is a working document,” Garnier said.