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Understanding the Effects of Educational Governance in Chile and Uruguay

Denise Vaillant, Maria Ester Mancebo, Cecilia Llambi, Gabriela Gonzalez, and Leticia Pineyro

Even though Latin America has made significant gains in terms of improving access to basic education, there are considerable problems that the region still has to cope with in terms of equity and quality. With the objective of bridging this gap within the educational systems, many countries in the region underwent processes of educational reforms during the 1990s. Since then, educational governance has come to be considered an important ingredient for successful educational policy reforms (UNESCO 2009).

In general terms, educational governance is related to the group of formal and informal institutions through which different actors come to

D. Vaillant (*)

Universidad ORT Uruguay, Montevideo, Uruguay

M.E. Mancebo

Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, Uruguay

C. Llambi • L. Pineyro

Universidad Catolica del Uruguay, Uruguay

G. Gonzalez

Universidad Catolica del Uruguay, Montevideo, Uruguay

© The Author(s) 2017 137

G. Perry, R. Angelescu Naqvi, Improving Access and Quality of Public Services in Latin America, Latin American Political Economy,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-59344-3_5

decide upon changes in the policy realm (Martinic and Elacqua 2010; GDN 2009). Governance is generally related not only to the state’s ability to enforce laws, but also to several actors’ capacities to hold the state accountable to the public (GDN 2009). Underpinning this analysis is an institutional perspective that understands institutions as the “rules of the game” which are many times explicitly stated but oftentimes also implicitly taken for granted in a society (North 1995). These rules condition the preferences and strategies of social actors that have a stake in them. They significantly affect the power relations and dynamics of a society and the efficiency of the public policies implemented.

This research seeks to improve the current understanding of the effects of institutional arrangements and governance on basic education through a cross-national comparative study between Uruguay and Chile. It seeks to test the hypothesis that differences in institutional set-ups of education systems affect the equity and quality of basic education delivery. By exploring the question of what is the effect of educational governance on results, the study will seek to provide empirical insight on

  • • the overall explanatory power of institutional variables and school organization on student achievement and progress in Uruguay and Chile;
  • • the individual effect of governance factors on educational quality and equity; and
  • • the factors that could be altered in order to improve average learning and reduce inequality in student achievement and progress.

The research considers four main governance factors: (i) decentralization, (ii) accountability, (iii) provision and financing, and (iv) incentives.

All the governance factors prioritized in this study constitute fundamental rules of the educational system and, as such, have far-reaching effects on its nature and characteristics. However, these factors are not immutable or static, but rather dynamic and up for contestation by several actors that position themselves and interact around them. Contemplating the several actors that interact with these “rules of the game” and their interests allows us to account for the socially constructed nature of educational governance.

Through the use of a mixed-methods approach, using statistical techniques to estimate an Educational Production Function (EPF) using Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) and approximately 60 semi-structured interviews with different key players in the education field, the study illuminates some very interesting mechanisms through which governance mediates education results.

The comparison between Chile and Uruguay is extremely relevant. Both countries have traditionally been considered “educationally advanced countries” in the Latin American context and, while they used to have similar institutional set-ups in the past, they have followed divergent paths in terms of public service delivery in basic education since the 1980s.

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