The reform of the educational system in Ecuador has been a goal of the current government, and now it has its sights on the performance of the public school teachers across the country. The executive branch has signed a new law (.pdf doc) requiring all teachers to be evaluated during the week of May 25. However, the National Teacher's Union [es] (UNE for its initials in Spanish) is resisting and has openly defied the order saying that it is not clear whether or not such testing is legal. Only a small percentage of the teaching ranks showed up to complete the evaluation, and now it has opened up discussion about how to make sure that the children are getting the best quality education from the nation's teachers.
Many groups of the Teacher's Union are expressing themselves about the evaluation. The UNE of Carchi [es], for example, have started a protest in support of those schools that refused to be evaluated [es].
David Guamba of Ecuador Noticias [es] explains what the evaluation consists of and wonders what the teachers are afraid of:
Según el Ministro del ramo, Raul Vallejo, se aplicarán dos tipos de evaluaciones: interna y externa. La interna la realizan colegas, directivos, estudiantes, padres y madres, y el mismo maestro (autoevaluación); además se realiza la observación de una hora de clase. Todas estas evaluaciones internas suman el 50 por ciento de la calificación. Por otra parte está la evaluación externa, que consiste en la aplicación de pruebas sobre conocimientos específicos que tendrán un peso del 30 por ciento, prueba de conocimientos pedagógicos que tendrá un peso del 10 por ciento y prueba de habilidades didácticas que tendrá un peso del 10 por ciento de la calificación total.
Los docentes que obtengan una evaluación final mayor a 90 por ciento (excelente) accederán a becas o pasantías, serán maestros en programas de capacitación, y recibirán un estímulo económico de 1.200 dólares cada año, hasta la nueva evaluación, que será después de cuatro años.
According to the minister, Raul Vallejo, there will be two types of evaluations: internal and external. The internal will be performed by colleagues, supervisors, students, parents, and the teachers themselves (self-evaluation), and it also includes an observation of one hour of class. All these evaluations account for 50 percent of the rating. There is also an external evaluation, which involves testing on specific knowledge that will have a weight of 30 percent, evidence of pedagogical skills that will weigh 10 percent, and a teaching skills test that will have a weight of 10 percent of the total score.
Teachers who obtain a final assessment more than 90 per cent (excellent) will have access to scholarships or internships, they will be instructors in teaching training programs, and will receive an economic stimulus of $ 1,200 each year until the new assessment takes place, which will be after four years .
Teachers that do not pass the first evaluation will be required to take a year of training after which they will be given the opportunity to re-take the evaluation. Only then, if he or she does not pass, will the teacher be terminated from the teaching post.
Belem Proaño of Temas Para Debatir [es] agrees that refusing to be evaluated has a negative impact on the teachers and that this resistence is being seen as resistence to change, which is something that the country is going through:
La educación es un tema muy sensible dentro de una sociedad porque tiene relación con su futuro. Si los maestros se niegan a ser evaluados, más bien presionados por su sindicato, se enfrentan a una imagen mediocre frente a los ciudadanos. Este es un tema muy comentado en el país pero todo se ha quedado prácticamente en la polémica.
Personalmente pienso que ningún profesional debería tener miedo a una evaluación porque las evaluaciones no son represiones sino un instrumento que permite conocer la realidad de la educación. Con ello las medidas que se tomen o las planificaciones que se realicen serán más exactas o menos propensas al error.
Education is a very sensitive topic within the society because it is related to their future. If the teachers refuse to be evaluated, as pressured by their union, they face a mediocre image in front of their fellow citizens. This is a subject much talked about in the country, but everything has remained controversial.
Personally, I think that no professional should be afraid of evaluation because evaluations are not repressions, but rather an instrument that allows for knowing the reality of education. With those measures, the planning will be more exact or less prone to error.
Much of this resistance is bringing into discussion the role of the teacher's union and whether or not the union is politically motivated. Even though the blogger at Ecuador Sin Censura [es] is openly against the government of President Rafael Correa, he thinks that it is a good thing that he is standing up to the teacher's union which has a close connection with the political party the Democratic People's Movement (MPD).
Former Education Minister Alfredo Vera Arrata criticizes the MPD in his blog because a group of 30 members of the Democratic Popular Movement (MPD), who are presumably teachers even though they have never been in a classroom, are manipulating the situation and they are collecting salaries. Vera is one of the supporters, along with current Education Minister Vallejo, who is behind the alternative to the UNE. The Unitary Front of Education Workers (FUTE) which has been accused to be dividing the larger UNE [es]. This arm of organized teachers has more than 40 thousand members and presents a dilemma to the UNE.
While support for the evaluation is widespread, there is still some sympathy for teachers across the country. Columnist Fernando Balseca of the newspaper El Universo says that the government is forgetting that teachers are underpaid and that the country has never had an Education Minister who has come from the classroom. He also notes that it is ironic that the officials leading the charge on the evaluation have come from the same schools and even taught by some of the same teachers that are now threatened with dismissal if they do not take the evaluation.
However, some are still criticizing President Correa for his handling of the protests and evaluation process. Again, the blogger of Ecuador Sin Censura [es] does not see why the government is invoking Article 38, paragraph of the Teacher's Act as basis for firing teachers who refuse to be evaluated. It says that teachers can be fired for proven incompetence, and that refusing to take a test does not demonstrate that fact.
Finally, Julio C. Enriquez of Ultimatum [es] thinks Correa has some limits and calls for dialogue between both parties. He asks why Correa, instead of challenging leaders and members of the UNE, why doesn't he call for a national dialogue and allows the educators to have a fair hearing and to present their own proposal so that together they can work out what is best for Ecuadorian education:
Siendo así las cosas ¿Porqué Correa aparece altisonante, con una política de amenazas hacia los profesores de la UNE, francamente tonta. ¿Por qué no convoca al magisterio a un gran diálogo nacional para enfrentar juntos el desafío de transformar para siempre el pesado fardo de una educación básica preterida por todos los gobiernos de turno? ¿Por qué Correa no interroga a la UNE acerca de que propuesta tiene para transformar la educación y la compara con su visión del mundo ahora que como máximo representante de su clase social –la pequeña burguesía progresista–,se erige en clase dominante en el poder? ¿Por qué el método de choque?
UNE's leaders are expected to celebrate a National Council meeting on Monday, June 1st to discuss strategies about future actions, and they already are calling for national march on June 11th. Rafael Méndez planned to attend the rally that Correa called in Guayaquil on Friday, May 29 in support of his evaluation proposal. Méndez believes that it is important to support Correa and cites the reason that 12 thousand teachers (members of UNE) have been cashing their checks without even work. He adds:
de ser así, ellos no tendrían autoridad moral para dejar de año a los estudiantes que se nieguen a hacer exámenes en los colegios.