Learning About School Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean

Key Contact
Melissa Adelman and Juan Baron
Start Date
End Date
Funding Amount
$ 25,000
Knowledge-providing Countries
Knowledge-receiving Countries


In the ongoing reforms of the education sector in Guatemala and Dominican Republic (DR), there have been challenges in achieving clarity and consensus on the role and responsibilities of school principals. Both Guatemala and DR also face challenges with capacity and technical knowledge needed to professionally develop school principals and school leaders in the face of learning crisis in the countries. Guatemala and DR are two of the lowest performers in the regional learning assessments in both primary and secondary education. There is evidence that school leadership is key to creating an enabling learning environment which helps improve student performance.

A knowledge exchange with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and USA provided Guatemala and DR a platform to learn from the experiences and knowledge of leading countries who were able to successfully overcome similar challenges. Particularly, Guatemala and DR sought to learn and strengthen their capacities in the following areas:

  • Defining roles and responsibilities of school principal and their management teams and the tools available to help them improve student learning
  • How to develop practical training programs that help improve performance and results on the ground
  • Integrating school principals and leaders training programs with the activities of teachers
  • Exploring ways to help increase the pedagogical supportive role of principals in teacher development and classroom practice


The Dominican Republic and Guatemala are two of the lowest performers in regional learning assessments in both primary and secondary education. Given this learning crisis, governments of these countries are taking measures to improve the efficacy of their education systems. To raise the level of student learning, there is evidence that school leadership and management is key to creating an enabling learning environment. The World Development Report (WDR) 2018 highlights the important roles played by school management and leadership to catalyze change and support student learning. The development challenge facing both DR and Guatemala is insufficient technical knowledge to professionally develop school principals and school leaders in the face of a learning crisis. Additionally, it remained unclear what approaches should be taken to achieve stakeholder consensus on the roles and responsibilities of school principals and school management teams.


The knowledge exchange workshop took place on November 28-29, 2018 in Santo Domingo, DR. This provided an important forum to debate and advance stakeholder understanding on the role and responsibilities of school principals and leaders. This workshop generated a lot of interest from other countries in the region, whose participation and experiences enriched the knowledge exchange. In total, the workshop was attended by representatives from ten countries namely Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, host DR, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay as well as Mr. Bambrick–Santoyo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Uncommon Schools Network in USA. The latter is also the author of several well-known books on effective school management techniques in the USA. He delivered a key note address on the practices of effective school leaders. Uncommon Schools have become a success model of how to improve student learning outcomes among disadvantaged populations by using data to enhance school management and redefine the roles of school principals and management teams. On special request from the DR Ministry of Education, Mr. Santoyo also facilitated a highly interactive seminar for approximately 80 public school principals and district school authorities. During this four-hour hands-on practical training, Mr. Santoyo shared resources on how to teach and measure learning, how to increase learning outcomes based on data, how to implement proper feedback sessions and how to grade test using a special rubric. 

In general, the workshop served as a benchmark for future similar activities in the region, particularly on how to implement reforms aimed at professionally developing school leadership and improving learning outcomes.

Key themes discussed during other workshop sessions included:

  • Principal career framework reforms - with focus on experiences from Argentina, DR and Mexico
  • Different and practical ways some countries navigated the political economy during their reforms – with focus on the experiences of Argentina and Mexico
  • Ways to strengthen public management and implementation of ongoing education programs – focus on the experiences from Brazil and Colombia
  • Approaches to enhancing the management abilities of school principals by using inclusion, equity and quality – with a focus on experiences from Argentina
  • Training programs to develop effective educational leaders – focus on experiences from Chile, Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay.


The panel sessions examined the existing school management policies in the region, their benefits and shortcomings. These sessions were followed by peer discussions to share ideas on ways to strengthen existing policies and develop new programs. In addition, during the introduction segment of the workshop, Ms. Melissa Adelman, Senior Economist at the World Bank Education Global Practice, presented the results of a WB regional study on management in education, and shared overall trends in school principals’ work across the LAC region. Ms. Adelman also presented statistics about the time usage of school principals, principals’ autonomy and quotas of administrative labors across the region. These findings were an important resource for reflection and discussion during the workshop.

Lessons Learned

As part of the preparation process, participants were invited to complete a brief online pre-visit survey to provide more information about themselves, their professional roles and their learning expectations. The feedback compiled from the surveys was shared with the knowledge providing institutions and experts and guided their preparation of the workshop design and content.

A WhatsApp group was set up to connect participants before the workshop. This online group became a very useful platform for participant interactions, sharing of logistical information during the workshop and keeping the conversations going after the workshop.

The WB Education Global Practice task team for the DR and Guatemala education projects was ambitious and shared their ideas for a regional knowledge exchange with other WB Education GP teams in the region well in advance of the proposed dates. This timely sharing of ideas made it possible for LAC Education task teams to reach out to their respective country counterparts and check for their interest in participating. Thanks to this client outreach, more widespread interest in the regional knowledge exchange was generated with more countries than expected enthusiastically confirming their participation. Having more countries join enriched the quality of the sessions, peer learning and provided a wider variety of good practice and experiences to share.

The DR Ministry of Education and the management of the Higher Institute for Teachers Training (Instituto Superior de Formación Docente Salomé Ureña - ISFODOSU) were active partners during the planning and organizing phases of the knowledge exchange and they covered the costs for the conference rooms, transportation and meals.

An evaluation survey was handed out to participants for completion at the end of the knowledge exchange. Some highlights participants shared in the evaluation included:

  • An appreciation for the high quality of the presentations and sessions  
  • Interest in more collaboration with other LAC countries in the areas of strengthening school leadership and management programs
  • An appreciation for the value of going beyond policy discussions to focusing on the “how to” of overcoming reform and program implementation challenges
  • Some participants found the knowledge exchange an eye-opener particularly regarding the rich variety of comparable experiences and expertise available in the neighboring countries
  • An appreciation for a smooth and well-organized workshop  
  • Wishes that in future, more time should be allocated for discussions, responding to questions, networking with experts and possibly including some field visits.

Beneficiaries / Participants

  • Vice Minister of Development - The Presidency, Dominican Republic
  • Minister of Education - The Ministry of Education, Dominican Republic
  • Vice Minister of Education - Ministry of Education, Dominican Republic             
  • Vice Minister of Education - Ministry of Education, Dominican Republic             
  • Rector, ISFODOSU- Ministry of Education, Dominican Republic
  • Education Specialist- Ministry of Education, Guatemala 
  • Education Specialist - Ministry of Education, Guatemala
  • Minister of Education - Minister of Salta Province, Argentina
  • CEO - Varkey Foundation, Argentina
  • State Secretary of Education Piaui, Ministry of Education - Brazil
  • Coordinator - Instituto Unibanco, Brazil
  • Specialist -Instituto Unibanco, Brazil
  • General Manager – Aptus, Chile
  • CEO, Uncommon Schools Network, USA
  • Coordinator - Ministry of Education, Mexico
  • Evaluation Leader - Ministry of Education, Mexico           
  • Director General- Ministry of Education, Paraguay          
  • Director - Ministry of Education, Paraguay          
  • Coordinator- Ministry of Education, Uruguay      
  • Coordinator - Ministry of Education, Uruguay

 * In addition to these participants, over 100 School Principals and School District authorities from the DR Ministry of Education participated in the seminar facilitated by Mr. Santoyo.

World Bank Contribution

The regional knowledge exchange workshop was co-funded by the World Bank’s South-South Facility. World Bank teams from the Education Global Practice, the Governance Global Practice, Development Economics Vice Presidency Unit and the World Bank Country office in the DR contributed to the design, planning and implementation of this knowledge exchange.

Moving forward

The knowledge exchange served as an effective platform for sharing experiences and inspiring participants to consider new strategies and approaches that can be implemented by the ministries in both the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. Application of the rich knowledge gained could help improve learning outcomes and strengthen capacities of school leadership. It is expected that this knowledge exchange will positively contribute to the implementation of education reform projects in both DR and Guatemala.

The knowledge exchange inspired renewed interest in principal professional development in Colombia, Guatemala, and Paraguay. In these three countries, the Ministries of Education have since reached out to the WB to further discuss possible support for reforming/revamping their school principal training strategies and the overall policy framework on the role and responsibilities of school principals. A meeting between the WB Education GP team and Colombian counterparts already took place. Colombia is considering possible ways of incorporating key themes from the knowledge exchange into a new project. In addition, ISFODOSU management has expressed interest in continuing the inter-country dialogue. ISFDOSU is exploring the possibility of establishing a technical working group to improve policy and reform implementation.


New knowledge: The DR and Guatemala greatly benefitted from the wealth of knowledge and experience shared by professionals of the participating countries. Critical knowledge was gained of how to effectively develop the definition of roles and responsibilities for school principals through consensus building. Effective ways to train school principals to become change agents and how to collaborate with teachers’ unions to improve learning outcomes were examples of new knowledge gained.

Enhanced skills: Participants were exposed to different approaches in professional and managerial training for school principals. The approaches included, executive management courses, effective teaching practices, establishing enabling learning cultures, tools to monitor student learning progress, development through observation and monitoring, how to measure and strengthen leadership skills using both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Enhanced connectivity:  The regional workshop gave participants opportunities to network and interact with their peers and counterparts from the LAC region. Beyond the formal sessions, discussions and sharing of technical concerns and interests continued among participants, guest speakers and WB team members. Participants (especially from Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay) expressed interest on behalf of their countries to host similar workshops in the future.

New and improved actions: The closing session of the workshop provided an ideal forum for the Minister of Education of the DR to launch a new and innovative principal training program. This modular program has a mix of online and face-to face formats and covers the following crucial skills - leadership, integrity, critical thinking, effective communication, results-based management and improving learning outcomes. Though the training program was designed prior to the knowledge exchange, its implementation is likely to benefit from the knowledge and good practices shared during this workshop.


  • Argentina : Ministry of Education, Salta Province
  • Brazil : UNIBANCO Institute (NGO)
  • Chile : APTUS (NGO)
  • Colombia : Education Directorate of Bogota City
  • Mexico : Ministry of Education
  • USA : Uncommon Schools Network

Learn More

In this short video, Melissa Adelman, Senior Economist at the World Bank’s Education Global Practice, talks about her experience implementing this knowledge exchange. She also wrote this blog about the exchange together with her colleagues Rita Almeida and Juan Baron.

Story Author: Twity Mueni Musuva Uzele