Can a Civil Society Organization Quietly Affect Political Identity in a War-Torn Nation? The Story of Escuela Nueva in Colombia
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The Escuela Nueva is a unique non-governmental organization which has collaborated with the Colombian Ministry of Education, the Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers, and corporate partners to improve access to and quality of education. The Escuela Nueva Foundation enacts policies based on the political belief that all children should have the basic right to an education. The most visible way that the Escuela Nueva promotes this belief is through the implementation of multi-grade classrooms, where more advanced students aid those who are younger or further behind in their studies. The Escuela Nueva classroom model was implemented in 1977 as a response to the shortcomings in teacher training and replicability that were the downfall of earlier attempts to implement multi-grade models in rural Colombia. The gradual growth and continual improvements to their model has afforded the Escuela Nueva Foundation a level of immunity from state intervention that few other non-state actors enjoy. Although the Colombian state government has historically been opposed to those non-state actors with overtly political goals, the cost-effective and competitive services provided by the Escuela Nueva programs, like their multi-grade schools and Learning Circles, acted as a strong incentive for allowing this organization's work to continue. Organizations like the Escuela Nueva, particularly those that partner with public and private actors to achieve service-oriented goals, play an important role in Colombia, creating new social forums where individuals can share their political identities and beliefs in a way that affects real change in the communities where they live.
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