Clara Victoria Colbert

Ashoka Fellow
Bogota, Colombia
Fellow Since 2003


This profile was prepared when Clara Victoria Colbert was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Having studied sociology and education in Latin America and the United States, Vicky returned to Colombia in the mid-1970s to introduce Escuela Nueva, or New School, a model that blended elements she had studied. Using this educational approach, she converted dysfunctional rural schools into those that connected with students, taught relevant skills, linked schools to community life, and offered participatory and self-paced learning to students. The model worked, the strategy for introducing it proved effective, and the Ministry of Education made it a national policy, bringing it to 18,000 rural schools in Colombia. In 2000, UNESCO not only ranked Colombia's rural schools as superior to its urban schools, but also determined that Colombia offered the second-best rural education in Latin America (after Cuba), an assessment for which Vicky is largely responsible.

In addition to introducing the New School throughout Colombia's rural areas, Vicky has proven it to be flexible by adapting it to new settings. She has spread it to low-income urban schools in Colombia, and she has helped others adapt it to a number of other countries, including Panama, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Salvador, Honduras, Guyana, and the Philippines. Now she is adapting to meet an important and growing need: Colombia's displaced people. She is taking the most applicable materials from the New School's repertoire and compiling them into an easy-to-use, practical kit that any informal educator can use to teach displaced children.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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