International Review of Education

, Volume 46, Issue 1–2, pp 31–48 | Cite as

Constraints to Implementing Educational Innovations: The Case of Multigrade Schools

  • Luis A. Benveniste
  • Patrick J. McEwan


Studies suggest that multigrade schools, i.e. those with classes that are mixed in age and ability, can be a cost-effective means of raising student achievement and expanding access to education in poor countries. Development institutions often recommend them for countries struggling to raise educational quality and coverage in rural areas. However, the literature advocating the adoption of multigrade schools avoids discussing the potential difficulties in implementing the system. This paper analyses the conditons under which implementation might be successful, focusing on the oft-cited case of the Colombian Escuela Nuela programme. The authors conclude that capacity-building through in-service training is an important determinant of the way teachers approach their task. However, a great deal of variance in teacher practices is left unexplained. The article suggests that teacher will (that is, motivation and commitment) might explain much of the remaining variation in the adoption of the new pedagogies. The authors explore several conditions under which teacher will could be lacking.


Rural Area Important Determinant Student Achievement Poor Country Paper Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aristizabal, H.A. 1991. Análisis de las Evaluaciones Realizadas Sobre el Programa Escuela Nueva. Informe Preliminar, UNICEF. Mimeo.Google Scholar
  2. Barker, B. 1986. Efforts to Improve the Preparation of Teachers for Rural Schools. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Southwest Educational Research Association (Houston, Tex., January 30-February 1).Google Scholar
  3. Bray, M. 1987. Are Small Schools the Answer? Cost-Effective Strategies for Rural School Provision. London: The Commonwealth Secretariat.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, K. and Martin, A. 1989. Student Achievement in Multigrade and Single Grade Classes. Education Canada 29: 10-13, 47–48.Google Scholar
  5. Carnoy, M. and Castro, C. 1996. Improving Education in Latin America: Where to Now? Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank. Mimeo.Google Scholar
  6. Colbert, V. and Mogollon, O. 1987. Hacia la Escuela Nueva: Unidades de Capacitación para el Maestro. Bogotá: Editorial Ministerio de Educación Nacional.Google Scholar
  7. Colbert, V., Chiappe, C. and Arboleda, J. 1993. The New School Program: More and Better Primary Education for Children in Rural Areas in Colombia. In H.M. Levin and M.E. Lockheed, eds., Effective Schools in Developing Countries. London: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  8. Craig, J. 1990. Comparative African Experiences in Implementing Educational Policies. World Bank Discussion Papers 83. Washington: World Bank.Google Scholar
  9. Dove, L.A. 1982. The Deployment and Training of Teachers for Remote Rural Schools in Less-Developed Countries. International Review of Education 28: 3–27. 45Google Scholar
  10. Elmore, R.F. 1996. Getting to Scale with Good Educational Practice. Harvard Educational Review 66: 1–26.Google Scholar
  11. Fuller, B. and Clarke, P. 1994. Raising School Effects While Ignoring Culture? Local Conditions and the Influence of Classroom Tools, Rules, and Pedagogy. Review of Educational Research 64: 119–157.Google Scholar
  12. Hayes, K. 1993. Effective Multigrade Schools: A Review of the Literature. Working Papers, No. 2, Education and Human Resources Division, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, US Agency for International Development. Washington, DC: Academy for Educational Development.Google Scholar
  13. Instituto SER de Investigación. 1993. Sistema Nacional de Evaluación de la Calidad de la Educación (SABER). Calendario B. IFT-251. Bogotá: Instituto SER de Investigación.Google Scholar
  14. –––. 1994. Sistema Nacional de Evaluación de la Calidad de la Educación (SABER). Calendario A. IFT-277. Bogotá: Instituto SER de Investigación.Google Scholar
  15. International Labour Office (ILO). 1991. Teachers in Developing Countries: A Survey of Employment Conditions. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  16. Keith, S. 1989. Improving Support for Rural Schools: A Management Perspective. Policy, Planning, and Research Working Paper 302. Washington: World Bank.Google Scholar
  17. Lahren, S.L., Jr. 1983. The Problem of Recruiting and Retaining Teachers for Rural Areas: An Application of Anthropological Concepts and Methods in a Department of Education. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (82nd, Chicago, November 16-20).Google Scholar
  18. Lockheed, M.E. 1993. The Condition of Primary Education in Developing Countries. In: H.M. Levin and M.E. Lockheed, eds., Effective Schools in Developing Countries. London: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  19. Lockheed, M.E. and Verspoor, A.M. 1991. Improving Primary Education in Developing Countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Loera, A. and McGinn, N.F. 1992. La Repitencia de Grado en la Escuela Primaria Colombiana. Education Development Discussion Papers. Cambridge, MA: HarvardInstitute for International Development.Google Scholar
  21. London, N.A. 1993. Why Education Projects in Developing Countries Fail: A Case Study. International Journal of Educational Development 13: 265–275.Google Scholar
  22. Lungwangwa, G. 1990. Meeting the Needs of Children in Sparsely Populated Areas Through Multigrade Teaching: An Experience from Zambia. Mimeo.Google Scholar
  23. Marshak, D. 1994. From Teachers’ Perspectives: The Social and Psychological Benefits of Multiage Elementary Classroom. Paper presented at the Annual Conference and Exhibit Show ‘Emerging Images of Learning: World Perspectives for the New Millennium’ (49th, Chicago, March 19-22).Google Scholar
  24. McEwan, P.J. 1998. The Effectiveness of Multigrade Schools in Colombia. International Journal of Educational Development 18: 435–452.Google Scholar
  25. –––. 1999. Recruitment of Rural Teachers in Developing Countries: An Economic Analysis. Teaching and Teacher Education 15: 849–859.Google Scholar
  26. McGinn, N. 1996. Requirements for Capacity Building: Escuela Nueva in Colombia. Mimeo.Google Scholar
  27. McLaughlin, M. 1987. Learning from Experience: Lessons from Policy Implementation. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 9: 171–178.Google Scholar
  28. Miller, B. 1990. A Review of the Quantitative Research on Multigrade Instruction. Research in Rural Education 7: 1–8.Google Scholar
  29. –––. 1991a. A Review of the Qualitative Research on Multigrade Instruction. Research in Rural Education 7: 3–12.Google Scholar
  30. –––. 1991b. Teaching and Learning in the Multigrade Classroom: Student Performance and Instructional Routines. ERIC Digest, EDO-RC-91-6.Google Scholar
  31. Mulcahy, D. 1993. Developing a ‘Distinctive Approach’ for Multi-Grade Classrooms. Education Canada 33: 24–29.Google Scholar
  32. Murnane, R.J. 1993. Economic Incentives to Improve Teaching. In: J.P. Farrell and J.B. Oliveira, eds., Teachers in Developing Countries: Improving Effectiveness and Managing Costs. Washington: World Bank.Google Scholar
  33. Psacharopoulos, G. 1989. Why Educational Reforms Fail: A Comparative Analysis. International Review of Education 35: 179–195.Google Scholar
  34. Psacharopoulos, G., Rojas, C. and Velez, E. 1993. Achievement Evaluation of Colombia's Escuela Nueva: Is Multigrade the Answer? Comparative Education Review 37: 263–276.Google Scholar
  35. Rojas, C.A. and Castillo, Z. 1988. Evaluación del Programa Escuela Nueva en Colombia. Bogotá: Instituto SER de Investigación.Google Scholar
  36. Schiefelbein, E. 1992. Redefining Basic Education for Latin America: Lessons to Be Learned from the Colombian Escuela Nueva. Paris: UNESCO, International Institute for Educational Planning.Google Scholar
  37. Scott, R. 1984. Teaching and Learning in Remote Schools: A Dilemma Beyond Rural Education. National Information Center for Handicapped Children and Youth.Google Scholar
  38. Thomas, C. and Shaw, C. 1992. Issues in the Development of Multigrade Schools. World Bank Technical Paper Number 172. Washington: World Bank.Google Scholar
  39. UNESCO. 1982. Multiple Class Teaching and Education of Disadvantaged Groups: National Studies. Bangkok: Principal Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific,UNESCO.Google Scholar
  40. –––. 1989. Multigrade Teaching in Single Teacher Primary Schools. Bangkok: Principal Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UNESCO.Google Scholar
  41. Warwick, D.P., Reimers, F. and McGinn, N. 1992. The Implementation of Educational Innovations: Lessons from Pakistan. International Journal of Educational Development 12: 297–307.Google Scholar
  42. World Bank. 1995. Priorities and Strategies for Education: A World Bank Review. Washington: World Bank.Google Scholar
  43. Yin, R. 1981. Life Histories of Innovations: How New Practices Become Routinized. Public Administration Review, 21-28. 47Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luis A. Benveniste
    • 1
  • Patrick J. McEwan
    • 2
  1. 1.School of EducationStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.School of EducationStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations