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© 2024 Opportunity International Education Finance functions under its US and UK affiliates. Opportunity International United Kingdom is registered as a charity in England and Wales (1107713) and in Scotland (SCO39692). Opportunity International United Statesis a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

‘They have not heard about anything like the EduQuality program.’ John Pulido shares Insights from the GEF&WISE conference in Medellín, Colombia.

By Maham Khuhro and Catherine O’Shea

In May, John Pulido, Head Education Specialist, Latin America and the Caribbean, presented at the Global Education Forum & Wisdom and Innovation Summit for Education (GEF&WISE). His presentation on the Opportunity EduFinance model was strongly aligned with the conference’s focus on groundbreaking initiatives driving educational excellence and empowering under-resourced communities.

GEF&WISE, held in Medellín, Colombia, centered around the theme of addressing global challenges in climate, health, and the economy, and their impact on students' daily lives. The conference emphasized the importance of collective efforts, recognizing that learning experiences must be holistic, inclusive, and interconnected within the new digital context. In reflection, John found the conference to be a successful platform for exchanging ideas, exploring opportunities for collaboration, and forging partnerships.

During GEF&WISE, John actively participated in a panel discussion on "Financing Education in Under-Resourced Communities," joining fellow panelists representing key players in Colombia's education landscape. John also shared his broad expertise on global perspectives of quality education in affordable private schools in Latin America and the Caribbean. The panel delved into topics such as the importance of partnerships in financing education, exploring innovative mechanisms for funding, and leveraging technology for program development and data-driven insights. The second activity he participated in was a round table about the future of K-to-12 education. The people invited to the round table were representatives of the EdTech industry, start-ups, NGOs, schools leaders, and school associations.

To learn more, we spoke with John about the professional experiences he brings to Opportunity EduFinance, and his further reflections on GEF&WISE.

How did you start working in education? What led you to your current role with Opportunity EduFinance? 

I have been working in the education sector since 1999. My journey in education has been quite interesting. I started as a preschool teacher, later I also worked with children at an elementary school through to high school. I was also a university professor in undergraduate and postgraduate programs at different universities in Bogotá, Colombia. Over the last nine years, I worked on EdTech projects in an editorial company as an academic consultant. And following this as the head of the program, I had the chance to travel all over my country and work collaboratively with other Latin American countries like such as Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, and Mexico and my work was mostly focused on Colombian private schools.

What brought me here [to Opportunity EduFinance] was the impact the program has on affordable private schools. I guess what helps me wake up every morning with passion in my heart is to to help boost the capacity of school leaders and teachers in affordable non-state schools. I have now had the chance to visit schools over the last few months, to get to know the school leaders, and see in their eyes how eager they are to change and improve their schools.

Every time I talk about the program, either with the schools or key stakeholders in different countries, people are amazed and tell me that they have not heard about anything like the EduQuality program. Most of them feel that nobody pays attention or cares about affordable non-state schools. This is something that resonates with me as an educator who has worked with private educational institutions throughout his career.

What were your key reflections from the Global Education Forum & World Innovation Summit for Education (GEF&WISE)? 

I participated in a panel called ‘Financing education in under-resourced communities’. The structure of the panel was interesting because as we were preparing for it, we decided to look at finance and education as a spectrum. All the participants in the panel had expertise in certain areas. I was the expert on the primary levels of education in affordable private schools.

The main reflection on the panel for me was the importance of partnerships and the importance of building relationships with other key stakeholders in Colombia. In Colombia, a lot of the cooperation is with well-known institutions such as the Santo Domingo Foundation, which does important work articulating key public-private partnerships. Also in attendance were United Way Colombia and Instiglio Colombia whose executive directors also shared their perspectives. We need to build larger networks and start thinking about possible partnerships or at least alliances.

One of the main insights for me was how curious the panelists and attendees were about what we do at Opportunity EduFinance – not a lot of people knew that we offer services such as technical assistance for financial institutions to create tailored financing solutions for schools. They were also super curious about the focus that we have on affordable private education. Several secretaries of education in Colombia approached me and said that one of the biggest challenges Colombia is facing is that many private schools are not officially registered in the system. It is very difficult to keep track of what they are doing, track the allocation of resources, or work with public policies, as the schools do not exist in the system.

Education Specialists

How do you think that affordable private schools can improve education in Latin America and the Caribbean? 

[At the conference] another activity I participated in was a round table about the future of K-to-12 education. The people invited to the round table included tech industry representatives, start-ups, NGOs, and members of schools and school associations. Everybody was talking about their vision of the future of K-to-12. When I had a chance to talk, I saw that everyone has a different view of the future. The future for affordable private schools is different. They are fighting and working so hard to access basic needs, such as better infrastructure, or increasing the number of children in their schools. What we're doing is relevant to build their future, and what they want to achieve – it is relevant to their context.

One of the weakest areas in different countries is that teachers become school leaders without the necessary training they need, where they need to develop a different set of skills to become leaders. That's what we offer – our school leadership program is gold.

What we've seen so far is that when schools are in the [EduQuality Introductory] seminar, or they get to know about our program, one of the things they value the most is the School Leadership Professional Development program. This is because there are almost no programs, no universities, and no non-formal forms of education that offer training for school leaders in the countries that we are working in. If there are, they are incredibly expensive and difficult to access.

It is a tremendous opportunity to be expanding in Latin America and the Caribbean and open this region up to the [EduQuality] program. There are similarities with other countries; the general pains that affordable private schools have in Africa, maybe in India and other countries are very similar. But one of the things I also love about EduQuality is that we have the chance to contextualize our programs to every country, and that we have a team of experts working on that.

Read our blog about a knowledge exchange visit between partners in Colombia and Guatemala.

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