Clara Victoria Colbert

Fundación Escuela Nueva Volvamos a la Gente
Year founded: 

Fundación Escuela Nueva contributes to improving the quality, efficiency and sustainability of basic rural and urban education in Latin America and the developing world.

Focus: Education, Children and Youth, Social and Civic Participation, Citizenship, Social and Entrepreneurial Skills
Geographic Area of Impact: Latin America, East Timor, India, Vietnam
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 950,000 children; 26,000 teachers (2007-2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 2.3 million (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 89% (2010)
Recognition: Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum

Convinced that sustainable development and peace can only be achieved through quality, participatory education, Colbert co-created the Escuela Nueva (New School) model with a team of rural teachers and education professionals. This was done in response to typical problems facing neglected low-income schools, like incomplete schooling, high dropout/repetition rates, poor school-community relationships, low teacher morale, ineffective teacher training and lack of learning materials for children. As a successful social entrepreneur she is the main promoter of Escuela Nueva, while the non-profit Fundación Escuela Nueva advances the model in Colombia and internationally, with support from civil society and the private sector.

Innovation and Activities
Fundación Escuela Nueva provides a systemic, cost-effective, replicable and scalable solution to improve the quality of basic education, by transforming conventional schools and reshaping the roles of teachers, students, community and educational administrators.

As part of the Escuela Nueva model, students learn in small groups, which promotes active, participatory and cooperative learning. Its flexible grade promotion feature allows students to advance from one level to another at their own pace using interactive, self-directed and reusable learning guides designed to
encourage dialogue, interaction, critical thinking and application of knowledge to family and community.

The model unlocks social and entrepreneurial skills and attitudes necessary in the 21st century, encouraging leading processes, initiative taking, teamwork and decision-making. It encourages a new role for teachers, shifting their responsibility from being transmitters of facts to managers and facilitators of the learning process. Teacher training is experiential, whereby they exchange and support each other and promote positive change through microcenters (learning circles) and local networks.

The Escuela Nueva approach is one of the longest-running, bottom-up educational innovations in the developing world. International organizations and leading researchers document results demonstrating improvement in academic achievement, self-esteem, girls’ participation, democratic behaviours and peaceful coexistence. The approach has inspired educational reforms worldwide and investigated by educators from more than 40 nations who are interested in applying it in their countries. To date, the Escuela Nueva approach has been adapted to urban and displaced populations in emergencies, and has been implemented in 18 countries, reaching more than five million children.

The Entrepreneur
After completing graduate studies at Stanford University in the US, Vicky Colbert returned to Colombia to commit herself to public service and education. She was a pioneer of the Escuela Nueva model, and served as its first National Coordinator. She has served as Colombia’s Vice-Minister of Education, and UNICEF’s Regional Adviser for Education in the Americas, which allowed her to promote Escuela Nueva throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Colbert is a Schwab Leading Social Entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow. Her awards include the World Technology Award in Social Entrepreneurship (2005), the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2006), the first version of the Clinton Global Citizenship Award (2007), the Qatar Foundation’s WISE Award in Pluralism (2009) and the Kravis Leadership Award (2011). Her commitment to education is a featured part of the Clinton Global Initiative, where she is a member.