On her daily walk down the muddy road that connects her home with school, Beatriz would sing a cumbia and dream of becoming a professional dancer. However, she would soon find out that her aspirations were short lived. At the age of 14, Beatriz got pregnant and never went back to school. In the six years following her pregnancy, she struggled with an unstable and low-paid job, cleaning rich houses in Guatemala City. By the age of 20, without minimum skills and a secure job, Beatriz had little control over her life and a murky picture of her future loomed.
Alternatives to the traditional public school system are actively being sought and radical approaches for expanding school accountability are being widely touted. For example, in the award-winning documentary, Waiting for Superman.
While radical approaches are needed – given the desperate state of most public education systems; just see the poor results of most middle income countries in international assessments such as PISA and TIMSS – there are more mundane approaches, already in practice, that could be made to offer so much more. Giving public schools adequate resources, the right to make appropriate decisions, and holding them accountable through the publication of school results – in short, school autonomy – has been used in countries around the world since the mid-1960s. The school autonomy approach – be it known as school-based management, whole school development, comprehensive school reform, or parental and community participation – has been tried, evaluated, and proven successful at achieving a range of education goals in many different contexts.