School Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean
School Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean
Gaining clarity and consensus on the role and responsibilities of school principals and their management teams in improving learning outcomes


The Dominican Republic and Guatemala are two of the lowest performers in regional learning assessments in both primary and secondary education. Given this learning crisis, governments of these countries are taking measures to improve the efficacy of their education systems. To raise the level of student learning, there is evidence that school leadership and management is key to creating an enabling learning environment. The 2018 World Development Report highlights the important roles played by school management and leadership to catalyse change and support student learning. The development challenge facing both the Dominican Republic and Guatemala is insufficient technical knowledge to professionally develop school principals and school leaders in the face of a learning crisis.  

Towards a Solution

To address the above challenge, the World Bank facilitated a knowledge exchange with Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, which allowed Guatemala and the Dominican Republic  to learn from the experiences and knowledge of these countries that were notoriously successful in overcoming similar challenges in their educational systems.  


The objective of the exchange was to help the Dominican Republic and Guatemala learn and strengthen their capacities in the following areas:  

  • defining roles and responsibilities of school principal and their management teams and the tools available to help them improve student learning;
  • developing practical training programmes that help improve performance and results on the ground; 
  • integrating school principals and leaders training programmes with the activities of teachers;  
  • exploring ways to help increase the pedagogical supportive role of principals in teacher development and classroom practice. 

A knowledge exchange workshop took place in November 2018 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It provided an important forum to debate and advance stakeholder understanding on the role and responsibilities of school principals and leaders. The workshop generated great interest from other countries in the region, whose participation and experiences enriched the knowledge exchange. In total, the workshop was attended by representatives from ten countries, namely Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic (the host), Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay and United States of America. 


The workshop served as a benchmark for future similar activities in the region, particularly on how to implement reforms aimed at professionally developing school leadership and improving learning outcomes.  

Key themes discussed during other workshop sessions included:  

  • main career framework reforms  with focus on experiences from Argentina, Dominican Republic  and Mexico; 
  • different and practical ways in which some countries navigated their political economy during their reforms – with focus on experiences of Argentina and Mexico;  
  • ways to strengthen public management and implementation of ongoing education programmes – with a focus on experiences from Brazil and Colombia; 
  • approaches to enhancing the management abilities of school principals by using inclusion, equity and quality – with a focus on experiences from Argentina;  
  • training programmes to develop effective educational leaders – with a focus on experiences from Chile, Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay. 

Panel sessions examined the current school management policies in the region, and their benefits and shortcomings. These sessions were followed by peer discussions to share ideas on ways to strengthen existing policies and develop new programmes. In addition, during the introduction segment of the workshop, Ms. Melissa Adelman, Senior Economist at the World Bank Education Global Practice, presented the results of a WB regional study on management in education, and shared overall trends in school principals’ work across the LAC region. Ms. Adelman also presented statistics about the time usage of school principals, principals’ autonomy and quotas of administrative labors across the region. These findings were an important resource for reflection and discussion during the workshop. 




New knowledge  


The Dominican Republic and Guatemala greatly benefited from the wealth of knowledge and experience shared by professionals of the participating countries. Critical knowledge was gained of how to effectively develop the definition of roles and responsibilities for school principals through consensus building. Some examples of new knowledge gained included effective ways to train school principals to become change agents and ways to collaborate with teachers’ unions to improve learning outcomes.  


Enhanced skills 


Participants were exposed to different approaches in professional and managerial training for school principals. The approaches included: executive management courses; effective teaching practices; the establishment of enabling learning cultures; tools to monitor students’ learning progress; development through observation and monitoring; and ways to measure and strengthen leadership skills using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. 


Enhanced connectivity   


The regional workshop gave participants opportunities to network and interact with their peers and counterparts from the Latin America and the Caribbean Region. Beyond the formal sessions, discussions and sharing of technical concerns and interests continued among participants, guest speakers and World Bank team members. Participantsespecially from Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay, expressed interest on behalf of their countries to host similar workshops in the future.  


New and improved actions 


The closing session of the workshop provided an ideal forum for the Minister of Education of the Dominican Republic to launch a new and innovative principal training programme. This modular programme combines online and face-to face formats, and covers the following crucial skills and qualities  leadership, integrity, critical thinking, effective communication, results-based management and knowing how to improve learning outcomes. Althoughthe training programme was designed prior to the knowledge exchange, its implementation is likely to benefit from the knowledge and good practices shared during this workshop.  


The World Bank Education Global Practice task team for education projects in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala shared their ideas for a regional knowledge exchange with other World Bank Education Global Practice teams in the region, well in advance of the proposed dates. This made it possible for LAC Education task teams to reach out to their respective country counterparts and gauge their interest in participating. As a result of this client outreach, more widespread interest in the regional knowledge exchange was generated with more countries than expected enthusiastically confirming their participation. Having more countries join enriched the quality of the sessions and the peer learning, and provided a wider variety of good practice and experiences to share.  


Moving forward  


The knowledge exchange served as an effective platform for sharing experiences and inspiring participants to consider new strategies and approaches that can be implemented by the ministries in both the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. Application of the rich knowledge gained could help improve learning outcomes and strengthen capacities of school leadership. It is expected that this knowledge exchange will positively contribute to the implementation of education reform projects in both the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.  


The knowledge exchange inspired renewed interest in the professional development of principals in Colombia, Guatemala and Paraguay. In these three countries, the Ministries of Education have since reached out to the World Bank to further discuss possible support for reforming or revamping their school principal training strategies and the overall policy framework on the role and responsibilities of school principals. A meeting between the World Bank Education Global Practice team and Colombian counterparts already took place. Colombia is considering possible ways of incorporating key themes from the knowledge exchange into a new project. In addition, management of the Instituto Superior de Formación Docente Salomé Ureña (ISFODOSU, Higher Institute for Teachers’ Training) of the Dominican Republic has expressed interest in continuing the inter-country dialogue. ISFDOSU is exploring the possibility of establishing a technical working group to improve policy and reform implementation. 

Contact Information

Name: Mr Laurent Porte, Title: Program Manager, South-South Facility, Organization: World Bank

Countries involved

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, United States of America, Uruguay

Supported by

World Bank South-South Facility

Implementing Entities

Ministry of Education and Higher Institute for Teachers’ Training (Instituto Superior de Formación Docente Salomé Ureña – ISFODOSU) of the Dominican Republic, the Ministry of Education of Guatemala, the Ministry of Education of Salta Province, Argentina, Instituto Unibanco, Brazil, APTUS, Chile; the Education Directorate of Bogota City, Colombia, the Ministry of Education of Mexico, and the Uncommon Schools Network of the United States of America

Project Status


Project Period

2018 - 2019

URL of the practice

Primary SDG

04 - Quality Education

Secondary SDGs

17 - Partnerships for the Goals

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