October 30, 2012
In a whirlwind tour of western Honduras, AJS-supported anti-corruption movement Transformemos Honduras, or “Let’s Transform Honduras” (TH), opened doors to a more transparent education system.
The tour was the result of nearly two years of investigation into teacher hiring in Honduras’ public schools. Each January prospective teachers must take a proficiency exam which, in addition to their educational level and experience, is used by a teacher selection committee to calculate an aptitude score. Teachers with the highest scores should be offered the open teaching jobs.
In the early-November tour of western Honduras, TH presented the results of its analysis of the hiring process in five different regions. Each press conference attracted teachers, parents, members of the selection committees, and government officials.
TH President Carlos Hernandez began the press conferences by sharing about TH’s groundbreaking participation in the 2011 negotiations between teacher unions and the government. Then TH staff revealed region-specific data about teacher hiring. The results made teacher selection committees defensive and shocked parents.
In all but one of the regions evaluated, teachers with the best scores were not hired. In one instance there were 376 teachers who received a higher score than the teacher who got the job. In some cases, teachers that were hired did not appear on the score list, and other teachers appeared on the score list, but with three different scores. As Carlos noted in his comments to the press after one conference, “Teachers are hired as political favors…political partisanship has taken the teacher hiring process hostage.”
Although most people knew there was corruption in the teacher hiring process, this was the first time it had been aired so publically, Yaribel Cruz, TH education facilitator comments, “Everyone came to the press conferences really curious about TH, and came away impressed by the importance of TH’s work”, although she admits that some of the people responsible for the corruption were not as enthusiastic, “The press conference in the department of Lempira (pictured at left) was the most heated…The authorities had not turned over the complete list of teacher scores and teachers hired, so after the TH staff presented the data, the selection committee representatives angrily claimed that the data was incorrect…They knew, though, that they had not given us the information on time.”
TH criticized teacher selection committees in the press conferences but is also working with these committees. Last Friday TH met with representatives of 7 of the 18 regional selection committees to “discuss ways to improve the teacher selection process with the people who actually do it.”
During the meeting the selection committee members wrote and signed a proposal for changes in the selection process, committing to act “ethically and with professionalism.” Yaribel commented with a smile that the representatives from Lempira, the site of the heated press conference, had “especially good ideas and were really invested.” She adds that she is optimistic that the members will fulfill this commitment saying, “All the members were excited to be at the workshop, sharing their experiences. It was the first time anyone had actually listened to them.”
TH hopes to observe the teacher testing process in every Honduran department in January with the goal of improving education for Honduran children, and now as Yaribel notes, “the teacher selection committee members and the parents are on our side.”
Carlos adds with conviction “We can’t keep pretending like it is okay for teachers to be hired based on political favors…we should be hiring the best possible teachers…it’s the responsibility of all Hondurans to make that happen.” And in western Honduras, TH’s recent activities have opened doors for citizens to do just that.