Exposing a Model of Success in Bolivia’s Schools

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (Aug. 24, 2011) – What if it were possible to quantify the success of an education model and share it with struggling schools to help them thrive? Assistant Professor of Management John Neiva, Ph.D. and his co-author Miguel Marca Barrientos are seeking to do just this for a network of schools in Bolivia.

Fe y Alegría, which runs over four hundred Bolivian schools in some of Latin America’s most impoverished communities, is the focus of the team’s research: “A Decision Support Methodology for Increasing School Efficiency in Bolivia’s Low-Income Communities.” For over a decade, this Jesuit-sponsored network of schools has been a collaborative partner with Saint Joseph’s for a number of teaching, service and, more recently, research opportunities.

“It is said that Fe y Alegría’s work begins where the pavement ends,” says Neiva who first visited the schools during a 2008 immersion trip sponsored by Saint Joseph’s Office of Mission. Neiva was so impressed with how successful Fe y Alegría was in the academic development of its students, and with so few resources, that he felt moved to partner with the organization beyond this first, two-week visit.

When Neiva returned to the U.S., he combed through education data available through Bolivia’s Ministry of Education. In collaboration with Fe y Alegría, Neiva identified trends in the data which were specific to the success of this particular network of schools.

“But the numbers are only one component; most importantly, we needed the help of Fe y Alegria to understand the qualitative side of the story,” says Neiva.

With 3,900 miles between Neiva and Bolivia, it was critical that Fe y Alegría play an active role in the research. So Neiva, through donations from the Saint Joseph’s community, provided the resources necessary for data entry, analysis and travel.

It was perhaps this opportunity to engage the Bolivian community in Neiva’s research that contributed to his paper winning first prize in the triennial OR in Development competition of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies in July 2011. The award money from which, Neiva donated to Fe y Alegría for continued development. 

Media Contact

Carolyn Steigleman, Director of Communications for the Haub School of Business, 610-660-1355 or csteigle@sju.edu 

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