Administration, Finance, & Educational Research
Responsibility for education nationwide falls to the Ministerio de Educación pública, Cultura y Deporte, MECD (Ministry of Public Education, Culture and Sport). The MECD, aside from administering the nation's schools and providing a standardized curriculum, directly trains principals and oversees the training of teachers in member institutions. In a movement away from the highly centralized systems before 1990, the MECD in 1993 introduced a reform that granted managerial and budgetary independence to local school-based councils, analogous to local U.S. school boards. The results of this move were mixed.
Those schools located in wealthier areas with a cohesive sense of identity and greater community resources fared very well under the system, while less cohesive, less resourced schools in poorer areas did not find the change productive. By 1999, research suggested that the school autonomy project had not really effected as significant a change as the government had suggested. Instead, many schools that had not opted for the autonomy agreement were actually able to make more of their own decisions then those who had signed the autonomy agreement. This initiative has also been received differently by professionals, with principals typically enjoying the freedom the system offers and teachers feeling threatened under these guidelines.
In 1999, the MECD began a major reform initiative aimed primarily at improving the quality of secondary schools but touching on many areas of institutional practice. As a part of this reform, the ministry aims to overhaul its information system and its communications with the schools. University oversight is provided by the Consejo Nacional de Universidades (National Council of Universities) and the Asociación Nicaraguense de Instituciones de Educación Superior (Association of Institutions of Higher Education).
Funding for education has risen significantly over the 1980s and 1990s with more increases promised for the future. In the face of a significant budget deficit—$162 million of a $551 million budget in 1996—double-digit inflation, and unemployment of 16 percent, this continued expenditure has taken a great deal of political will.
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