CEPAL Review

Cepal Review is the leading journal for the study of economic and social development issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Edited by the Economic Commission for Latin America, each issue focuses on economic trends, industrialization, income distribution, technological development and monetary systems, as well as the implementation of economic reform and transfer of technology. Written in English and Spanish (Revista de la Cepal), each tri-annual issue offers approximately 12 studies and essays undertaken by authoritative experts or gathered from conference proceedings.

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Educational decentralization models in Latin America

Decentralization of social services is one of the central elements of the social policy reforms being carried out in Latin America in order to make the provision of such services more efficient and to strengthen the democratization processes. This article analyses the processes of decentralization of education in seven Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Nicaragua). It seeks to systematize these experiences, using a theoretical typology of reform models; to present some results and trends in terms of the efficiency and equity of the provision of these services, and to extract some useful lessons for the design of future reforms. Although the models developed in the various countries differ from each other, they nevertheless have some common features: they depend on the resources provided by the central level to finance the services, and in many cases they subordinate schools to decisions taken at other levels. Among the main economic and social effects of the reforms are the limited progress made in participation and, hence, social efficiency; the ambiguous results obtained in terms of technical efficiency, and a trend which is not yet fully confirmed towards greater inter-territorial disparities in educational indicators. Among the lessons for policy formulation is the importance of giving the new levels of supply some degree of real autonomy, using a system of transfers which encourages a quest for efficiency while at the same time safeguarding equity, taking care to preserve the internal coherence of the models, giving some responsibilities directly to the schools, and ensuring that there is a suitable framework for the regulation and supervision of decentralized service supply systems.

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