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A decision support methodology for increasing school efficiency in Bolivia's low-income communities

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Abstract

This paper presents a data envelopment analysis (DEA)-based decision-support methodology that has been implemented and is being used by a not-for-profit organization, Fe y Alegría, which runs 439 Bolivian schools reaching over 160,000 disadvantaged students in that poverty-stricken Latin American nation. Bolivia is a poor country with the highest percentage of indigenous population and the lowest per capita income in South America and as such its inhabitants are in dire need of effective educational resources to help them out of poverty. The DEA-based methodology described in this paper has offered an objective way to compare network schools among themselves and with out-of-network schools, providing a deeper understanding of school efficiency levels in the face of scarce resources, and allowing for sharing of best practices across the network. The paper introduces the educational environment in Bolivia, presents the DEA model, describes the decision support methodology, and provides two examples of its use. The first example compares Fe y Alegría secondary schools with out-of-network secondary schools using publicly available data, and the second compares Fe y Alegría secondary schools among themselves using a proprietary database. The paper also comments on lessons learned and the need for broad consensus-building and organization-wide buy-in for successful adoption and maximum impact.

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