Active Urban School (EAU) has been designed and developed since 2002 in a partnership of Luker Foundation with the Manizales Mayoral Office. Manizales is a medium size city of Colombia, located in the center of the country in the coffee region. EAU aims at improving the quality of public education (preschool, elementary and high school) in low income areas in Manizales through the inclusion of active teaching methods in the classroom, the strengthening of the school’s institutional management and the relationships with parents and the community. The project has a special emphasis in fostering social and emotional skills. Indeed, the Interamerican Dialogue (PREAL) recognized Active Urban School as a model that fosters non cognitive learning. In the last PISA test applied in 2012, Urban Active Schools obtained superior results (average) than all public schools around the country in three areas evaluated: Mathematics, Reading and Science. This model is inspired in the Escuela Nueva methodology which has been recognized by Unesco in the early nineties as one of the most innovative education initiatives around the world. Today the 58% of the public schools of Manizales benefited from Active Urban School and New School models.



As a general objective, the Urban Active School program seeks to improve the quality and efficiency of education in low-income areas of the city, based on the ideas of active pedagogies and lessons learned from the Escuela Nueva Model implemented in the rural regions in Colombia by the Coffee Growers Committee of Caldas (CDCC).
The specific objectives of the program focus on:

- Building and implementing an active pedagogical model in the urban area of the Municipality of Manizales;
- Improving school environments through human development programs and the provision of educational support materials;
- Promote the development of basic coexistence skills in students and teachers of basic education;
- Strengthening school management through counseling, training and accompanying the public schools.


In 2002 a public-private alliance between the Secretary of Education in Manizales (SEM) and the Luker Foundation was formed. From the beginning of the process, SEM was co-financing and supporting technically the development of Active Urban School model in order to contribute to improving the quality of formal education in the city. The alliance between the SEM and the Luker Foundation has been strengthened with the technical support from various entities.

The launching of Active Urban School in the city of Manizales was the result of a confluence of interests and efforts of several institutions that contribute to the quality of public urban education through the development of a new pedagogical approach.

Thanks to the new materials and pedagogical methodology and through exercise and practical application of the topics covered in the classroom, parents are getting involved in the academic development of their children.

One of the greatest problems faced during the implementation of the project was the lack of will and flexibility of the teachers to change and adapt to the new methodology, especially teachers from older generations. Although, positive school results and students´ eagerness for teamwork and implementation of new methods demanded change. The model itself has led teachers to change their attitude and to adapt to the new methodology.


1. The need to initiate such programs with principals or with the governing boards, before driving classroom processes. It is required to carry out participative processes. This includes the annual planning of the intervention with participation of beneficiaries;
2. The importance of concentrating efforts on the activities and processes of greatest importance and impact. It is necessary to prevent the spread of educational institutions in consideration of a large number of projects;
3. The need to ensure a constant balance in the responsibilities assumed by the institutions of the alliance and other participating entities. As Gonz¡lez (2009) argues, the private sector can support the public sector, but not replace its constitutional obligation to lead the public service educational system;
4. The importance of requiring accountings to all alliance members, including beneficiaries.


Results based on the national and international tests show improved school performance of students involved in the EAU project:

- Better average results in national SABER tests for 3rd, 5th, 9th and 11th grades of the EAU schools than other public schools in the city;
- Better average results for EAU schools in international PISA 2012 tests than other public schools in Manizales and in other Colombian cities.

Evaluations conducted over the 11 years of the program's duration, by the research institutions CRECE and ECONOMETRIA, show the following results compared with investigated control groups.
Changes in the school environment:

- The enrichment of teaching practices;
- The strengthening of school organization;
- Improved coexistence (teachers-students relationship);
- The development of communication skills;
- Increased levels of student participation in classroom.

EAU schools show improved institutional capacity, better school management and school coordination. The impact of the Active Urban School project was recognized by the local authorities and the project has been included in the Mayor Government Development Plan in the part of public education policy, ensuring the long-term financial and technical support of the Secretary of Education in Manizales. The methodology promotes inclusion through teamwork and collaborative learning. Monitoring of the impact of EAU on gender issues is shown in the evaluation results of PISA 2012, presenting the reduction of the performance gap between boys and girls, achieving gender equality.

Next Steps

The sustainability strategy consists of generating installed capacity in teachers, teacher management and support team. This installed capacity influences the system to transform itself and generate learning units developing in favour of sustainability. The interventions lead to improved capacity building and development of the human capital. In recent years the investment in both resources and activities was limited to:

- Extending the model for other public educational institutions in Manizales;
- Strengthening the support team.

Other Information

PDF - Click to download
PowerPoint Presentation - Click to download
YouTube Video - Escuela Activa Urbana
YouTube Video - Escuela Activa Urbana - Testimonio
Other - Facebook Page
Other - Twitter Page
Project Website - Fundación Luker Site
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