Teachers' Perceptions of Their
Participation in Policy Choices: The
Bottom-up Approach of the Nueva
Escuela Unitaria in Guatemala
Martha E. Mantilla
In this chapter, I show the relationship between participation on the one hand and policy formation and appropriation on the other. More specifically, I address the issue of teachers' participation in the formation and appropriation of educational policies within the context of the Nueva Escuela Unitaria1 (NEU) in Guatemala. NEU is an educational reform initiative that seeks innovative ways of engaging different actors such as teachers, parents, students, government officials, and program administrators in the decisions concerning the educational choices that affect their lives.2
I begin with a brief summary of the views of donor agencies and international organizations on people's participation in local affairs during the last five decades. I introduce the NEU educational reform initiative and provide background information on Guatemala's social and political conditions. I concentrate on the teachers' perceptions of their participation in the formation and appropriation of educational policies and conclude the article with a discussion of NEU's bottom-up philosophy on policy formation and appropriation.
Participation, according to the Oxford University Dictionary (1933), means "taking part, with others, in some action or matter." Two aspects of this broad definition are highlighted in this chapter: One of them is the notion of taking part with others, which gives us the idea of participation as a joint endeavor. The other one is the notion of participation in some action or matter, which gives us the idea of participation for a specific purpose. In this chapter, the