Imagine a primary school where children work together to learn things that are relevant to their lives, where teachers are facilitators who foster comprehension and democratic behaviour, and where parents and communities are actively involved in their children’s education. Now imagine that this is not an exclusive private school open to a wealthy few, but a state school in a developing country attended by children who are among the poorest in the world. This is not a utopian dream but reality for over 20,000 schools in Colombia attended by five million children today. They are “Escuela Nueva” schools.
Although I had a privileged education, I was always aware that many other children in Colombia did not. It was this sense of injustice and inequity that led me to work in the field of education, as well as my conviction that sustainable development and democracy could not be achieved unless all children were educated from an early age to become future citizens in society. My goal became to make sure that all children had equal opportunities of access to success despite their low income.
Internationally renowned innovator in the education field, Vicky is the founder and co-author of the Escuela Nueva program. Vicky has had a life-long career in public service focused on disadvantaged populations. As a sociologist and educator, she is particularly interested in fostering social change in a sustainable and effective way. Through working with rural teachers and the National Ministry of Education in the 1970's, she became acutely aware of the challenges and sometimes neglect facing schools in the Colombian countryside, and the urgent need for an innovative solution. In the mid-1970s, she co-designed Escuela Nueva. Following the spectacular results of the pilot programs, the EN model was adopted as national policy that reached about 20,000 of Colombia's rural schools. Over the following decades, the success of the model inspired further implementation in countries through out Latin America, and other parts of the developing world. In 1989, the World Bank selected Escuela Nuevas as one of the three most important innovations in education in developing countries that had impacted national policies.
Driven by the conviction that people's challenges must ultimately be resolved by the people, Vicky established the Escuela Nueva Foundation in 1987 as a technical consultant on Escuela Nueva, in order to bring the model closer to the communities in need. Under her leadership, the Foundation has worked to strengthen rural programs internationally, as well as adapt the model for disadvantaged urban schools, displaced children, and youth workers. More than 35 countries have visited this Colombian experience to inspire their educational reforms.
Prior to her leadership in the Foundation, Vicky has also served as International Consultant for the World Bank, as Regional Advisor of Latin America and the Caribbean for UNICEF, as Vice Minister of Education for Colombia, and as advisor to several education and children's organizations internationally.
Internationally, she has been recognized as an Outstanding Social Entrepreneur by the Schwab Foundation, founded by Klaus Schwab President of the World Economic Forum, and a Leading Social Entrepreneur and Senior Fellow by Ashoka. She was also awarded in 2005 with the World Technology Award in Social Entrepreneurship by the World Technology Network.
Most recently, she received the Skoll Foundation’s Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, was appointed by Ex President Bill Clinton to serve as an Advisory Board member of the “Education Working Group” for the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative and was selected by President Clinton to receive the honorary and first ever Clinton Global Citizenship award. In Colombia, she has been selected among the 100 most influential women of Colombia’s history and as the Most Successful Woman of 2002 in the education field.
Colbert completed her undergraduate Sociology degree at Javeriana University in Colombia, and earned two master's degrees (Sociology of Education and Comparative International Education) from Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA.