Active Urban School (AUS)

Active Urban School (EAU) has been designed and developed since 2002 in a partnership of Luker Foundation with the Manizales Major’s 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.


As a general objective, the Urban Active School program aims to improve the quality and efficiency of education in low-income sectors, based on the proposals active pedagogy and lessons learned from New School. The objectives Program specific focus on:

Strengthen school management through advice, training and accompaniment of the officials schools and the crew of the Ministry of Education;

Build and implement an active pedagogical model in the urban area of the of Manizales City;

Improve school environments through human development programs and support with endowment of educational materials;

Promote the development of basics competencies in the students and teachers;


1) Creating an excellent relationship and communication with the Local Department of Education in the Major´s Office;

2) Model training for teachers and principals (their principles, teaching, pedagogy and the components);

3) Awareness activities for students and parents about what the new model will bring to their institution;

4) On-going accompaniment for teachers and principals (strengthening and sustaining the various components of AUS; inside and outside the classroom);

5) Funding: provision of teaching materials and furniture needed to achieve the educational purposes of EAU;

6) Regular monitoring visits to by the management committee.


Aspects such as context, the mediation, the teacher-student relationships, the method, content and training interests take a special meaning. This model gives the school an active role in the training of people with judgment ability on the ethical, political, economic, social and ideological aspects. It also proposes curriculum integration under the following criteria:

Socioeconomic and cultural learning contexts;

Flexibility and openness;

Theoretical and practical relationship;


Higher education access;

From the beginning, the program has been assessed and evaluated in terms of the quality of their processes and outcomes, and also impact assessments.


A) Qualitative Aspects:

Better relationships teacher/student (more horizontal);

Students feel more listened by their teachers;

More autonomy in the students;

Higher levels of student participation;

Students are more involved in the students organizations;

Further development of practical work and research in teams;

Better use of prior knowledge of students;

More teamwork;

Increased use of libraries and other resources;

Increased student motivation in school;

Practical work most often used as an assessment tool;

Best performance in general labor skills;

More interest of parents in the education of their children.

B) Quantitative Aspects:

The schools in the program were presented in 2012 to the PISA tests as an individual sample, obtaining better results than the other schools of Manizales, Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and all the average in Colombia.;

The access to the higher education has been improved from 33% to 70%.


The project aims to transform the education sector in Manizales (Medium size city of Colombia). The main challenge is to keep continous support for the initiative among all the public, private and academic actors.


Integration of involved actors is proved by the permanence of the 13-years public-private partnership between the Luker Foundation and Local Department of Education in the Project. Additionally, inside the model, institutions present better integration through regular meetings of the program support team. The schools seems being improved institutional capacity, the school management and school coordination. The impact of the AUS project has been recognized by national and international authorities and the project has been included in all the Mayor’s Government Development Plan as part of the public education policy, ensuring the long-term financial and technical support.