Every two years, the Jacobs Foundation awards the Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prizes to trailblazers seeking evidence-based solutions to education’s biggest challenges. In this series, Annie Brookman-Byrne meets with the finalists of the 2022 awards. In part 3, Annie talks to Santiago Isaza Arango from the Luker Foundation in Colombia.

Annie Brookman-Byrne: What are the biggest challenges for education in Colombia? 

Santiago Isaza Arango: We face four main challenges. The first is ensuring the social and emotional wellbeing of students and teachers. The second challenge is making sure that all children perform well academically, with a particular emphasis on literacy and numeracy. The third is providing access to higher education and labour market skills. The fourth challenge is equipping children with what we call ‘global skills’ – those that are needed for lifelong success in our connected, digital world, particularly English-language and digital skills.  

“The fourth challenge is equipping children with what we call ‘global skills’ – those that are needed for lifelong success in our connected, digital world, particularly English-language and digital skills.”

ABB: What solutions are needed to transform education in Latin America?

SIA: In general, our country needs to improve the public education system. We need better public policies and programs, and increased investments to improve school conditions and provide more resources. We need better infrastructure, more training for pre-service and in-service teachers, social and emotional support in schools, plus access to the internet and academic resources.  

ABB: What is your vision for the future of education in Latin America? 

SIA: I hope to see solutions to some longstanding problems in our public education system. I would like to see improvements in literacy, numeracy, social and emotional skills, as well as access to higher education for all. We also need to develop global skills in our students. This means embracing technology in education and starting to teach English as a second language in our public schools. This will prepare students to face present and future global challenges.   

SIA: Educated and entrepreneurial people are transformative – they can generate development for themselves and their communities. Mindful of that fact, the Luker Foundation is committed to quality public education, entrepreneurship as an engine for economic development, sustainable rural development, and social inclusion.

We work hand in hand with the government and other allies to strengthen processes in both the city of Manizales and the entire country of Colombia. We build local solutions for global challenges!

We have developed evidence-based interventions for education that center around students. Our goal is to solve many of the educational challenges we face in Colombia. In particular, our interventions target social and emotional learning, literacy, numeracy, and access to higher education geared to learning technical skills. We use a monitoring and evaluation system that allows us to continually iterate, adjust, and improve our solutions.

ABB: Finally, what do you hope to learn from the work of another Best Practice Prize finalist?

SIA: I admire the work of Youth Impact, a youth-led evidence-based movement in Botswana. It is doing important work in leveraging the learning of vulnerable children in Botswana and other countries in innovative ways. We are looking forward to seeking a possible alliance with Youth Impact to better understand its telephone-based remediation program in literacy and numeracy.  


Santiago Isaza Arango is an industrial engineer specialized in international business management. Santiago holds a master’s degree in Strategic and Prospective Thinking. He plans, executes, evaluates, and monitors social projects. He has also managed national and international alliances.

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