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Volume 51 / Social Sciences

EDUCATION: LATIN AMERICA (except Brazil)


ROLLAND G. PAULSTON, Professor of Administrative and Policy Studies, University of Pittsburgh

EDUCATIONAL STUDIES BY LATIN AMERICANS and others continue to be characterized by a wide range of ideological perspectives, research traditions, and proposals for change. And, as the excellent state-of-the-art review edited by Mitchell (item bi 89000452) clearly indicates, paradigmatic, theoretical, and methodological orientations chosen by education scholars also play a part in debates in the social sciences and humanities. The proper role of education in a context of declining resources, as Leonard's review essay (item bi 88002626) illustrates, largely depends on how you view or "read" the problem (i.e., functionalists call for more rigorous educational research, innovation, and education for consensus; Marxists rather predictably call for radical structural change; and radical humanists articulate their view of education as a forum for cultural politics where consciousness-raising about the reality of dependence can lead to cultural action for freedom). Valuable examples of how critical theories of underdevelopment and dependency supposedly open new vistas for educational studies may be found in Mota (item bi 88001012), Acevedo (item bi 88001854), and A. Magendzo (item bi 88001870).

Multiple views of educational reality, causality, and necessary treatment are present in work on every area of educational practice. Restrepo (item bi 88001858), for example, documents the legal basis of the teaching profession, and stresses obligation, responsibilities, and sanctions. Pardo (item bi 88001886) and Núñez (item bi 88001862) document the struggle of teachers and their unions for economic justice, professional status, and more recent attempts by military regimes to break teachers' organizations.

Studies of the Catholic Church's role in education range from the traditional (Mantilla, item bi 89000467, and Gómez, item bi 88001860) to the call by Padre Hurtado of Chile (item bi 88001893) for social humanism and a program of social action and education to benefit workers, women, and children. Consequences of the 1972 Educational Reform in Peru for Catholic education (Klaiber, item bi 89000065) suggest the difficulties of such social action in a context of populist reform (i.e., Catholic educational programs there have bifurcated into those for the rich and those for the poor).

Studies of higher education, long the mainstay of Latin American educational scholarship, also fall into several groups. The traditionalist, or cultural elitists, lament declining standards, and defend autonomy and the search for truth and beauty (Montenegro, item bi 88001884). The functionalists advocate modernization for greater internal and external efficiency (Vélez, item bi 91000207), a more rational "open" society (Arriagada, item bi 88001848), educación politécnica and private sector emphasis to meet growing demand (Parra L., item bi 88001897, and Levy, item bi 89000412), and new curricula that include communication "sciences" (Galindo, item bi 89001231). In contrast, studies by Martínez (item bi 88001889) and Guevara (item bi 89000466), represent the equally prolific radical literature on the contributions of revolutionary students and faculty in struggles seeking a new university for a new society.

Descriptive studies of curriculum, school programs, and administration are numerous but of little consequence (item bi 89000439 is illustrative). Exceptions are Madriz's review of art education in Venezula (item bi 88001871), and the straightforward and useful guide for creating and operating school libraries with minimal resources by Villalobos (item bi 88001852). Administrators might well read Street's account (item bi 91000305) of how administrative reform efforts in Mexico foundered for lack of openness to teacher and community organizations.

Literature on large-scale educational reforms has diminished somewhat as national systems face declining budgets, and reduction of educational services. Aside from the descriptive genre such as Espinoza (item bi 88001861), most reform studies seek to explain failure citing internal causes (i.e., excessive bureaucracy, sterile pedagogy, over-centralization, special interest groups, etc., see for example, items bi 88001866 and bi 88001883). Explanations of educational reform failure that blame exogenous factors are less prevalent. The best of these is McGinn and Street's exemplary study of failed decentralization attempts in Peru, Chile, and Mexico (item bi 88000080) which concludes that such reforms are not problems amenable to planning and technical solutions but long-term projects based on a consensus seeking the elimination of social injustice and the redistribution of political power. Marxist studies, in contrast, present both evaluation and a road map. Briones (item bi 88001851) argues that the reform of Chilean rural education failed because of the requirements of a capitalist economy and mode of production. Using a similar perspective, Echeverría (item bi 91000104) sees failure as inevitable in Argentine rural schools, another reform launched without the necessary socioeconomic change. But since such structural change is a function of power, how will the politically weak replace capitalism with socialism? Cristancho (item bi 88001878) reviews Colombian educational reforms since 1957 and produces a well-documented if somewhat utopian answer: he sees changes being made "in the small daily struggles" of teachers, students, campesinos, workers and the like. Two additional studies in which practical problems of reform are addressed should also be cited: one work presents a peronist guide to help common people understand problems of inequity in education, and to further their participation in a national congress to initiate reform (item bi 89000445); and Sardiñas (item bi 91000293) reports that massive reform in Cuban education led to a decline in verbal standards so that pre-university education must now stress remedial language programs.

Studies of the political economy of education, and of education and the State continue to proliferate and represent the highest level of scholarly attainment in the field. The best of these are Mexican historical studies and they are impressive contributions to our understanding of relations between education and ideological, economic, and political interests during different historical periods. For example, Meneses Morales (item bi 89000411) traces the emergence of popular education and the seminal contributions of Vasconcelos and Bassols in the post-revolutionary decades. He argues that Mexican schools played a central role in bringing Indian culture into a new populist mestizo national culture. Moreno B. (item bi 8900469) covers much of the same ground and provides a perceptive assessment of Cárdenas' concern to wed Mexican schooling to socialist reconstruction. Guevara N. (item bi 88001995), Kovacs (item bi 91000297), Labra (item bi 88001872), and Vaughn (item bi 91000306) also build upon this scholarly tradition but with a regional focus, while Hodge (item bi 91001420) examines the development of public schooling and nationalism in Argentina. Also noteworthy are the studies of Lomnitz (item bi 89000394) and again, Levy (item bi 89000412), who makes a somewhat Victorian evolutionary argument that historical states or "waves" determine educational forms and processes.

Although the scholarship on the subject of adult education is less impressive, its urgency makes it an important topic for educational studies. Authors interested in more efficient adult education use functionalist perspectives to advance both technological solutions (item bi 89000415) and government intervention (Ortin, item bi 88001887). Catholic programs for rural and indigenous adults (e.g., Instituto Colombiano, item bi 89000448, and Alaix, item bi 88001877) report the attempted use of participatory approaches, citing mixed results. Anthropological efforts also combine paternalism with participation (item bi 89000442), but place more emphasis on cultural survivals (Arguedas, item bi 88001896, and item bi 88001849). Cultural radicals also advocate a participation that involves their agenda for consciousness-raising and social reconstruction (e.g., Blondet, item bi 88001873, and item bi 88001865). Orthodox Marxist and other radical structuralists also have made substantial contributions to this literature. Cuba is now all but forgotten and Nicaragua is the favored example of how revolutionary restructuring in favor of peasants and workers provides the correct conditions for effective adult education (i.e., education for liberation, see for example, Torres, item bi 88001881; Arnove, item bi 88001875; and Tello, item bi 88001869). LaBelle (item bi 90014533) stakes out the middle ground in his review, and concludes that although popular adult education efforts have been "more stabilizing than change oriented, they continue nevertheless given the dismal record of human capital programs and the avoidance of more radical clandestine efforts."

Perhaps the most encouraging studies describe successful adaptation of imported theory and methods to local conditons. Abello (item bi 89000450) provides an excellent account of how US social program evaluations can be useful in a Latin American setting; and Pérez Alarcón (item bi 88001885) offers an impressive text and guide for pre-school programs in poor communities. This workbook abounds in useful ideas and draws successfully on Piaget, Freire, Berger and Luckman among others.

Studies of modernization, manpower, and human resource development are in decline (see Mitchell, item bi 89000452, Hunte, item bi 91000130, and item bi 89000451), while the problem of how to develop the scientific and technological capability of Latin America has emerged as a top priority for the OAS and international development agencies, if not for Latin American educational authorities (items bi 89000444, bi 88001876, and bi 89000410). The underdevelopment of science education and scientific research is variously explained as a consequence of military rule (item bi 88001880); of educational and scientific "parasitism" (Carrillo, item bi 89000468); of theoretical and formalistic bias (Masser, item bi 88002597); of an inferiority complex among youth (Roche, item bi 89000446); of weak political will and organizational infrastructure (Adler, item bi 88002608, and Koehler and Segal, item bi 91000131); of populist pressures (Sagasti, item bi 89000335); of a colonized mentality and lack of interest (item bi 88001012); and inter alia of the lack of socialist reconstruction that will lead, as in Cuba, towards an ideologically "correct" Marxist science (item bi 88000858).

Solutions proposed to move beyond scientific and technological dependency and underdevelopment follow rather predictably from the authors' etiological bias. For example, functionalists argue for more and better R&D (Palma, item bi 89001229, and von Wuthenau, item bi 88002514), more rigorous education in the physical sciences (Castillo T., item bi 91000203), increased flows of information (Segal, item bi 90014535), and improved science curriculum (Ambrósio, item bi 88001876). Burgeoning interpretative studies argue for more participation and action research targeted at local agendas and locally perceived needs (Hall, item bi 88001857, García-Guadilla, item bi 91000307, and Made, item bi 88001880). Critical works predictably see the elimination of structured inequality and dependency as prerequisites for the meaningful development of applied science and its application to human and social development concerns (Hirsch, item bi 89000443). Cuba and Nicaragua are held up as examples of success in this regard (Bondar, item bi 90005274, and Kuzmíschev, item bi 88002559), but objective assessements of these radical experiments have yet to be published.

In sum, Latin American educational studies are alive and well. While more rigid framing perspectives such as structural functionalism and Marxist radical structuralism are in decline, more flexible interpretations based on the Latin American experience are increasing. A first call for openness to multiple paradigmatic framing choices has appeared (item bi 91000307), as has a proposal for a new interpretative curriculum by Gutierrez P. (item bi 88001895). Covo (item bi 91000294) deconstructs history texts to discover a new image of mestizo culture arising out of conflict, and Harpin (item bi 88001864) leads the way to the future with a post-modern story of colonization and education in Martinique that is rich in poetry, paradox, and insight.


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