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Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta education. Mostrar todas las entradas

The World Economic Forum and educational quality

Rosa María Torres


The Ecuadorian Public News Agency (Andes) published the note "Ecuador leads the primary education quality ranking in South America" ("Ecuador lidera ranking de calidad en educación primaria de Suramérica", 25 April 2014). The note quoted the Global Competitiveness Index 2013-2014  of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Ecuador appears in position number 74 (3.8 points) in this category. Andes refers to South America - and not to Latin America - since Costa Rica (located in Central America) appears in position 32 (4.8 points), thus with a leading position in the region. (See table at the bottom)

WEF's ranking on educational quality took us by surprise as well as the values attributed to Latin American countries. In the regional context, Cuba occupies a prominent position in the two studies conducted so far by UNESCO's Latin American Laboratory for Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE). LLECE tests assess Language and Mathematics in third and sixth grades, and Natural Sciences in sixth grade. 16 countries participated in the second study (SERCE, 2006). Cuba, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay were above the regional average; Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic appeared below the regional average. (See SERCE's Executive Summary).

The presence (or absence) of other countries in the world in the first 74 positions of quality primary education, also called our attention. Thus, we decided to find out how WEF defines quality education and establishes the rankings. It turns out that they result from an Opinion Survey - "The Voice of the Business Community" (110 respondents in Costa Rica; 118 in Ecuador, for the various topics).

As seen on Table 4.9 on Quality Primary Education, the question asked was:


In your country, how would you assess the quality of primary schools?
1 = extremely poor - among the worst in the world.
7 = excellent - among the best in the world.


Several concerns arise:

a) WEF does not indicate that the 'quality of education' indicator is related to perceptions and opinions, rather than to objective research.

b) The business community is not necessarily a specialized voice in the field of education and in he topic of educational quality. Also, Partner Institutes - as they are called in the report- may be linked to the government in ways that make it difficult to have an independent opinion. Quality of education (of any level and sort) is a complex and much debated concept, dependant on many factors. Dealing with it requires specialized and well-informed knowledge;

c) Quality of education is essentially and ultimately related to learning processes and outcomes. Specific measures and instruments have been developed nationally and internationally in order to assess such processes and outcomes, beyond opinions;

d) The question asks about primary schools - not about primary education. This leads to pay attention to issues such as infrastructure or equipment, disregarding education as such, pedagogy and learning;

e) In Latin America and in other "developing regions" there are often huge and persistent gaps between rural and urban schools, and between indigenous and non-indigenous schools, thus making it very difficult to judge quality of primary schools in general;

f) It is widely acknowledged and confirmed that less educated societies or segments of the population tend to be the ones that are most satisfied with their school systems and the education they receive, while more educated societies or social segments tend to be more dissatisfied and critical. This reinforces the vicious circle of low quality education.

A study conducted by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), adding specific questions to the Gallup World Survey, concluded that Latin America has "excessive satisfaction" vis a vis health and education services, given the objective quality of such services. This was and remains true especially in the case of education. Discipline, security and infrastructure tend to be valued by Latin Americans much more than teaching, learning, and effective learning outcomes. Perceptions of quality are particularly distant from realities. See: Beyond Facts, Understanding Quality of Life, Eduardo Lora (ed.), IDB, 2007.

The same applies to PISA international tests. Despite the fact that participating Latin American countries systematically occupy the last positions in the three areas assessed (reading, mathematics and science), students are quite happy with their schools (question asked: "Am I happy in school?"). The low results/high satisfaction paradox is prominent in Latin America.

In conclusion: we should not consider WEF's values and rankings attributed to quality of education as reliable and useful indicators.




RANK         COUNTRY/ECONOMY              VALUE

1 Finland ........................................... 6.8
2 Belgium ......................................... 6.3
3 Singapore ...................................... 6.0
4 Barbados ....................................... 6.0
5 Switzerland .................................... 6.0
6 New Zealand ................................ 5.8
7 Lebanon ........................................ 5.7
8 Ireland ............................................ 5.7
9 Malta ............................................. 5.7
10 Netherlands ..................................5.7
11 Qatar ............................................5.6
12 Cyprus ..........................................5.6
13 Canada .........................................5.5
14 Taiwan, China  ..............................5.4
15 Iceland ..........................................5.4
16 Bosnia and Herzegovina...............5.4
17 Brunei Darussalam........................5.3
18 Estonia ..........................................5.2
19 United Arab Emirates ...................5.2
20 Slovenia ........................................5.1
21 Japan ...........................................5.1
22 Australia ........................................5.0
23 Korea, Rep...................................5.0
24 Sweden ........................................5.0
25 Germany .......................................5.0
26 Lithuania .......................................5.0
27 Montenegro ..................................5.0
28 Austria ..........................................4.9
29 Norway .........................................4.9
30 Hong Kong SAR ...........................4.9
31 United Kingdom ............................4.9
32 Costa Rica.....................................4.8
33 Malaysia ........................................4.8
34 Latvia ............................................4.8
35 France ..........................................4.7
36 Guyana .........................................4.7
37 Ukraine .........................................4.7
38 Croatia ..........................................4.7
39 Luxembourg .................................4.7
40 Italy ...............................................4.7
41 United States ................................4.7
42 Denmark .......................................4.7
43 Sri Lanka......................................4.6
44 Jordan ..........................................4.6
45 Trinidad and Tobago ......................4.6
46 Portugal ........................................4.5
47 Mauritius .......................................4.5
48 Bhutan ..........................................4.5
49 Seychelles .....................................4.4
50 Gambia, The.................................4.4
51 Czech Republic............................4.3
52 Hungary ........................................4.3
53 Albania ..........................................4.3
54 Slovak Republic............................4.3
55 Indonesia ......................................4.3
56 China ............................................4.3
57 Oman ...........................................4.2
58 Poland ..........................................4.2
59 Saudi Arabia.................................4.2
60 Bulgaria ........................................4.1
61 Russian Federation.......................4.1
62 Swaziland .....................................4.1
63 Zimbabwe .....................................4.1
64 Bahrain .........................................4.0
65 Iran, Islamic Rep...........................4.0
66 Spain ............................................4.0
67 Botswana .....................................4.0
68 Suriname ......................................4.0
69 Kazakhstan ...................................3.9
70 Macedonia, FYR...........................3.9
71 Israel .............................................3.9
72 Tunisia ..........................................3.9
73 Cape Verde..................................3.9
74 Ecuador ........................................3.8

SOURCE: World Economic Forum, Executive Opinion Survey

Related texts in this blog
Sobre evaluación en educaciónOn evaluation in education

On Innovation and Change in Education


Rosa María Torres
(text in progress)

Light bulb - Fubiz

"You cannot force ideas. Successful ideas are the result of slow growth." Alexander Graham Bell

Innovation - leading to meaningful change - is imperative   

Innovation is about change towards improvement. The term innovation does not say anything about the nature, orientation, pertinence and depth of such change and of such improvement. Education - both in and out of school - requires major, radical change. Minor, superficial, isolated, scattered changes modify nothing. In fact, innovation is over-rated. The innovation rhetoric is often embraced and promoted by conservative mentalities that do not see the need for profound and systemic change. Increasing access to the school system as we know it, and improving its results as measured by standardized tests, without changes in obsolete teaching and learning mentalities and patterns, reinforces and amplifies the same old "banking education" model, no matter how much money or technology is injected into the system. What is needed - and has been needed for a long time now - is not only more or better education, but a different education, teaching and learning model.

▸ Innovations are particularly important in periods of crisis 

Throughout the world, in "developed" and "developing" countries (the North and the South), there is deep dissatisfaction with current education, training and learning systems. Innovative experiences contribute to generate critical awareness on the weaknesses of conventional education practices. They show new angles, possibilities, alternatives, ways out. They reveal that commitment, creativity and change are there and alive behind the apparent inertia and despite adverse conditions. In fact, the most inspiring educational innovations are usually found in the most difficult and disadvantaged circumstances - rural and remote areas, urban slums, small villages, poor neighborhoods, multilingual settings, learners with special needs, etc.

It is critical to transform the school system, the most widespread vehicle of systematic education  

While innovation occurs on a daily basis in schools and classrooms, change is slow and non-systemic. Innovation is often the initiative of enthusiastic, committed and subversive individuals, whether teachers, headmasters or higher ranking officials. Activating and accelerating change requires persistent and co-ordinated interventions from all sides: top-down and bottom-up, from inside the school and from the outside, from parents and students, universities, the media, civil societies, political actors, private enterprise. Experience shows that innovations developed on the margins of the school system tend to be shortlived if they are unable to influence mainstream education

Out-of-school education also requires major changes 

The term education is generally reduced to school education. On the other hand, innovation in education is often associated with non-formal or out-of-school education, with NGO programmes rather than with government ones. However, more and more education and learning take place out of the school system, in the family, the community, the workplace, the media, cultural activities, sports, contact with nature, use of the Internet and digital technologies, autonomous reading and writing, social and political participation, etc. Not all education labelled non-formal or run by non-governmental organizations is innovative. At the same time, there are many examples of powerful innovation taking place within public school systems. Renovation is a need and a challenge for the education, training and learning field as a whole, governmental and non-governmental, formal, non-formal and informal, dealing with people of all ages - children, youth and adults.   

Innovation is not necessarily related to, or dependent on, the introduction of technologies  

The emergence and extraordinary expansion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the past few years is leading many to view them as the new saviors that will ensure universal education and learning as well as educational innovation, improvement and change. The so-called Knowledge Society and the image of "the world as a huge classroom" are today strongly associated to the utopia of a connected world where every individual will have access not only to information but to knowledge. Realities show, however, the limits of such overconfidence on ICTs as guardians of educational democratization and change. Experience is already showing that incorporating digital devices and the Internet to schools and classrooms does not necessarily change curricula or pedagogical practice. Acesss to does not ensure effective use of. Access to the Internet is no longer enough; the speed of the Internet connection is a new critical component of the digital gap. One third of the world's population remains excluded from the Internet, and broad band is still a luxury in most countries in the South. And yet, social and pedagogical innovation continue to take place in those contexts that have limited or no contact with the digital world.

Innovation is nourished by collaboration, not competition 

People tend to associate innovation with isolated individuals or institutions rather than with groups and teams. However, innovation flourishes
when there is collaboration rather than competition, when many minds and efforts are involved. Learning to collaborate, rather than to compete, is today a key challenge for school systems, which are going exactly in the opposite direction, forcing students to compete with each other in the name of "excellence". Learning to collaborate is also a challenge at the workplace, in social and political life. In an increasingly competitive world and with an increasingly competitive Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), chances of technological and social innovation become slimmer rather than bigger.

Innovators get better with age 

Contrary to popular belief, the capacity to innovate and the quality of the innovation become better with age. Research shows that "the age of eventual Nobel Prize winners when making a discovery, and of inventors when making a significant breakthrough, averaged around 38 in 2000, an increase of about six years since 1900." "A 55-year-old and even a 65-year-old have significantly more innovation potential than a 25-year-old." Reasons for this include: 1. It is necessary to learn the patterns before daring and being able to break them. 2. The capacity to learn from mistakes is essential for innovating and it grows with age. 3. Gray hair gives more confidence and better capacity to convince others. The Finnish school model considers that a teacher is better equipped for good teaching after at least ten years of practice. All this contradicts "common sense" and regular practices in school systems worldwide, where 60 or 65 year old teachers are forced to retire when many of them are often in the best years of their careers.

Innovations are of very different kinds and scopes  

Innovations may have an eminently transforming or an eminently preserving nature, and may vary greatly in scope and impact. Some innovations challenge the traditional  education model in important aspects ("disruptive", "radical", "alterative", "transformative", "paradigmatic", are some of the terms used); others focus on marginal modifications. Some innovations produce the illusion of change, while replicating conventional teaching-learning practices (this is often the case of innovations that rely on technologies as main motors of change). Many are the result of exceptional situations and processes and are thus hardly replicable in other contexts. Many operate in well-controlled micro conditions and are thus hard to scale-up. Most innovations do not transcend the micro and the local level. Few reach the required depth, consistency and persistence to become true educational alternatives. 

Innovations are never totally innovative  

Experiences considered "innovative" may have one or more innovative components, while other aspects remain unchanged. Continuity and discontinuity, tradition and innovation, are not mutually exclusive. In fact, education carries the double mission of preserving tradition and promoting change, learning about the past while preparing for the future. Very often innovations in education are related to administration, organization and infrastructure, which are the easiest to for top-down initiative and control; curricular and pedagogical innovations are rare and hard to sustain since they require educators' will, motivation and competencies. In this terrain, attention is usually given to instructional materials; less attention is given to critical dimensions such as changes in role/behavior, knowledge production, dissemination and use, understanding, internalization of values, etc. Influencing the real curriculum and changing the teaching culture (stereotypes, ideologies, styles, practices) have proven the most difficult and challenging.
 
The starting point for innovation is critical awareness and analysis of practice

Innovation implies seeing the obvious with new eyes, or putting into practice what is already known. Innovation is often about old ideas being resuscitated, rejuvenated, placed in new contexts or applied to new issues, or about new combinations of the same ideas, or about new components integrated into old ones. While external inputs and stimuli are important, change takes place only when it involves ownership, understanding, reflection and critical analysis of one's own practice. 

Educational change requires working at both macro and micro levels 

The term innovation is usually associated with local actors and initiatives and with on-the-ground experiences. The term reform, on the contrary, is associated with large-scale, top-down initiatives, coming from governments and/or international agencies. Educational development and change require both bottom-up and top-down efforts and interventions. Sustained and effective change can only be systemic and this requires complementary and coordinated interventions at both levels. If the school is the focus for change, students, teachers and parents must be placed at the center of the process. Trusting teachers, empowering them, investing in their professional autonomy and status, are essential conditions to ensure building change from the ground up.

Innovation must be based on realistic grounds  

Perennial, ambitious or radical reform projects often succumb to reality, leaving in their wake skepticism and increasing resistance to change. Many times, changes proposed are too complex or not feasible under concrete conditions and proposed timetables. Typically, teachers are expected to change long-entrenched teaching models and styles with little explanation and short in-service training courses; group work and participatory methods are prescribed regardless of overcrowded classrooms, overloaded curricula or lack of the minimal physical conditions; parental and community involvement in the school is promoted in the absence of any tradition of such involvement and of information, communication or capacity-building efforts. A thorough diagnosis of the starting point and of actual conditions - including resistance to the changes proposed (often confused with "resistance to change" in general), especially when they are not properly communicated and understood - is essential for effective reform implementation.

The innovation process takes time 

Developing, consolidating, institutionalizing and expanding an innovation takes time. Based on lessons from concrete experiences, some authors recommend an initial period of three to five years, and others even a decade or more, before starting an expansion and dissemination process. The fact is that it is easy to initiate innovation but it is hard to sustain and institutionalize it. Many innovative initiatives die before they can even walk by themselves. The field of educational innovation is full of tombs, an indication of the complexities involved and of the haste and simplistic approaches adopted by policy makers and administrators. Survival beyond a limited period of time becomes an indicator of success in itself.

Consolidating and expanding innovation requires a careful strategy  

Systemic does not mean simultaneous: change requires a progressive experimentation and implementation strategy that foresees the different stages and components, the necessary conditions, capacities, resources, support and evaluation to be provided along the way. Understanding, ownership and full involvement of those engaged in the innovation process are conditions for its success. Resistance of some sort must be expected, and a strategy devised to deal with it from the beginning rather than letting it come as a surprise. It is also important to bear in mind that, while initial steps may be encouraging, innovation does not follow a linear evolution: reversion or stagnation is common, as revealed by reports on innovations and reforms that went back into the "old" ways.

Innovation can capture educators' enthusiasm provided that certain conditions are met  

The proverbial "resistance" of teachers to change has less to do with teachers' characteristics than with what is required of them and under what conditions. Experience has taught teachers that "change" is routine rhetoric in education, something that comes in waves and always from the top. If desired change does not occur within a given (usually short) period of time, it is the teachers who are blamed, not the architects of the plan. Changing teachers' role is not something that can be imposed from the outside and taught through some brief lecture or course. No change in school culture should be expected if it continues to be an external push, and if teachers continue to be viewed as mere implementors.

Innovation is not primarily about money

Often, the possibility of promoting change is perceived primarily as a monetary issue. However, abundant international experience, research and evaluation shows that higher spending in education is not necessarily related to improved teaching or improved learning. The main bottleneck for education reform is not economic or technical but political and cultural. The most important, sustainable and promising change in education has to do with mentalities, with values and attitudes towards education, towards teaching and learning, and towards learners. Ultimately, it is the will to change, at all levels, from central bureaucracies to school classrooms, that makes change foreseeable and possible.

Innovation is not about saying but about doing 

Educational rhetoric has been characterized by ambitious goals and grandiloquent words. Trends towards homogenization and "global education reform" have resulted in a well-known set of words: equity, quality, improvement, decentralization, school autonomy, teacher professionalization, assessment, evaluation, standardized testing, 'merit pay', parental and community involvement, cost-sharing, partnerships, consensus-building, focus on learning, participatory approaches, learner-centered methodologies, learner-friendly schools, technology in education, 1 to 1 models, and, of course, innovation.

There is a big gap between words and facts. Often, programmes are considered innovative because they say they are innovative; education reform proposals are confused with actual reform processes and results; the curriculum reform is considered to be a document; access to modern technologies and to the Internet is confused with actual and effective use, and taken as equivalent to innovation and change; etcetera. Real innovation and change must be perceivable, not intended.

Innovative experiences cannot be transplanted  

Education and learning are highly dependant on the actors engaged and on the contexts in which they develop. Historical, political, economic, social, cultural, linguistic and other dimensions shape education realities. In a way, each experience is unique. What is innovative in one place may be perfectly conventional in another; what is feasible and works in a certain context may be rejected or prove ineffective in a different one. There is no "what works/what does not work" in general. Accepting this and acknowledging diversity would avoid the common temptation to "model" successful experiences and try to replicate them with little or no regard for the particular context and conditions that enable, and ultimately explain, them. 

Innovative experiences may inspire or challenge similar attempts elsewhere but cannot be adopted - and sometimes even adapted - successfully from one context to another. Innovation is about search, exploration and experimentation, not about importing ready-to-use 'one size fits all' models.

Little is still known about educational change   

The nature of educational change is complex and as yet not fully understood. Little is still known on how innovations are initiated, developed, disseminated and institutionalized. Innovations, "success stories" and "best practices" tend to be described superficially and included in boxes in national and international reports. We lack information about cultures and contexts, dynamics and contradictions involved in the process. Educational and pedagogical change worldwide would benefit enormously from thorough contextual and in situ studies (not mere accounts), analyses (not mere descriptions) and debate (not mere information sharng) on successful and sustainable innovative practices.

To learn more

Receta para la reforma educativa ▸ Recipe for education reform


Rosa María Torres


All posters

Esta es la receta neoliberal para la reforma educativa instalada en los 1990s, recomendada por el Banco Mundial y otros organismos internacionales a los gobiernos de los "países en desarrollo". Próximamente actualizaremos la receta, para reflejar las tendencias actuales de la reforma educativa a nivel mundial.

This is the neoliberal recipe for the education reform prescribed by the World Bank and other international agencies to governments in "developing countries" in the 1990s. In a separate post we will update the recipe to reflect current trends in global education reform.

(see English text below)


COSTO: Caro
DIFICULTAD: Alta
TIEMPO: Entre dos y cinco años (dependiendo del tiempo político)

INGREDIENTES:
- 1 paquete grande de préstamos y asesoría internacionales
- 1 lata de análisis económico en su tinta
- 1 lata de expertos
- 2 kilos de reforma administrativa bien picada
- 200 gramos de reforma curricular (en rodajas)
- 100 gramos de reforma pedagógica (en polvo, para espolvorear)
- 1 tazón de caldo de descentralización
- 1 educación básica cortada en trocitos
- 1/2 cucharadita de incremento salarial
- 1 cucharadita de incentivos
- maestros y alumnos en proporciones adecuadas (1 por cada 40 ó 50)
- planteles educativos en proporciones adecuadas (1 por cada 2 ó 3 turnos)
- proyectos educativos institucionales (1 por plantel)
- libros de texto y tecnología educativa a gusto
- 1 sobre de tiempo de instrucción (levadura)
- 1/2 cucharadita de capacitación docente en servicio, baja en calorías
- 1/2 vaso de educación a distancia
- 1 sistema nacional de evaluación y pruebas que evalúen el "desempeño" tanto de alumnos como de docentes en el sistema escolar
- un tazón grande de "pago por mérito" a los docentes
- 2 cucharas de recuperación de costos (también llamada "participación comunitaria")
- zumo de competencia, concentrado (entre alumnos, entre docentes, entre escuelas)
- 1 programa compensatorio grande, finamente picado

PARA LA SALSA:
- 1 lata de consultas y consensos pelados

PREPARACION:
Poner a macerar los préstamos con la asesoría internacional y el análisis económico. Asegurarse de que la cacerola permanezca bien tapada durante la cocción del préstamo.
En una olla grande, rehogar el análisis económico. Cuando esté bien caliente, y en el jugo que ha desprendido, verter la educación básica, asegurándose de limpiarla de la educación secundaria y de la universitaria.
Continuar agregando los demás ingredientes: la reforma administrativa y la descentralización, la recuperación de costos, la tecnología educativa y los libros de texto, el tiempo de instrucción, la educación a distancia y el sistema nacional de evaluación. Para realzar el sabor, agregar unas gotitas de zumo de competencia.
Asegurarse de mantener bajos el fuego y los salarios docentes. Incrementarlos lentamente, vertiendo cada tanto un chorrito de incentivos y revolviendo constantemente, para evitar que espese. Cuando la mezcla haya dado un hervor, agregar los maestros y la capacitación en servicio. Verter la mezcla en un molde refractario a la opinión pública. Espolvorear la reforma pedagógica. Meter al horno a temperatura moderada.

SALSA DE CONSENSO:
En el agua en que se hizo la cocción, y en las proporciones que se indican en el envase, verter políticos, financistas, jerarcas eclesiales, empresarios, burócratas y expertos de organismos nacionales e internacionales, gubernamentales y no-gubernamentales. Condimentar con una pizca de participación docente. Licuar a baja velocidad hasta que el consenso adquiera el color y la consistencia deseados.Sacar la fuente del horno. Aderezar inmediatamente con la salsa consensual, antes de que se enfríe. Servir.

CONSEJO PRACTICO:
Acompañar la reforma así preparada con una ensalada de estudios y diagnósticos, un suflé informativo y/o una tortilla de eventos y publicaciones.

ADVERTENCIA:
La reforma educativa es un plato fuerte, pero no el plato más importante del banquete. Ver, en páginas anteriores, las recetas para el ajuste macroeconómico, la reforma administrativa del Estado, la reforma del sistema de prestaciones sociales, y la flexibilización laboral.  ❏


All posters


                                                    RECIPE FOR EDUCATION REFORM

Ingredients:
- 1 cup of cooked international loans mixed with technical assistance
- 1 cup firmly packed economic analysis
- 1 cup of experts
- 2 kilos of administrative reform, shredded
- 200 grams of curriculum reform, dried
- 100 grams of pedagogical reform powder
- 1 cup of decentralization
- 1 good-sized basic education, tender, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon of teacher salary increases
- 1 teaspoon of teacher incentives
- teachers and students in cost-effective proportions (1 teacher per every 40 or 50 students)
- school buildings (1 for every 2 or 3 shifts)
- school projects (one serving per school)
- textbooks and educational technology, to taste
- 1 ounce of time of instruction (baking powder)
- 1/2 teaspoon of teacher in-service training, low fat, low cholesterol
- 1/2 cup of distance education
- 1 national evaluation system aimed and standardized tests to evaluate students' and teachers' performance in school
- 1 big bowl of 'merit pay' 
- 2 tablespoons of cost-recovery (cost-sharing with families and communities)
- 1 tablespoon of competence juice, concentrated (between students, teachers, schools)
- 1 large compensatory program, finely chopped

For the sauce:
- 1 cup of canned consultation and consensus


Preparation:
Mix the loans with international assistance and economic analysis. Chill several hours to blend flavors. Make sure the pot is well sealed while the loan is cooked.


In a large pan, stir the mix. When hot, pour primary education. Peel it. With a teaspoon, scoop out and discard any seeds of secondary or tertiary education. In the reform processor, add remaining ingredients and mix at high speed: administrative reform, decentralization, privatization, cost-recovery, technology and textbooks, time of instruction, distance education and evaluation system. To enhance the flavor, add a few drops of competence.

Make sure both the fire and teacher salaries are kept low. Increase them slowly, occasionally pouring small amounts of incentives. Remove constantly, to prevent sticking. When the mix has come to a boil, top with teachers and sprinkle some teacher training. Pour the mix in a refractory bowl to public opinion. Sprinkle pedagogical reform. Bake over medium heat.


Remove from oven. Spread consensus sauce over top and serve immediately, before it gets cold.

Consensus sauce
In a small bowl, pour politicians, funders, church hierarchy, businesspeople, bureaucrats, technocrats and experts, both national and international. Fluff mixture with a fork. Sprinkle some teacher participation and consultation on top. Mix gently, but thoroughly, until the consensus reaches the desired color and consistency.


Recommendation:
For best results, add some tasty accompaniments to education reform. See, in previous pages, recipes for macroeconomic adjustment, State administrative reform, and labor market deregulation.


* Published originally in: CIES Newsletter, N° 124, New York, CIES (Comparative and International Education Society - USA), 2000. 

Textos relacionados / Related posts:
Rosa María Torres, La reforma educativa tradicional
Rosa María Torres, El molde de la reforma educativa
Rosa María Torres, Maldición de Malinche

Rosa María Torres, Repensando el entusiasmo evaluador y las pruebas
Rosa María Torres, El Banco Mundial y sus errores de política educativa ▸ The World Bank and its mistaken education policies
Rosa María Torres, 12 tesis para el cambio educativo
Rosa María Torres, ¿Mejorar la educación para aliviar la pobreza o aliviar la pobreza para poder educar?
Rosa María Torres, En educación no manda Don Dinero
Rosa María Torres, Knowldedge-based international aid: Do we want it? Do we need it?

Rosa María Torres, Lifelong Learning for the North, Primary Education for the South?  ▸ ¿Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida para el Norte y Educación Primaria para el Sur?
Rosa María Torres, About "good practice" in international co-operation in education

Social Education and Popular Education: A View from the South


Spider Art by Claire

Rosa-María Torres
 
Closing conference AIEJI XVII World Congress
“The Social Educator in a Globalised World”
Copenhagen, Denmark, 4–7 May 2009
(edited transcript of original presentation)

Introduction

When I was invited by AIEJI (International Association of Social Educators) to be a keynote speaker of this world conference, I had only vague ideas of Social Education. I thought of it as a foreign, European concept and movement, distant from the realities, thinking and practices in the South (“developing countries”). Accepting this invitation was therefore for me both an honour and a research and learning opportunity.

I learned that this is an evolving European construct, with specificities in each country, with an ongoing internal debate about its nature, dimensions and purposes, and with growing presence in countries in the South. There is no European consensus on the denomination and definition of Social Education and on social professions in general. Socialpædagogen, the biweekly magazine of the Danish National Federation of Social Educators circulated at this congress, highlights diverse Social Education experiences throughout the world "working with children, young people and adults who need special care due to physical or mental disabilities, or social problems." One distinctive feature of Social Education is that it deals with vulnerable groups and with the entire lifespan.

It was not easy to find references to Social Education programmes in Africa and Asia. References were also scarce in Latin America and the Caribbean, beyond the hub created by AIEJI’s world conference held in Montevideo-Uruguay in November 2005. In Latin America, Uruguay is the country that has embraced Social Education in the most visible manner, taking the French model as initial source of inspiration. ADESU - Asociación de Educadores Sociales del Uruguay
is an active national association. Nearly 300 professional Social Educators have been trained over the past few years. Many of them are working in diverse intersections between government and non-government, academic and action-oriented programmes. Last week I was in Uruguay invited by the Ministry of Education and happened to meet some of them. There must be something good in this profession that is able to attract such bright, critical and socially committed young people.


There are activities in Brazil associated to the Popular Education movement. The Department of Education of the University of Sao Paulo, for example, has organized a series of International Encounters on Social Pedagogy, with the idea of institutionalizing it in Brazil as a profession linked to non-formal education, NGOs, and social programmes (See Portal de la Pedagogía Social . See also Associação dos Educadores e Educadoras Sociais do Estado de São Paulo - Aees SP). Through informal conversations with Latin American participants in this congress, other activities have surfaced: a Social Pedagogy programme started by a private university in Argentina; a small group operating in Chile; in Nicaragua, an institution that trained social educators for over two decades is not operating any more but there are ongoing activities linked to institutions in Spain. In general, it becomes apparent that initiatives termed Social Education in Latin America still have little visibility.

Social Education and Social Pedagogy

The term Social has come to be added, in several fields, to mean different or alternative

- The World Social Forum (WSF), organized by progressive forces in the South and in the North, was launched in 2001 and was held for the first time in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Since then, the WSF is run in parallel to the World Economic Forum held in Davos.
- Social Economy is expanding as an international movement with roots and practices in the South. It proposes an alternative economic model to the neoliberal model. Social/Solidarity Economy is a work-centred economy that places people at the centre, is concerned with solving the needs of all and with preserving ecological and social equilibrium, promotes human solidarity, collaboration and networking rather than individual or corporate accumulation of profit or power. (See for example RILESS, Red de Investigadores Latinoamericanos en Economía Social y SolidariaNetwork of Latin American Researchers in Social and Solidarity Economy). In some cases, a Social and Solidarity Pedagogy is associated to such alternative economic initiatives ( See, for example, the Programa Pedagogía Social y Solidaria organised by the Departamento Administrativo Nacional de la Economía Solidaria - DANSOCIAL in Colombia).
- Social movements have emerged in many countries as a new important social and political actor, especially in Latin America.

As for Social Education, the term in Germany and in the Nordic Countries continues to be Social Pedagogy, a tradition of progressive thinking and practice, often associated to, or translated as, "community education." Here is an explanation of the differences between both concepts, found in a leaflet available at a stand of this conference:

’Social Education’ is the official translation of the Danish term ‘Socialpædagogik’. In this module we will use the term ‘Social Pedagogy’ as it indicates the fact that social pedagogical care work embraces much more than what is usually conceived as ‘Social Education’. ‘Social Pedagogy’ provides a unifying concept of work with people in many formal and informal institutional settings.” (Social Education and Pedagogy in Denmark”, VIA University College, Peter Sabroe, Department for Social Education, leaflet).

In other contexts, differences are made between Social Education and Social Pedagogy. Again, there is no consensus on the use of these two terms in Europe.

Social Education and Popular Education

While the term Social Education is not familiar in most countries in the South, its practice is widely extended. In fact, in every region in the world we may find specific and endogenous emancipatory education movements. In Latin America, Educación Popular - Popular Education - is rooted especially among civil society organizations. Just like with Social Education, there is not one single definition and there are various trends within the Popular Education movement. Many associate it with Paulo Freire; others consider it a development that preceded and surpassed Freire, and that is nurtured by many sources. Many link it to adult and non-formal education; others consider Popular Education an embracing category applied to children, youth and adult education, in and out of school.

The term popular refers to the socio-economic status of learners/participants, to the context and to the purpose: promoting awareness, social participation and organization for people’s empowerment and social transformation. What defines the popular educator is his/her social and political commitment, not his or her educational and professional background. Popular educators often work as volunteers or with very little remuneration, and with some short training. Training and professionalization of popular educators are old requests.

The table below is an attempt to compare Social Education and Popular Education in their respective contexts. 


Comparison between Social Education and Popular Education


Social Education
(Europe/Denmark)
Popular Education
(Latin America)
Historical context
1940s – wake of World War II
AIEJI (International Association for Social Educators). Original name Association Internationale des Éducateurs des Jeunes Inadaptés - created in 1951.

“From charity, assistencialism and philanthropy to social wellbeing as a human right.”
1960s-1970s – wake of Latin American military governments and dictatorships.

Brazil, Paulo Freire’s ideas and work.

Human liberation and emancipation.

Religious groups and churches involved.
Original target population
Homeless and orphaned children in the wake of World War II.
Illiterate adults (by 1950s half of the adult population in the region were illiterate).
Current target population (historical perspective)
Children
Adolescents
Youth
Adults (disabled)
Third age
Adults
Youth
Adolescents
Children
Families
Communities
Social movements
Characterisation of target populations
Ill-adjusted, maladjusted or poorly adjusted
Troubled
Disabled
Homeless
Marginalised
Excluded
At risk
With special needs
Poor
Marginalised
Illiterate
Semiliterate
Low schooling
Characteristics of educators
- Emphasis on professionalization and on continuous education and training.
- Defence of employment and of working conditions.

- Little attention to professionalisation or career development.
- Diverse training opportunities offered, often short. A few universities and NGOs offer university degrees.
- Often work on voluntary basis.
Organisation of educators
Organised in unions and/or professional associations.
National, European and international organizations.
- Not organised in unions or professional associations, sometimes organised in local associations.
- Local, sometimes national and also international organisations (i.e. CEAAL - Consejo de Educación de Adultos de América Latina, NGO network).
- Social movements have their own Popular Education bodies and programmes.
Identified similar occupations
Social workers, teachers, nurses, psychologists, therapists.
Teachers, social workers, extension workers, community agents, community leaders, cultural animators.
Work environments
Mainly non-formal education, non-school environments
Areas of work
Specialised education
Conflict mediation
Sociocultural animation
Adult education
School education
Environmental education
Leisure education
All potential areas
Purposes
Adaptation
Participation
Citizenship
Social change
Social justice
Awareness (Conscientisation)
Participation
Organisation
Empowerment
Social change
Political change
Social justice
Culture of rights
Principles
Dialogue
Respect
Participation
Learners' voices
Dialogue
Respect
Participation
Learners' voices
Dimensions of work
Pedagogical, social, political and ethical




   Elaborated by Rosa-María Torres

In the South most educators are ‘social educators’

The majority of educators in ‘developing countries’, within and outside the school system, deal with problematic socio-economic contexts and with major challenges facing individuals, families, groups, local communities and national societies.

The situation of rights denied to the a large portion to the population in many countries in the South presses the public school system, and educators working in it and on its margins, to deal with unsatisfied basic needs of the school population (i.e. food, health, affection, security, etc.), whose satisfaction would normally correspond to the State and to the family. This erodes the school’s main teaching-learning mission and further jeopardises the quality of educational provision. Thus, the borders between social workers and educators as well as between social action and political action, tend to be thin and blurred. 

When poverty affects the majority of the population, economic and social exclusion/inclusion imply massive phenomena that go beyond well-intentioned small-scale interventions or focused ‘alleviating poverty’ policies. Poverty is a structural condition that, as such, requires major changes in the current economic, social and political model that leads to massive exclusion and poverty. Such model and its change is no longer national in scope; it has been deepened and globalised, thus requiring global alternative thinking and concerted action. Social educators and other progressive forces in the North and in the South need to work together in the building of a new global ethics that fights social injustice and promotes equality at local, national, regional and global level. Democratizing global awareness, global protest and global solidarity vis à vis the most vulnerable majorities and minorities in the world is at the very heart of the efforts towards global social networking.

The objective is not only good quality education for all, but good quality of life for all

However, the notions of ‘quality of life’, ‘welbeing’ or ‘prosperity’ are not universal. The traditional ‘developed’/’non-developed’ or ‘less developed’ dichotomy used to classify countries, is being revised. ‘Human development’ and human satisfaction and realization are not linear categories defined between more or less and measurable by universal quantitative indicators; they are cultural, social and political constructions shaped in concrete historical circumstances.

The notions of ‘quality of life’ and ‘personal satisfaction’ adopted by the Gallup Worldwide Quality of Life Survey are not necessarily perceived as such in countries in the South. Gallup’s ‘quality of life’ places consumption
at the centre. The question asked in the survey is: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your standard of living, that is, with all the things you can buy and do?.” On the other hand, the concept of Buen Vivir (‘Good Living’, Sumak Kawsay in Quechua indigenous language) in the Andean countries in Latin America places harmony at the center and is defined by three relational dimensions: harmony with nature, with oneself, and with others.

Global networks, global solidarity

In a globalised world, the role of agents of social change acquires also a global dimension, a global dimension that honours diversity, equality, inter- and multi-culturality, and rejects universal models, homogenous policies and perpetual hegemonic North/South relationships and ‘cooperation’ patterns. The wider the scope and the territories reached throughout the world, the greater the need to acknowledge and incorporate diversity to vision and to practice in all spheres.

The new challenges posed by the many world crises – the development crisis, the financial crisis, the food crisis, the energy crisis, the ecology crisis, the work crisis, the education crisis – call for radical rethinking, reshaping and re-articulation of education and learning systems worldwide. They also create new opportunities and urgencies for networking and solidarity, configuring new frontiers that challenge conventional ‘developed’/’less developed’ and North/South distinctions. The time is ripe for stronger multidisciplinary, trans-sectoral and inter-institutional linkages as well as for more and better-coordinated work with organized groups, families and communities rather than with isolated individuals.

There are conditions for effectively adopting Lifelong Learning (LLL) as a new global paradigm for education and learning, overcoming the dual educational agenda -- LLL for the North and primary education for the South. Social Education is well positioned in this endeavor: learning beyond the family and the school system, an ageless category and a continuum.

The alternative and alterative nature of Social Education

The world has become a hostile and uncertain place to live for the majority of the world’s population. Inequality within and between countries is growing. In many regions and countries (both developing and developed), the battles against poverty, unemployment, hunger, school dropout, and others are not making progress. For millions of people, and especially for the most disadvantaged, the word future does not entail hope anymore.

In this context, the room for Social Educators is likely to expand. Many will view it as a damage-control device, ready to fill in the holes left by education and learning systems that are not doing their job properly -- the family, the school system, mass media, politics. Not accepting such remedial and compensatory role implies among others assuming an explicit political role vis a vis the need for systemic and structural change at local, national, regional and world level.

In fact, all education should be social, empathetic, relevant, contextualised, differentiated, responsive to specific needs and cultures, aimed at enhancing learners’ critical thinking, empowerment, autonomy, participation and organisation for personal and social transformation. Being alternative is not enough; the real challenge is becoming also alterative -- a social, political, pedagogical and ethical force that pushes others towards major changes in all these spheres.

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