Another Reading of the educational problem

Monday 26 August 2013

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Authorship: Luiz Felipe Albuquerque.

Editorial and Canal: Kaos en la red.

Type of document: Article.

Language: Spanish.

Subject: Education.

Keywords: Good living, neoliberal capitalism, education, privatization, educational reform and socialism.

Countries and Regions: Ecuador.

It is really amazing to watch how the policies implemented by the Ecuadorian government regarding education issues do not take into consideration the social and historic variables and they move around the technocrat visions hidden in the discourse of efficiency, knowledge, science and technology as positive universal abstractions. The lack of concern is quite evident due to a critical social thought and a humanist philosophical training.

The first thing that is crystal clear is that this Project is completely separated from the strategic goal of the good living socialism which is mentioned in the discourse of the government as its path to follow, the second is that it is an elitist Project aimed at a portion of the middle classes. The latter is finalized with the implementation of enrollment exams.

One of the main problems in Ecuador and Latin America is access to education and to the cultural and scientific goods, there are important segments to whom, due to structural reasons, access to these social goods is not allowed. And when they have access the quality of it is extremely unequal. There is education for poor, for the middle class and for the wealthy ones. The Chilean student movement and the last mass and popular protests in Brazil have as one of its basic vindications quality education for all. The illiteracy problem persists and continuity should be given to illiteracy programs, to confront with a specific policy the problem of the functional illiteracy. Group reading to develop understanding reading is a good mechanism that should be extended all over the education system.

Perhaps the most hazardous structural determinant in education refers to the relation with the introduction to privatization and the market logic, then education stop being the space in which society selects options on how to reproduce in terms of culture, history, knowledge, research, technologies and turns to be another field more of competition and profit tending to destroy academic logic. This is what has been happening in Ecuador for decades.

The education system as part of a class structure tends to reproduce this classism thus generating education institutions with a clear social bias. When admission tests are applied at the universities what really takes place is a perverse action, since it is based in the false presumption that all have received the same quality of education, and aside of selecting social classes a punishment is applied to the victims, first they receive a poor education and then they are marginalized from the access to higher levels, when in fact what should be done is to compensate, level, repair the damages an unfair system has imposed on it.

Anyone who does not see education from the perspectives of food, physical and psychological environments, books, libraries and school writing materials, access to informatics, etc., which in fact do not form part of the reality, in order to study one needs, as a basic condition, access to proteins, vitamins and mineral required, to acquire the knowledge, the need to study climates and environments, there is the need for books, copybooks, writing materials, library, computers, access to technologies, as well as an emotional equilibrium. These basic conditions seems to be relegated and considered secondary elements while mega projects have been privileged such as the Yachay Project presented as a wealth cloud facing the structural poverty of the rest of the education system.

Will the Yachay Project and other projects of that same type train professionals, scientists, technicians required by the good living socialism? Or, are they taking into consideration another type of logic?

Government educational policies should have as their horizon emancipating goals that should not include abstractions such as “daring to engage in science”. Of course, but what for? The goal is liberation or are we going to continue reproducing the scientific-cultural hegemonic matrix of neoliberal capitalism?. Engaging in science sounds as a good idea, but for a society project different from capitalism. Has anyone considered the recovery of ancestral knowledge?

I think that the proposals related to education should be seen within a transition dimension. We shall consider as transition proposals the ideas, policies and praxis questioning, from the structural and history point of view, classist education and to start shaping a new education concept.

If education is classist then what shall we do to destroy this classism in education? The problem consists in how to recover in any way possible the damages provoked by a classist education. This means structural changes, to foster the same quality education at all levels, it also entails issues such as a dignify housing for all. All this entails a deep social change, we should change the classist society, but this is a process.

To significantly increase education budgets is one of the basic conditions, and it entails having a planned and quality investment, optimizing resources. The idea is to strengthen and broaden public education.

We should state the elimination of excluding tests and exams and the creation of leveling course, prior to entering into secondary education and before enrolling at a university and post graduate studies by public education institutions with administrative self-management, (to avoid the generation of bureaucratic structures) to avoid the proliferation of private institutions that already are finalizing lucrative businesses. The level, extension, time and depth of these courses and of the new forms of evaluation should be determined by officials, experts, with the participation of actors coming from the education process.

Education will never be an independent variable; in general it depends on the ruling classes, no matter who this might be. Sometimes when the correlation of forces is favorable to democratic sectors specific conquests are granted allowing moving forward.

Education is a structure forming part of a social system. In general terms education structure is functional for the dominant society model. Sometimes as a result of mobilizations of faculty members, students and workers there are certain elements in that structure which contradicts this dominating model. Then we are confronted with a contradiction, a malfunction. In these educational structures starting in the families and spread through the habitus, society is reproduced. Also this structure functions as a huge ideological apparatus through which there is a predominant hegemony, anyone who is not able to understand this will not be able to function, fully aware of that, as a diffuser of a dominant ideology.

Whenever you are considering an emancipator Project you might be critical of the existing dominant model and of its extension along the education system and supported on social subjects bearing emancipator ideas to strive for democratic and liberating proposals.

This proves that a society divided in classes also generates a classist educational structure. This is so in the majority of cases and exceptions are to be minimal. In societies divided in classes there is a permanent struggle among them and as a result of this struggle at different levels: economic, social, political, cultural, sometimes there are proposals, dreams, ideas, coming from the social movements and certain levels of intellectual having a liberating nature. And this is how ideas on liberating education have been designed to attain social changes heading to humanism, to the rescue of dignity and equality. Education is seen as a de-alienating process. (Paulo Freire).

The idea is that in education, just as in other environments, a democratic and collective proposal might be designed for the society. An education policy should be guided by some goals and these goals should coincide with a society Project. In fact if we are going to speak of democracy these goals should be discussed and agreed by the whole society. Let’s take for granted that this education policy will be an authentic proposal for the creation of the Sumak Kawsay or the good living socialism as a development alternative.

All this forms part of the premise of problems seen as social processes that is to say, to register them within a historic dynamics and thus as contradictory phenomena. Some of the general premises of education should always contemplate a proper relation between theory and praxis. The education system and the system of communication means should foster, at all levels, a good level of general medium culture, this is a must for a good education quality.

Regarding communication means a democratic intervention should be drafted to fulfill the goal of constantly raising the general level of medium culture, we need to replace all of it by diverse cultural and education programs. The idea is to entertain with culture. And yes, this is possible.

Language, in a wide and restricted sense, is fundamental; this has been recognized by all scientific studies, thus it is indispensable to have the contribution from neurosciences, cognitive perceptions, conceptual pedagogy (Piaget, Vigotsky, Ausubel) and other; languages are essential. To this we should add cooperative learning processes to establish proper learning “models” based on synergies. The issue of prioritizing cooperation, comradeship and the non competition should also affect the decrease of this serious problem of school violence known as “bullying”.

Educative constructive conceptions have established that learning takes place when the student creates and participates in learning situations, “you learn by doing”, there is a quest for significant learning and to avoid repetitive memorization, the student is then an active subject, who participates, research, decides, develops an autonomy and professors facilitate these processes. The idea is to promote action, reflection, action and theory-praxis activities leading to thinking on and a change of reality. The latter entails democracy in the classrooms, which should be spaces for the free reflection on problems, of respect to different opinions, classes no longer are the place for a discourse but rather it should be a space for activity and participation.

The development of a rational thinking is fundamental, both regarding its formal and dialectic expressions. Also regarding its mathematic development and in their practical ones. All this should be included in a general incentive orientation for a critical thinking. The whole education system should have a proper balance and a critical plurality between social sciences and natural sciences, together with a sound philosophical humanist component.

A climate of affection and good treatment is fundamental and indispensable if what we want to achieve is better human beings and democratic and balance personalities. Thus emotional intelligence issues are another aspect that should be faced as orientation policies for the set of the education system.

It is indispensable to take into consideration the paradigm of complexity in the education field since it sees processes as antagonisms within a complementarity and says that a complex thinking needs a permanent change between “aptitudes/supplementary/concurrent/antagonists that are analysis/ synthesis, abstract/concrete, intuition/calculus.” (Morín, 1986. Pages. 102, 103).

Ethical and aesthetic training is indispensable, ruled in this case by a horizon of good living and the whole civilizing idea reached by the humanity. Physical, spiritual, theater, body expression, music, dance, voice, politic, history, culture, human rights education are part of the integrality of the human complex. Fostering and development of creativity, always present, is another of the fundamental axis of a new education project. It is essential and thus it should be seen transversally to develop it.

Regarding discipline it should be faced as a radical proposal for an awareness discipline, ruled by the dialogue, common agreement regarding standards and to eliminate all forms of repression, either covert or open; a cordiality, kindness culture should be generated. Rejection to plagiarism and to all forms of copying that represents a real cancer affecting the education system. Regarding this problem aside of an ethics of the example, the causes for copying should not be considered as the only way out, thus the problem should be assessed in depth and to look for orientations allowing for a drastic decrease of the problem. Given the decisive role information technologies have at present on the daily life of youth and adults, the education system should include a strong education-communication component in such a way that the education-communication paradigm should be transversal to the set of training processes to obtain a critical and smart use of these media and of the communication technologies.

Education should not seek profits. In Ecuador education was privatized with nefarious consequences both in quality as well as in ethic dimensions. So a Universal and Free System should be designed strengthening the public system.

We need to recover as an environment, as a basic cultural climate: efforts, love for the study, what is important of the quest for knowledge and the generation of technologies, comradeship and cooperation. Physical and technological infrastructure is another basic material condition of all quality education.

Perfecting and training with the best international contribution to help the Project is extremely necessary, that is to say, a democratic design of a policy and a training model, an advance training program with the best international contribution, internal and external scholarships under the guidance of officials and actors from the education process that should be plural and diverse but also in coordination with the general Project.

Democratizing education means to allow universal access without any type of discrimination and provide everyone with a quality education. Education reform should be comprehensive including all levels, aside of autonomy and creativity levels in education units and informal education subsystems. Relative autonomy and decentralization are key elements for a new education proposal. In general terms education system should be build with a proper relation between decentralization and centralization.

Within the transversal content of the comprehensive reform there are fundamental aspects: harmony with nature, solidarity, community, cooperation that are issues coming from Sumak Kawsay. Science and technology should no longer be serving the market and should be made a function for a society democratically designing its cooperation bonds.

In this specific case we will be facing a change process from and with actors of the education process, this means, students, professors, administrative staff, parents, experts and officials.

The aims of this type of education should be training individuals and professionals, technicians, scientists, intellectuals, artists, writers, etc., tuned to a change process having as a central line the replacement of market for a democratic planning and replacing the State by people’s parliaments, if we are seriously considering a social change. To attain this we need a people with high levels of awareness and education.

People’s education, liberating education, education paradigms, reproduction and recreation of the national identity; without any type of jingoism, chauvinism but integrated to the most progressive part of humanity.

The education system should faithfully includes diversity and should reject ethnocentrism, it should be unity of diversity, multinational, multi-ethics, multicultural; it should be an education system taking into consideration synergy, respect to sexual differences and of all type, fostering respect to human rights and fostering direct democracy. Not as it is happening at present with the attempt to impose unique and centralized patterns from the top.

Education evaluation cannot be only information evaluation, essentially what should be evaluated are competence, skills, abilities; quantitative evaluation should be the reflection of qualitative evaluation. Evaluation is always a subjective thing thus the values of justice and the objectivity effort must always be present and form part of the education policy; it should also be evaluated the following: products, activities, participation. Evaluation cannot be limited to tests and exams.

It has been demonstrated that there is a key factor in education quality that of well remunerated professors so that they can be exclusively devoted to teaching. A society that as a whole understands the importance of good teachers starts to value them from the social point of view and this is a must. An institutional mechanism should be created which guarantees continuous national education campaigns (updating, training) to professors at all levels.

First of all teachers must master their subjects, have several pedagogical and didactic resources and a constant updating, at present they refer to pedagogical mediation meaning a facilitation in between knowledge and learning. The art of teaching has been replaced by the art of creating learning situations given the fact that at present the subject of the teaching-learning process is the student.

It is well known that based on explicit contents certain harmful contents and practices are developed. So efforts should be taken to eliminate the hidden curriculum containing: racism, homophobia, classism, intolerance, etc.

A national system of science and technology should be created in such a manner as to create a network including all institutions engaged on research and technology in the country. It is also necessary to create a national education and pedagogical research centre to generate new knowledge in the area and to guide public education policies.

What is the type of education we would like to have? And, for what type of society? If we are hoping for a democratic, solidarity society, if we want to attain the good living socialism, the quality of education should be considered as the training of critical, creative, autonomous, cooperative people, and no de-humanized technocrats, in this case the end is a determining factor. Not any kind of academic quality is good for emancipation.

We are all aware that there is an education to obey, subordinate and another type of education to rule and dominate; there is also a liberating education to create a society of peers. Which is the option of our education system? Education is a social process and should be socially solved, these ideas stated do not intend to be an absolute truth or to exhaust the issue, but they can contribute to a democratic debate on the issue, so much needed, especially when a group of technocrats intend to impose a positivist conception updated with the technocrat discourse of today.

Bibliography.

Almeida, Julio, “Sociología de la Educación”, Ariel Sociología, Barcelona, 1995.

Bourdieu, Pierre, “Capital cultural escuela y espacio social”, Siglo veintiuno editores, Argentina, 1997.

Bourdieu, Pierre, Jean-Claude Passeron “La reproducción. Elementos para una teoría del sistema de enseñanza”, Editorial Popular, Madrid-España, 2001.

Brigido, Ana María, “Sociología de la Educación. Editorial Brujas, Córdova–Argentina 2006.

Durkheim, Emil, “Educación y Sociología”, Editorial Linotipo, Bogotá 1979.

Ponce, Aníbal, “Educación y lucha de clases”, Editorial Cartago, Buenos Aires, 1975.

Morin, Edgar, “El Método. El conocimiento del conocimiento”. Cátedra, Madrid, 1986.

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