About «good practice» in international co-operation in education

Gurbuz Calimar

Rosa María Torres

¿What would be good practice in "international cooperation" or "development aid" for education in countries in the South?

Just as "improving the quality of education" has become insufficient, showing the need for a radical shift and for renewed paradigms for education and learning, "improving the quality of international co-operation" and "improving aid effectiveness" is no longer enough. Major changes are needed to make financial "aid" and technical "assistance" really such and beneficial in the short, medium and long term for the countries they are supposedly addressed to.

Currently, "aid effectiveness" and its identified problems are defined as follows:

"Aid effectiveness is about ensuring maximum impact of development aid to improve lives, cut poverty and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals."
"At the beginning of the 21st century it became clear that aid was not delivering the expected results. Inadequate methods and differences in donor approaches made aid less effective. Action was needed to boost impact."
In: Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, Korea, 29 Nov-1 Dec 2011


▸  Review "countries"
International agencies traditionally think of countries as divided in government and civil society.
When they say they work with "countries" they often mean government entities and officials. When they say they work with "civil society" or Civil Society Organizations (OSCs) they usually mean Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). However, in most countries NGOs represent a small portion of civil society, a portion that is highly dependent on international funding and increasingly dependent on government funding (thus making it necessary to redefine the N of Non-). Grassroots organizations and social movements constitute the core of civil society, representing major social segments such as indigenous groups and nationalities, youth, women, peasants, workers or the unemployed, teachers, etc. In many countries, social movements are key social and political actors with national scope and representation.

▸  Review "development"  
The idea behind "development co-operation" is that countries in the South are "poor" - in need of "poverty alleviation strategies" - and "underdeveloped" or "less developed" -  in the process of "developing" in the same direction of developed countries. This route to development, and the very concept of development, are today under question all over the world and stressed by the global crisis of capitalism (see for example degrowth). Alternatives to development are also being proposed in several countries in the South, challenging conventional development cooperation and aid as we know them.

▸  Accept diversity and act accordingly
So-called "developing countries" ("the South") are highly heterogeneous even within each region: Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Each country is unique in its own way, beyond economic categories (low/middle/high income) or even more complex indicators such as the Human Development Index and others. They are different in dimensions that are not easy to quantify or classify: history, languages, cultures, traditions, values, citizenship, democracy, education and learning practices, etc. While diversity is increasingly acknowledged in rhetoric, international agencies favor one-size-fits-all policies and policy recommendations for the South. Failure with so many education reform attempts shows the urgency for radical rethinking and doing in this regard. Countries, just as learners, need customized interventions. There is no one size fitting all. There are no universally valid "success stories" waiting to be replicated elsewhere. There is not "what works" and "what doesn't work" in general.
Single sets of education goals with the same deadlines for all - such as Education for All (EFA) or the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) - end up in the usual sense of failure for some and easy accomplishment for others.


Rights approach
Education is a human right -- the right to free and quality education for all, children, youth and adults. International agencies must thus enhance a rights approach to education, adopting the four As -
availability, accessibilty, adaptability and acceptability - as criteria to ensure such right as well as to identify and develop "good practices" in the fields of education, training and learning.

▸  Wide understanding of education and Lifelong Learning as framework
Agencies must review traditional ideas on education and embrace new knowledge and developments in this and in related fields. It is time for holistic and cross-sectoral approaches, looking beyond school education, beyond access (to schools, to computers, etc.), and beyond Ministries of Education as the obvious and only actors at the country level. It is time to really place learning at the center, beyond tests and testing, and beyond schooling, and to adopt Lifelong Learning (LLL) as a principle and a holistic framework from early childhood (and even before birth) to the elderly. LLL is not reduced to adults, neither does it call for the creation of new, separate sections or departments or new, separate education goals.

▸  Systemic vision
Dealing with education and with educational change requires abandoning
narrow sectoral and piecemeal approaches, and adopting a systemic vision: (a) of education, including all levels, modalities and all types of learning, in and out of school; and (b) of society, understanding that education policies cannot be dealt with in isolation, without taking into account the economy, and broad social and cultural issues, which determine to a great extent the teaching and learning conditions and expectations of the population.


▸  Co-operation among agencies themselves 
Agencies must co-operate, rather than compete, among themselves, if they want to effectively co-operate with countries. Co-operating means, among others, looking for common understandings on issues and concepts, sharing a common statistical base, harmonizing evaluation and reporting criteria and mechanisms, etc. This would alleviate terminological and conceptual confusion in the field, avoid usual overlapping of agendas and duplication of efforts, reduce waste, and save lots of time and resources. Co-operation requires will to dialogue and to coordinate, identifying specific strengths and weaknesses so that they complement each other and ensure synergy. The term "international community" still needs to become a reality. 

▸  Acknowledge and assume their own learning needs
If they are to provide technical advice, international agencies have the responsibility to permanently upgrade their own professional competencies, as well as the knowledge related to the countries where they work. Good technical assistance and advice require people who
see themselves as lifelong learners, open to new realities, humble and ready to listen, dialogue and rectify whenever necessary.

▸  Review the ‘event culture’
International co-operation is usually associated with abundant travel and with events (each with its own report and follow-up process). It is essential to reduce both - events and travel  - looking for more effective and less costly strategies, and taking full advantage of modern technologies, in order to cut costs and ensure efficiency and good use of scarce financial resources.

▸  Redefine publication and dissemination strategies
Agencies routinely produce heavy and fancy national and international reports. Most of the international ones are published in English, sometimes with translations to other languages that are made available with big delay. Few people understand and use such reports for meaningful research or action purposes. It is thus important that agencies review their production and dissemination strategies, making sure they come up with relevant new information and knowledge, easy to access and use by policy-makers, researchers, specialists, journalists, etc. Evaluating the real use and impact of such reports is also essential, without assuming that distribution is an indicator per se.

▸  Support South-South and South-North cooperation 
Not only the term "aid" but also the broader term "co-operation" are conceived as unidirectional: the North doing something for the South. The usual wording of "recipient countries" and "donor countries" makes this transparent. Although South-South co-operation gains ground, it is often also mediated and even coordinated by international agencies themselves. South-North co-operation remains mostly inconceivable. However, the North genuinely interested in the advancement of the South needs not only to learn together with, but also from, the South. 

▸  Work so as to become unnecessary 
Countries' "ownership" - the much repeated phrase "putting countries on the driver's seat" - has been long advocated but little implemented. It is time to do it, abandoning traditional top-down approaches and strategies of international agencies vis a vis "developing countries". Working towards ownership implies respecting and honoring countries' needs and priorities, eliminating conditionalities and untying "aid", giving top attention to the development and use of national capacities and national research rather than continuously importing/imposing them from abroad. The South needs to develop a generation of cadre that manages both relevant international knowledge and country-specific knowledge so as to be able to understand and deal with the interconnectedness between the local and the global. We need competent professionals equipped not only with knowledge but also with empathy, critical thinking, holistic perspectives and systemic understandings of education, learning, community and human development.

The best international co-operation is, ultimately, that which works to benefit countries and not agencies' own interests and agendas, and which deliberately works to become unnecessary. International co-operation and aid have been ineffective so far especially in that they have rather contributed to perpetuate technical and financial dependency as well as external debt.

To learn more

The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action (2005)
Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, Korea, 29 Nov-1 Dec 2011
Aid Effectivesness (Wikipedia)
Eurobarometer Special Surveys: Making a difference in the world: Europeans and the future of development aid, EB76.1, Nov. 2011
Demystifying Aid, by Yash Tandon
The Indicator Tree - a visualisation of the right to education indicators

Related texts by RosaMaría Torres
▸ International initiatives for education ▸ Iniciativas internacionales para la educación
Lifelong Learning in the South: Critical Issues and Opportunities for Adult Education, Sida Studies 11, Sida, Stockholm, 2004.
The 4 As as criteria to identify "good practices" in education  
Lifelong Learning: moving beyond Education for All
On Innovation and Education
Knowldedge-based international aid: Do we want it? Do we need it?
▸ The green, the blue, the red and the pink schools

Lifelong Learning for the North, Primary Education for the South?  
Children's right to basic education
Over two decades of 'Education for All' ▸ Más de dos décadas de 'Educación para Todos'
The World Bank and its mistaken education policiesEl Banco Mundial y sus errores de política educativa

Basic Learning Needs: Different Frameworks

A árvore da vida - Silvio Alvarez

▸ The World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990) proposed and adopted an «expanded vision of basic education», in an out of school, including children, youth and adults. Such expanded vision of basic education was defined as "education aimed at meeting Basic Learning Needs." It identified seven areas of BLN that are common to children, youth and adults: 1. surviving, 2. developing one’s full capacities, 3. living and working in dignity, 4. participating fully in development, 5. improving the quality of life, 6. making informed decisions, and 7. continuing to learn. 

▸ Manfred Max-Neef's proposal of Human Scale Development (1993) defined a set of fundamental human needs and satisfactors, as summarized in the table below.

Human Needs
physical and
mental health
food, shelter
feed, clothe,
rest, work
living environment,
social setting
social security,
health systems,
co-operate, plan,
take care of, help
social environment,
respect, sense
of humour,
with nature
share, take care of,
make love, express
intimate spaces
of togetherness
curiosity, intuition
teachers, policies
analyse, study,meditate
schools, families
sense of humour
duties, work,
dissent, express
parties, churches,
games, parties,
peace of mind
relax, have fun
intimate spaces,
places to be alone
abilities, skills,
invent, build,
design, work,
spaces for
sense of
belonging, self-
religions, work,
values, norms
get to know
oneself, grow,
commit oneself
places one
belongs to,
passion, self-esteem,
equal rights
dissent, choose,
run risks, develop

▸ The Report of the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century (Delors Report, 1996) identified four pillars for education and learning: learning to be, learning to do, learning to know, and learning to live together.

Seven complex lessons in education for the future Invited by UNESCO to express his ideas on the essentials of education for the future in terms of his conception of «complex thought», Edgar Morin came up with seven key principles: 

1. Detecting error and illusion
"The purpose of education is to transmit knowledge, and yet education is blind to the realities of human knowledge, its systems, infirmities, difficulties, and its propensity to error and illusion. Education does not bother to teach what knowledge is."

2. Principles of pertinent knowledge
"Here is a major problem that is always misunderstood: how can we encourage a way of learning that is able to grasp general, fundamental problems and insert partial, circumscribed knowledge within them."

3. Teaching the human condition
"Humans are physical, biological, psychological, cultural, social, historical beings. This complex unity of human nature has been so thoroughly disintegrated by education divided into disciplines, that we can no longer learn what human being means. This awareness should be restored so that every person, wherever he might be, can become aware of both his complex identity and his shared identity with all other human beings."

4. Earth identity
"The future of the human genre is now situated on a planetary scale. This is another essential reality neglected by education, that should become a major subject. Knowledge of current planetary developments that will undoubtedly accelerate in the 21st century, and recognition of our earth citizenship, will be indispensable for all of us."

5. Confronting uncertainties
"We have acquired many certainties through science but 20th century science has also revealed many areas of uncertainty. Education should include the study of uncertainties that have emerged in the physical sciences (microphysics, thermodynamics, cosmology), the sciences of biological evolution, the historical sciences."

6. Understanding each other
"Understanding is both a means and an end of human communication. And yet we do not teach understanding. Our planet calls for mutual understanding in all directions. Given the importance of teaching understanding on all educational levels at all ages, the development of this quality requires a reform of mentalities. This should be the task of education for the future."

7. Ethics for the human genre 

"Education should lead to an “anthropo-ethics” through recognition of the ternary quality of the human condition: a human being is an individual - society - species. In this sense, individual / species ethics requires control of society by the individual and control of the individual by society; in other words, democracy. And individual species ethics calls for world citizenship in the 21st century." 

▸ The World Education Forum (Dakar, Senegal, 2000) adopted Jomtien’s Declaration and the Delors Report as frameworks, and reaffirmed “basic learning needs in the best and fullest sense of the term (…) an education that includes learning to know, to do, to live together, and to be. It is an education geared to tapping each person’s talents and potential, and developing learners personalities, so that they can improve their lives and transform their societies.”

Human Development - as defined by UNDP - identifies three major areas of human learning:

“The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living, and to be able to participate in the life of the community” (UNDP 2001).

▸ The Memorandum on Lifelong Learning of the European Commission (2000) stated:

“The knowledge, skills and understanding that we learn as children and as young people in the family, at school, during training and at college or university will not last a lifetime. Integrating learning more firmly into adult life is a very important part of putting lifelong learning into practice, but it is, nevertheless, just one part of the whole. Lifelong learning sees all learning as a seamless continuum ‘from cradle to grave.’ High quality basic education for all. Basic education, followed by initial vocational education and training, should equip all young people with the new basic skills required in a knowledge-based economy. It should also ensure that they have ‘learnt to learn’ and that they have a positive attitude towards learning.” 

Key Competencies to be acquired by the end of compulsory education, according to the European Commission expert group following a survey devised by the Eurydice European Unit and sent to all European Union Member States in March 2002:

Category: social competencies
- Subcategory 1: participating actively in society with respect for its multicultural dimension and concern for equal opportunities
- Subcategory 2: communication competencies (including assertiveness, being able to stand up for oneself and maturity)
- Subcategory 3: being able to cooperate

Category: positive self-image
- Subcategory 4: having a positive self-image with a view to self-development (including self-confidence)

Category: being able to act and think independently
Subcategory 5: competencies in data acquisition and processing (including ICT)
Subcategory 6: problem-solving competencies
Subcategory 7: self-guidance and self-regulation (including a sense of responsibility)
Subcategory 8: being able to think and act critically and reflectively

Category: motivational competencies
Subcategory: having the courage to explore and being eager to learn
Subcategory: a sense of initiative

Category: mental agility
Subcategory 11: creativity and inventiveness
Subcategory 12: flexibility and adaptability

Category: functional competencies

Subcategory 13: linguistic competencies
Subcategory 14: technical competencies

Key Competencies:  A developing concept in general compulsory education, Eurydice. The information network on education in Europe, October 2002.

Learning Anytime, Anywhere (WISE Summit, Doha, 2011)

Jaume Piensa

Rosa María Torres
"Learning Anytime, Anywhere"
session at the World Summit on Innovation in Education (WISE 2011)
Doha, Qatar, 1-3 Nov. 2011

The format adopted for the debates required no presentations by the speakers but individual questions posed by the Chair of the session and questions coming from the audience and through Twitter. This format favors flexibility and dynamism, but it also limits a more contextualized and holistic understanding of the speakers' viewpoints and backgrounds.

The text below is a reconstruction of my intervention.

Four people participated in this #WISED34 debate:

▸ Graham Brown-Martin, Chair (Learning Without Frontiers, UK) @GrahamBM
▸ François Taddei (Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity at Paris Descartes University, France) @FrancoisTaddei
▸ Rosa-María Torres (Fronesis, Ecuador) @rosamariatorres
▸ Ruth Wallace (Centre for Social Partnerships in Lifelong Learning, Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory, Australia) @RuthwallaceNT

What is Lifelong Learning (LLL)

Most people continue to associate LLL with adult education or to use it as equivalent to lifelong education or continuing education. The term, however, is selfdescriptive and should provide no room for confusion: Lifelong Learning means learning throughout life, "from cradle to grave." This is a fact of life in the first place: learning is a continuum, lifelong and lifewide. Adopting LLL as a principle for policy formulation implies introducing major changes to the conventional education and training paradigms.

Awareness on LLL challenges the school-centered mentality. It looks beyond the school system and acknowledges the other learning systems where we learn throughout life: home, community, media, play, work, arts, sports, social participation, the Internet and the virtual world, etc.

LLL also challenges the traditional focus on education and on teaching. Learning is the main concern, in and out of school. The main failure of the school system is precisely that there is lots of teaching but little learning taking place.

▸ Rosa María Torres, Lifelong Learning in the South: Critical Issues and Opportunities for Adult Education, Sida Studies 11, Sida, Stockholm, 2004.

What do international agencies understand as LLL? 

Most of the agencies that use this term continue to associate LLL with adults and adult education, rather than with a life-cycle perspective.

In OECD countries, and specifically in Europe, LLL emerged as an education and training strategy to ensure the necessary "human resources" for economic development.

Beyond definitions and glossaries, it is important to look at the content of policies and programmes labelled LLL. In the case of the European Commission, for example, in spite of the rhetoric on informal learning, four out of the five benchmarks established in the LLL Programme 2000-2010 (see below) were related to formal education, from early childhood to higher education. "The decreasing levels of low-achieving 15-year olds in reading and falling levels of adult participation in learning are among the largest concerns."

The goals were not met, as acknowledged by the
evaluation released in Sep. 2011. Not only "developing" countries (the global South) but also "developed" ones (the global North) have problems to accomplish agreed education and learning agendas.

European Union: Lifelong Learning benchmarks for 2010

1. EU average rate of early school leavers to be no more than 10%;
2. Total number of graduates in mathematics, science and technology in the EU to increase by at least 15% (achieved in 2004), with a decreased gender imbalance in these fields;
3. At least 85% of 22-year-olds to have completed upper secondary education;
4. Percentage of 15-year-olds who are low-achieving in reading to have decreased by at least 20% compared to the year 2000;
5. Average participation in lifelong learning to be at least 12.5% of the adult working age population (age group of 25–64 year).

European Commission: Interim Evaluation of the Lifelong Learning Programme (Sep.18, 2011)
European Report on the Future of Learning by Tony Bates (Nov. 11, 2011)

Poverty, creativity and innovation 

There is lots of talk about innovation, creativity and problem-solving as qualities and skills of the 21st century. Currently, innovation in education tends to be strongly associated with modern technologies -- as if there was no innovation before the emergence of ICTs! Visions of innovation are rather futuristic and sophisticated, requiring specialists, experts, etc.

However, the most creative and innovative people in the world are the poor. They are born problem-solvers. Otherwise, they would not be able to survive. Surprisingly, we do not see this mentioned. If we want to learn about innovation and creativity, we should get out there, observe and live with the poor for a while.

The challenge is how to make schools and other learning institutions places where the poor can enhance - rather than inhibit - their innovativeness, creativity and problem-solving skills and expand them to other domains beyond survival and daily life.

▸ Rosa María Torres, On Innovation and Education

Testing does not necessarily reflect learning

ests and testing are not necessarily the best ways to capture learning. Additionally, standardized tests deny diversity, assume the classical "one-size-fits-all" approach.

(Programme for International Student Assessment) tests, proposed by OECD and for OECD countries, do not match the realities, needs and aspirations of most young people in the South. Often, these and other tests tell us what our children and youth don´t know rather than what they know and are able to do.

"Developing countries" are very diverse and face very different realities than "developed countries", also heterogeneous. If PISA tests were prepared in non-OECD countries, reflecting our cultures and realities, how would 15-year-olds in OECD  countries do in such tests? Underprivileged children and youth develop strong survival skills - essential for life and increasingly important in today's world - that wealthy children and youth often do not need to develop, at least at an early age.

The "global banking education model"

Paulo Freire characterized the conventional school system as "banking education": learners who are considered to know nothing and teachers who think they know everything, and who deposit knowledge in their heads like checks in a bank.

That banking education model has now become global, among others thanks to the expansion of ICTs. Global teachers located in the North and eager learners located in the South, mere consumers of information and knowledge produced elsewhere and whose only knowledge credited is "local wisdom".

Since it decided to become a "Knowledge Bank", the World Bank acts as a global teacher offering ready-to-use knowledge and strategies for "development". All we have to do in the South is get trained and assimilate that information.

The global banking model is such because it reproduces the traditional teaching model at a global scale - the world as a global classroom is a usual metaphor - but also because it is incarnated by a bank and its international partners.

▸ Rosa María Torres, About "good practice" in international co-operation in education

Neuroscience and pro-age education and learning

Over the past years, neuroscience is contributing key new knowledge on topics we had only vague ideas of. A better understanding on how the brain works, at different ages and in different circumstances, shows the need to review many conventional stereotypes on education and learning.

Now we are confirming that all ages are good to learn, and that each age has its own cognitive possibilities and limitations.

Within a LLL framework, and based on ongoing results from neuroscience research, I am developing the concept of "pro-age education and learning": let us allow each person - children, young people, adults, the elderly - to learn according to their age, rather than fighting against their age.

Unfortunately, neuroscience research and results are not reaching the population at large, not even teacher education institutions, policy makers, journalists, etc. 

Rosa María Torres, Child learning and adult learning revisited 

The Basarwa in Botswana

I would like to tell you a story from Botswana. While working there with the Ministry of Education, back in the 1990s, I heard about an indigenous group called the Basarwa. They were well known because they rejected schooling. I got interested in understanding why. The explanation was simple: the Basarwa have seen or heard that schools punish children. In their culture, children's punishment does not exist. Adults relate to children through dialogue, not through fear. Parents love, take care and respect their children. Basarwa parents may be unschooled, but they are wise.

Rosa María Torres, Children of the Basarwa Niños Basarwa

Related texts
Rosa María Torres, Over two decades of 'Education for All' ▸ Más de dos décadas de 'Educación para Todos'

"Trabajo dos turnos y hago crochet"

La directora y las profesoras de esta escuela pública en Montevideo me han invitado a conversar con ellas. Las once mujeres, de diversas edades, tienen historiales distintos en la docencia. La mayoría tiene más de cinco años de trabajo y enseña en más de un turno. Todas son casadas y tienen hijos. Cinco son cabeza de hogar y mantienen a su familia. Todas dicen que el sueldo no les alcanza. Una de ellas, madre sola con cuatro hijos, trabaja dos turnos durante el día, en un primero y en un tercer grado, y hace crochet por la noche; a menudo saca más de la venta de los tejidos que de su trabajo como maestra. Otras venden cosméticos, ropas, baratijas. Todas dicen continuar en esto - la docencia - por compromiso y porque les gusta enseñar.

"Trabajo dos turnos” significa:

Tengo dos grupos de alumnos, uno en la mañana y otro en la tarde, en distintas escuelas y en distintos niveles; debo movilizarme de una escuela a otra en poco tiempo, con el almuerzo atascado en el camino, y pagar de mi bolsillo los costos de movilización. Trabajo cerca de 10 horas diarias - más el tiempo «invisible», que nadie quiere ver ni considerar tal, de preparación de clases, revisión de cuadernos, corrección de pruebas y preparación de materiales para dos niveles distintos, y la mínima capacitación y actualización que hay que proveerse cada tanto - para ganar un salario que es igual o menor al de una empleada doméstica.

Mi vida transcurre a diario entre cerca de 80 niños y niñas que no son mis hijos sino hijos de otros, a quienes debo cuidar y llego muchas veces a querer como si fueran propios, y a cuyos padres y madres a menudo no llego siquiera a conocer, a pesar de que me confían lo más valioso que poseen. Niños y niñas pequeños, inquietos, cuya edad y diversidad debo ignorar desde mi oficio de maestra, pues - como ellos - debo atenerme a unas condiciones y un régimen inflexible de normas, tiempos, espacios, programas, que es preciso cumplir.

Entre mis alumnos hay niños desnutridos, con familias desintegradas, con padres violentos, que deben trabajar desde temprana edad, que viven muchas veces en condiciones de extremo riesgo y pobreza. Sé que debo lograr que, a pesar de todo eso, aprendan, para permitirse la esperanza de romper con el círculo vicioso. Sé también que soy responsable de la seguridad de estos niños mientras están conmigo y, en buena medida, co-responsable de su presente y de su futuro. Porque sé todo esto, y porque la tarea y la responsabilidad me exceden, tensionando todas mis capacidades y mis defensas, es que vivo en deuda y con culpa, la deuda y la culpa que carga consigo, contradictoriamente, dolorosamente, todo maestro y maestra de verdad.

"Hago crochet” significa:

Al llegar a mi casa, cansada, al final del día, a cumplir con mi segunda jornada laboral, hogar adentro, como mujer subordinada que soy en esta sociedad machista, debo seguir luchando contra el tiempo para que se estire y me permita exprimirle unas horas más de trabajo, unas horas menos de descanso, para redondearme unos pesos extras que me permitan suplir al marido que no tengo y mantener y educar a mis propios hijos.

Cocino, limpio, lavo, miro la televisión, mientras hago crochet. Luego, me visto de mercachifle y ofrezco mis prendas a vecinos, familiares, amistades, colegas en la propia escuela.

Nunca fui ni aprendí para artesana ni para comerciante. Estudié para ser maestra. Este es mi oficio, el que disfruto y en el que me realizo; lo otro es mi chamba, mi beca autofinanciada para permitirme seguir siendo maestra. De día maestra, trabajadora intelectual, trabajadora de la cultura, como le dicen; de noche ama de casa, crochetista, comerciante. Y así vivo, en esta esquizofrenia y en esta triple jornada, mientras llega la esperada
«revalorización docente» que hará de nosotras, las maestras, profesionales competentes, autónomas, con salarios dignos y misiones elevadas.

* Incluido en: Rosa María Torres, Itinerarios por la educación latinoamericana: Cuaderno de viajes, Paidós, Buenos Aires-Barcelona-México, 2000.

A Teacher's Monologue

(Texto en español: Monólogo)

If, as a teacher, they tell me that I cannot teach, thta I am not inspired by a vocation in teaching, who is to be held accountable: I, or those who - with al their knowledge and experience - accepted me and saw me move towards a career for which I am now told I am ill-equipped and incompatible.

If, as a teacher, I enjoy teaching, but am confronted with shortfalls others see within me, who should bear the liability: myself, or the institutions - with names, budgets, official seals and signatures - that certified my aptitude, accredited my studies, and furnished me with a diploma that decreed I was qualified to teach.

If, as a teacher, I am told that what I teach is obsolete, irrelevant for learners and long surpassed by new developments in science and technology, who is to be considered outdated: I, or those who design the curriculum, those who taught me what and how to teach, those who train me and propagate outmoded teaching and learning content, methodologies and approaches, often without consultation and lacking themselves essential knowledge on education policies and on school cultures.

If, as a teacher, I am accused of not facilitating learning, and am told that the results fall short of what should be, am I the only one who is at fault? Or should others, too, be held accountable, be required to share in the concern and in the solution: those who supervise and evaluate my work, those who are responsible for the continuing education of teachers and for teacher professionalization, those who are in charge of managing the school?

If I teach day after day, year after year, and they tell me that nothing I do or nothing that I have to give is enough  - not education, training, vocation, commitment, time and effort dedicated to teaching and to learning - where does the problem stem from? Does it lie in myself alone? Or should it be shared by those who restricted the opportunities for my own education, those who now deny me the possibility to continue learning, those who decided long ago that teaching was a profession for the poor and for the unambitious, deserving poor salaries and status, condemned to mediocrity and to limited access to books, specialized journals and the Internet, and yet expected to rejuvenate, each day, the mystique attributed to teaching and rarely to other professions.

Ladies and gentlemen: It is time to address the real issues and the real obstacles. Rather than part of the problem, I am part of the solution.

* Originally published in: Education News, No. 10, UNICEF Education Cluster, New York, November 1994. Also published by Education International in its journal, Vol. 2, N° 2-3. Brussels, 1996.

Children of the Basarwa ▸ Los niños Basarwa

Rosa María Torres

(abajo el texto en español)

In Botswana I learned of the existence of the Basarwa, a nomadic group living in the Kalahari desert and whom the government has been trying to persuade, without much success, to attend school.

Asked why they do not send their children to school, fathers and mothers have basically the same responses: in their culture, adults do not shout at children or hit them; when children do something wrong, adults talk to them. In school, they state, there is no dialogue; mistakes are paid for with punishment.

What do the Basarwa know of school? Some have actually been to school. Others have heard stories of reprimands and punishments, threats and teasing, humiliation and slaps on the hand and the head. The word has spread. Now, neither adults nor children want to go to school.

What kind of people are the Basarwa? What kind of adults and parents are these who neither shout at nor hit their children, who talk to them, respect them and treat them with sensitivity? What kind of children are these exceptional Basarwa children who grow up without fear of punishment, ill-treatment, and physical violence, without fear of telling the truth and admitting to error?

Nomadic, poor, unschooled, in a perpetual struggle for survival, the Basarwa teach us a lesson in ethics, humanity and hope. Their contempt for school, for the type of school they know or of which they have heard, is indeed a sign of mental health, an act of love and protection for their children.

From their hidden retreat in the Kalahari desert, Basarwa children coalesce the hopes of all the children of the world, regardless of race or culture, economic income or social status. Unknowingly, Basarwa parents give life to the utopia so often envisioned and reiterated, signed and ratified, of the right of children to be loved, respected and heard. Through their dignified illiteracy, the Basarwa remind us of the inevitability of a school meant to love and respect children.

* Published originally in: Education News, UNICEF Education Cluster, New York, 1994.

Los niños Basarwa

En Botswana supe de la existencia de los Basarwa, un grupo nómada que habita en el desierto del Kalahari y al que el gobierno viene tratando hace mucho de persuadir, sin éxito, de enviar a sus niños y niñas a la escuela.

Preguntados acerca del por qué se resisten a la escuela, padres y madres tienen básicamente la misma respuesta: en su cultura, los adultos no gritan ni pegan a los niños; cuando los niños se portan mal, las personas adultas hablan con ellos.  En la escuela - dicen - no hay diálogo; los errores se pagan con castigo.

¿Qué saben los Basarwa sobre el sistema escolar? Algunos de ellos han asistido efectivamente a la escuela. Otros han escuchado historias de reprimendas, amenazas y burlas, humillación y golpes en las manos o en la cabeza. Las historias han circulado. Hoy, ni adultos ni niños quieren saber nada de ir a la escuela.

¿Qué clase de personas son los Basarwa? ¿Qué clase de adultos y de padres de familia que no gritan ni pegan a sus hijos, que hablan con ellos, les respetan y les tratan con sensibilidad? ¿Qué clase de niños son estos excepcionales niños Basarwa que crecen sin miedo al castigo, sin maltrato, sin violencia física, sin miedo a decir la verdad y a admitir el error?

Nómadas, pobres, no-escolarizados, en perpetua lucha por la supervivencia, los Basarwa nos enseñan una lección de ética, de humanismo y de esperanza. Su desprecio por la escuela, esa escuela que conocen o de la cual han escuchado, es de hecho un signo de sanidad mental, un acto de amor y de protección hacia su prole.

Desde un lugar remoto en el desierto Kalahari, los niños Basarwa portan la bandera de todos los niños del mundo, independientemente de su raza, cultura, ingreso económico o estatus social. Sin saberlo, los padres y madres Basarwa dan vida a la utopía tanta veces imaginada y reiterada, tantas veces acordada y ratificada, de niños y niñas con derecho a ser queridos, respetados y escuchados. Desde su digno analfabetismo, los Basarwa nos recuerdan la inevitabilidad de una escuela hecha para amar y respetar a los niños.

* Texto en español publicado originalmente en: Página editorial El Comercio, Quito, 21/8/1994.

Some related texts / Textos relacionados en OTRAƎDUCACION
» Children's rights: A community learning experience in Senegal
» Open Letter to School Children
» Carta abierta para niños y niñas que van a la escuela
» Children's Right to Basic Education
» El derecho de niños y niñas a una educación básica
» Escuelas del mundo  |  Schools in the world
» Por qué los maestros están llamados a ser los primeros defensores de los derechos de los niños

Lifelong Learning for the North, Education for All for the South

Rosa-María Torres

Abstract of the presentation at the International Conference on Lifelong Learning “Global Perspectives in Education
(Beijing, China, 1-3 July 2001)

Texto en español: ¿Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida para el Norte y Educación Primaria para el Sur?

This conference was delivered at an event on lifelong learning in China in 2001. Education for All (EFA) had just been expanded for 15 more years, until 2015, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had just been approved (2000-2015). I had started to promote Lifelong Learning as a paradigm not only for the North ('developed countries') but also for the South ('developing countries'), and was annoyed with the Millennium Development Goals' narrow goal for education - complete primary education (4 years) - at a time when the North was moving towards lifelong learning. Today, MDGs are history; the education goal was not reached worldwide and four years of school proved insufficient, anyway. Today, its successors, the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030), want pre-school, primary, secondary, higher, technical, vocational, and lifelong learning for all, in the South and in the North ... So, why am I not happy?

At the beginning of the 21st century we are witnessing an expansion, rather than reduction, of the gap between the North ('developed countries') and the South ('developing countries') in terms of education and learning. 

In the context of the emerging 'Knowledge Society', Lifelong Learning - "from the cradle to the grave" - has been adopted in the North as a key political, societal and educational organizing principle for the  21st century. At the same time, basic education – often narrowly understood as primary education - is prescribed for the South. The deficit ideology behind North-South relationships and aid seems to ignore the heterogeneity of so-called 'developing countries', where high illiteracy rates and low schooling may coexist with sophisticated education, training, research, intellectual production, scientific and technological development.

The World Conference on Education for All – EFA (Jomtien, March 1990) adopted an 'expanded vision' of basic education understood as the foundation for lifelong learning. Such 'expanded vision' comprises children, youth and adults learning in and out of school, and a broad understanding of their basic learning needs. Jomtien’s vision, however, was never translated into practice. EFA international partners themselves – UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP,  the World Bank and UNFPA - as well as other international agencies did not follow this approach. Education recommendations and policies for 'developing countries' continued to replicate a restricted notion of basic education - focused on children, schooling and primary school - and a restricted notion of basic learning needs where basic ended up being understood as minimum.

The World Education Forum (Dakar, 2000) acknowledged that EFA goals had not been met and extended the deadline until 2015. Jomtien’s goals were ratified but the  'expanded vision' of basic education was no longer central to the overall framework. Primary education became the ceiling in the Millennium Development Goals - MDG adopted in 2000 by the United Nations system, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The term "Universal primary education" was used to mean completing four years of school ("survival to grade 5" is the indicator for this MDG goal). Furthermore, the emphasis on children shifted to an emphasis on girls in the education agendas of most international agencies. 

The EFA agenda lacks a holistic vision of education and learning, and of the formal school system as such – pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary education - in relation to basic education goals and to meeting the basic learning needs of the population. Youth and adult education continue to be viewed as remedial and compensatory, addressed to the poor, and focused on literacy rather than on wider adult basic education. Obviously, this is not the appropriate framework for the development of Lifelong Learning, both in concept and in practice.

Globalization and Knowledge Society for All means Lifelong Learning for All. The North knows it and acknowledges it for its nations. The South must strive for it, fighting against double standards and global inequities, hopefully with the collaboration -- rather than against the will and advice -- of the North and the international community.

Some of these ideas have been developed in other publications by the author:

Lifelong Learning in the South: Critical Issues and Opportunities for Adult Education (ABLE) in the South A study commissioned by Sida (Swedish International Development Agency). Stockholm: Sida, 2002.

▸ "What happened at the World Education Forum?", in: Adult Education and Development, N° 55. Bonn: IIZ-DVV, 2001.

"Knowledge-based international aid: Do we need it, do we want it?", in: Gmelin, W.; King, K.; McGrath, S. (editors), Knowledge, Research and International Cooperation, University of Edinburgh, Centre of African Studies, 2001.

“Cooperación internacional” en educación en América Latina: ¿parte de la solución o parte del problema?, en: Cuadernos de Pedagogía, Nº 308, Barcelona, diciembre 2001. Monográfico sobre “La educación en Latinoamérica”.

▸ "Learning Communities: Re-thinking education from the local level and through learning." Paper presented at the International Symposium on Learning Communities, Barcelona Forum 2004 (Barcelona, 5-6 October 2001).

One Decade of "Education for All": The Challenge Ahead. Buenos Aires: IIPE UNESCO, 2000.

▸ "Improving the Quality of Basic Education? The Strategies of the World Bank", in: Stromquist, N.; Basile, M. (ed.). 1999. Politics of Educational Innovations in Developing Countries, An Analysis of Knowledge and Power. NewYork-London: Falmer Press, 1999.

La educación según el Banco Mundial. Un análisis de sus propuestas y métodos. Buenos Aires: Miño y Dávila / CEM, 1997. (with José Luis Coraggio)


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