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Educational policy analysis archives.
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Educational research in Latin America : review and perspectives / Abdeljalil Akkari [and] Soledad Perez.
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1 of 10 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 6 Number 7March 30, 1998ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Edit or: Gene V Glass Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Education Ari zona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 199 8, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold. Educational Research in Latin America: Review and Perspectives Abdeljalil Akkari University of Maryland Baltimore County Soledad Perez Geneva University Abstract The present paper consists of four primary sections First, we describe the historical context of educational research in Latin America. In the second section, we focus on various theoretical frameworks that are ap plied to educational research in the region. We identify the main institutions involved in this research in the third section. Finally, in conclusion we offer suggestions that we consider to be of greatest priority for the future of educational research in Latin America .Introduction: Historical context During the 1930s, many institutions in Latin Ameri can countries began to conduct research in the area of education. Shared h istorical and political ties as well as similarities among educational systems within the r egion helped facilitate comparative and international studies in Latin America Since 1958, the Organization of Iberoamerican States (OIS) started to develop numer ous studies in different countries, with many publications stemming from this work. How ever, most research has primarily been descriptive rather than empirical or applied. We found that when strong coordination exists between the local governments a nd international agencies, the results are more relevant and useful. One such effort is th e report, "The demographic, economic, social, and educational situation in Lati n America," (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization or UNESCO, 1962) conducted by the Organization of American States (OAS), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the


2 of 10United Nations (FAO), the International Labor Organ ization (ILO), and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean (ECL AC). During the 1970s, the areas of educational researc h and economic development began to join forces. An example of this union was a program on functional literacy, conducted by UNESCO. Researchers started to evaluat e their own work and to examine the effects that their research had on educational development. They found that universal schooling for all children did not exist and that i n many ways societies continued to suffer from social inequality, as was the case befo re governments began to invest in basic education. However, due to the dictatorial at mosphere in Latin America during this period, researchers were limited in conducting inno vative research, especially in the realm of education. Multiple diversification of research began to take place during the period of the '80s and '90s. A wave of democratization across the region acted as a catalyst for this diversification. First, regarding topics and method ology, a stronger emphasis was placed on the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Many groups, such as indigenous populations who were previously ignored by mainstream research, became the subjects of investigation. In addition, there w ere many new institutions involved in educational research, specifically nongovernmenta l and international agencies. Presently, the scope of educational research in La tin America is great, including didactic methods of teaching, non-formal education, and adult literacy. However, as suggested by Tedesco (1995), progressive theoretica l frameworks and previously implemented educational programs are not alone suff icient in delineating an educational orientation capable of obtaining the goals of democ racy and the overall equal distribution of knowledge.Theoretical Frameworks While there exist many different theoretical frame works, we will focus primarily on those that have played an influential role among Latin American educators and researchers. During the period from 1950-1965, the main theoretical framework was based on studies conducted by ECLAC. This agency en couraged Latin America to transform from a traditional society dominated by l arge land proprietors (latifundios) to a modern one based on productivity and growing indu strialization. In viewing education as a resource for economic de velopment, the agency attempted to apply human resources theory (Shultz, 1981) to countries in Latin America. According to this theory, education is considered p rimarily as an investment in human capital, with substantial longterm benefits both for the individual being educated and for the community as a whole. During this period th e main debate centered around accessibility to schooling and duration of attendan ce for those children from impoverished and rural areas. In addition, public f unding and teacher training were topics of interest during this time (GarciaHuidob ro, 1990). It is important to recognize that during this peri od a strong ideological debate was taking place in Latin America, with the central hop e being that the Cuban revolution would bring radical social transformation. In react ion to ECLAC s theoretical model, described above, was a more progressive and politic al approach, one organized around dependency theory (Cardozo & Faletto, 1969). Depend ency theory focuses on a macro level of socioeconomic change rather than on an ind ividual level. It is based on the idea that third world societies depend economically on i ndustrialized countries. There is also an element of internal domination that exists betwe en different socioeconomic groups within each country. Dominant groups attempt to per petuate the situation of inequality


3 of 10by controlling systems of production and education. However, research linked to this theory does not systematically apply to issues of e ducation. A third theory, closely linked with the pedagogica l work of Freire (1972), emerged during the late '60s and early '70s. While partially influenced by both Liberation Theology and Illich's work (1973), Freire suggested that the main goal of education was "liberation." According to this objective, those in dividuals involved in education must shift from the status of object (being taught) to t he status of actor/subject (learning). According to Freire (1972, 1976), effective educati on includes theoretical as well as practical knowledge that relates to the local conte xt rather than decontextualized curricula. Empowerment is both the means and the ou tcome of Freire's pedagogy, which some have come to call "liberatory education." Another central concept in Freire's work is that t raditional Brazilian education is based primarily on "cultural hegemony" (1972). Simi larly, Carnoy (1974) proposed a historical critique of education by defining it as "cultural imperialism." In examining the history of education in Latin America, we concur wi th Freire in that mainstream education in the region works to maintain social, p olitical, and economic domination of subordinate groups. We also agree with Freire's bel ief that the role of schooling in Latin America contributed to maintaining the poor at the bottom of the social structure. He strongly believed that society shapes school rather than school shaping society. In addition, Freire's involvement was mainly with adul t literacy classes. Because the scope of Freire's theory encompasses primarily adult educ ation issues, its pedagogical application is limited in understanding the dynamic s of formal schooling in Latin America. The debate around this theory led scholars to adop t participatory research as a part of their work on education during the 1970s. F or instance, Meister (1968) explored how rural populations utilized education to obtain greater access to economic development. In Ecuador, with the help of the Catho lic church, local communities created novel radio programs to promote adult liter acy. These people became active participants in their education through their invol vement in both the conceptualization and the realization of these radio programs. During the early 1980s, ECLAC proposed a new sloga n, "Productive transformation with equity," one that paralleled th e increasing democratization of local regimes. There was a shift in focus toward pragmati c goals rather than on global transformation, as previously suggested by ECLAC du ring the '50s. A key issue involved in this new pragmatism was the priority to narrow t he gap between education and the work force. A network was created in the region to identify the relation between education and work (Red Latin American Education an d Work). Within this network, there was a great deal of discussion regarding the meaning of both education and work in relation to different socioeconomic groups (De I barrola, 1990; Filmus, 1995). In summary, the two main theoretical influences come f rom ECLAC as well as from remnants of Freire's work. While ECLAC focuses on t he quantitative side of improving basic education, Freire s theory relates well to ad ult literacy but remains limited when applied to formal schooling.Sources of Institutional Research This section does not provide an exhaustive descri ption of all institutions involved in educational research throughout Latin A merica, but instead focuses on exemplary cases. In most of the countries, we will distinguish between four sources of institutional research: a) state agencies, b) unive rsities, c) non-government organizations


4 of 10(local, international, religious, etc.), and d) for eign aid agencies. State agencies Most countries in Latin America have specific agen cies that are responsible for educational research. These agencies are typically related to the Ministry of Education. An example is the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research (INEP), previously named the National Institute of Pedagogi cal Studies, created in Brazil in 1938. Since its inception, the institute has been r esponsible for the continual publication of the Brazilian Journal of Educational Studies, on e of the main sources of information and analysis regarding Brazilian education. At a re search level, INEP supported an average of 24 research projects a year from 1972 to 1982. This is an insufficient number in comparison to the need of the population of 160 million inhabitants. In the region as a whole, state agencies played a d ynamic role in educational research during the '60s and '70s. However, this fu nding and support gradually decreased over time. As a first measure the National Institut e of Educational Research (INIDE) in Peru was initially the target of budget reduction a nd was subsequently closed. While in 1977 there were 90 research projects under way, by 1985, there were only 50 projects remaining. Presently, the National Agency of Educat ional Research and Teacher Training (DINIC) coordinates educational research m ainly on psychopedagogy and the sociology of education. This same situation occurre d in Chile, with support for the Center of Improvement, Experimentation, and Educati on Research (CDEIP) being severely cut in Santiago. Similarly, in 1968 the Co lombian Institute of Pedagogy (ICOLPE) was closed and replaced by the Colombian F und of Scientific Investigations and Special Projects (COLCIENCIAS). Those researchers involved in Latin America agree that there is no need to create more institutions but rather to increase coordinati on among the already existing institutions (Pizzarro, 1990). There are various ne w centers that provide resources as well as help to facilitate research through offerin g access to technological information such as databases and on-line publications. An exam ple of such a center is the Caribbean Research Information Service (CERIS), located in Tr inidad and Tobago. This center focuses on four primary goals (Velloso, 1996): gathering information related to the structure of e ducational systems 1. collecting information related to current research on education 2. constructing an annotated bibliography on completed research 3. identifying potential sources of information 4. Universities In many cases, Education Departments are responsib le for the majority of research activities. Currently in Brazil, universit ies conduct approximately 80% of the research, while the remainder is carried out by non governmental organizations and municipal agencies. However, previously there was a paucity of experienced researchers in Brazil; it was not until the late '70s that grad uate programs in education were developed. In 1981, 22 different universities offered a total of 27 graduate programs in education (549 masters theses and 10 doctoral disse rtations). Velloso (1996) suggests that we have had a quantitative gap during the last decade, with 4,000 masters theses and 400 doctoral dissertations completed in the followi ng universities: the Federal


5 of 10Universities of Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul, Ri o de Janeiro, and Fluminence; the State Universities of Sao Paulo and Campinas; the C atholic University of Sao Paulo. In Chile, the Education Departments in the Catholic Un iversity of Chile and the University of Chile conduct research primarily on educational policy and planning. In the Caribbean region, research in education was initiated in 1954 with the birth of the Educational Research Center, affiliated with the West Indies Un iversity. Due to the increasing number of students enrolled in education programs throughout Latin America, professors have had to fo cus more on teaching rather than research. In addition, professors are able to obtai n tenure once they have completed their masters degree, and without mandatorily proceeding with any doctoral research. During the last decade, there have been many initiatives a imed at increasing both the quantity and the quality of educational research and to prom ote communication between scholars. For the past fifteen years, the National Brazilian Association for Graduate Studies in Education (ANPE) has held annual meetings as well a s regular workshops on specific topics where researchers come together to discuss a nd share their current work on education. In addition, there are two federal organ izations in Brazil, the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the Commission of Advancement and Training of University Personnel (C APES), that send students abroad to study in doctoral programs and evaluate local gr aduate programs. In Chile, the Ministry of Education initiated the Program for the Improvement of Quality and Equity of Education (MECE), a project that combines the ef forts of policymakers and researchers and encourages more applied projects. W ith the help of the World Bank, Paraguay also adopted this initiative to improve th e quality of secondary schools. Finally, on a more regional level, there is an acad emic organization, the Latin American University of Social Sciences (FLACSO), that suppor ts cooperative research among universities throughout Latin America.Non-governmental organizations (NGOS): Local, inter national, religious During the last decade, nongovernmental organizati ons (NGOS) have played a greater role in educational research in Latin Ameri ca. In Chile, for instance, NGOS are the main resource for studies in the area. The Rese arch Center on Educational Development (CIDE), founded by the Catholic Church in 1964, presently includes approximately twenty researchers with doctoral degr ees who are working on projects that are funded by both local and foreign agencies. This center is responsible for coordinating the Latin American Educational Informa tion and Documentation Network (REDUC), an organization that collects and dissemin ates periodical information on educational research in seventeen different countri es (Analytical Abstracts on Education RAE). There is a similar NGO in Mexico, the Cente r of Educational Studies (CEE), that offers the most complete database on education al research in Mexico. In Brazil, the Carlos Chagas Foundation in Sao Paulo is involved i n both traditional as well as more innovative research projects, such as a project on ethnicity and education. In addition, this foundation publishes an international journal, Cadernos de Pesquisa. Multinational corporations have traditionally been involved in funding educational projects, but more recently they have b egun to participate in new projects that also include a research dimension. For example the Swiss Foundation for Sustainable Development (NOVARTIS) provides funding for and monitoring of community centers for street children. Another exam ple can be found in a distance learning program, "Telecurso 2000," sponsored by th e Roberto Marinho Foundation, a project based around three primary goals: contextua l teaching (ensino em contexto),


6 of 10development of fundamental competency, and citizens hip empowerment. Latin American NGOS receive the majority of their funding from foreign sources. CIDE received 60% of its funding from sources outside of Chile (Velloso, 1996). Similarly, the Carlos Chagas Foundation in Chile received many contributions from the Ford Foundation. The International Center for Research o n Development (ICRD), a Canadian organization, offered substantial funding to local Latin American NGOS during the last twenty years. One research project that was recentl y funded investigates survival strategies for marginalized groups in the workplace in Uruguay (Lemez, 1997). Foreign aid agencies Regional and international foreign aid agencies hav e participated in educational projects since the '50s. One project, Development a nd Education in Latin American and the Caribbean (UNDP, 1981), supported by three diff erent international agencies, ECLAC, UNESCO, and the United Nations Development P rogram (UNDP), offered a comparative perspective of education among the coun tries in the region. More recently, the World Bank has come to play a predominant role in financing educational projects in the region (Coraggio, 1995). Between 1990 and 1994, the World Bank was responsible for contributing $1.1 billion annually to education al projects in Latin America (MacMeekin, 1996). Proceeding the World Bank, the t hree principal funding agencies are the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Japanese Agency of International Aid, and the USA International Agency (USAID). The Nordeste Project in Brazil is a typical exampl e of the World Bank's involvement in education. It is the largest investm ent of the World Bank in Brazil. During the next four years, $736.5 million will be allocated to improve the quality of primary school education (ensino fundamental de 1 a 4 seria). Due to the fact that 30% of children between seven and fourteen years are no t attending school and that only 76% of adults have less than four years of schooling ex plain the need for such an investment in education (MEC, 1996). However, in examining the general orientation of this project, we do not believe that it will improve the local educational situation. First, the project does not have a sufficient research team th at would be able to properly evaluate relevant problems in local schools. The philosophy underlying the project lacks a global understanding of the relationships between educatio n and society, and instead focuses on fragmented and quantitative goals within the formal schooling system. The overriding theme of the World Bank's Nordeste Project revolves around material and human management. While one third of the funds have alrea dy been allocated toward the purchase of 47 million textbooks (Sanjuro, 1996), t hese materials are primarily designed and manufactured in industrialized southern Brazil, a context very different from the local rural one. While the project s main focus is education, we believe it also needs to consider and incorporate the fact that land is uneq ually distributed within the surrounding region. However, as suggested by Coragg io (1995), the redistribution of productive resources among different socioeconomic groups is not a priority of the World Bank. By examining different sources of institutional res earch, we are able to identify some general tendencies that are common across Lati n America. First, while state agencies previously had a substantial role in educa tional research, they are presently downsizing their research capacity. Second, univers ities have maintained their position, especially in relation to countries in which there is a strong academic tradition. Finally, with contributions from private and public foreign agencies, NGOS have increased their research capacity.


7 of 10Future Perspectives Highlighted in both electoral campaigns and officia l documents, education seems to be the main priority in many Latin American coun tries. However, in viewing the actual educational situation in the region as a who le, we can see that there still remains a great deal more that needs to be accomplished. Cent ral America is particularly affected, with 1.5 million children still outside of the scho ol system. Indeed, the previous objective of generalization of primary education ha s yet to be reached, especially for indigenous children, poor children, and those livin g in rural areas. As pointed out by Puryear (1996, p.3), "Latin America's primary and s econdary schools are sharply segmented by economic status, with the poor consign ed to the public system while the rich and most of the middle-class attend private sc hools." As previously stated, there is a need for a new approach to education in Latin Ameri ca that supersedes both the human resources theory supported by ECLAC as well as Frei re's pedagogy of adult literacy. The schooling system is structurally divided into two separate networks: private and public. This division parallels Baudelot's and Establet's (1971; 1975) conceptualization of the French school system. The separation found in their work is between primary educationprofessional training an d secondary education-university. Children from working class families are confined t o the first network while children from an upper-class background are likely to reach levels of secondary and university education. Another parallel can be found in Serpell s analysis of schooling in Africa. Serpell argues that, "...the narrowing staircase mo del of schooling, which informs the prototype of Institutionalised Public Basic Educati on (IPBS) combines a metaphor of the individual s developmental progress as climbing a s taircase with a conception of the social function of schooling as the recruitment of an elite by gradually extracting them from humble origins into a privileged upper class" (Serpell, in press). In this way, schooling in many third world countries functions i n an "extractive manner," working against "the principle of local accountability in b oth the economic and the cultural sphere." We see that in as early as the primary school year s, there already exists a fundamental qualitative difference between public a nd private education in Latin America. We can easily observe that classrooms are overcrowded and that teachers have minimal training in many public schools. Numerous c hildren drop out of the system prematurely and some of them later go on to some ty pe of nonformal education. We also observe a strong residential segregation i n Latin American countries. Regions are made up of distinct socioeconomic group s that are very different from each other and children within the public school sector have very little opportunity to interact outside of school with children who attend private schools. It is as if there exist two parallel processes of socialization, and this poses a challenge for those citizens who live together and are working toward a common future. He nce, one main goal of educational research in Latin America is to first investigate t he existing segregation and later reconstruct a new model of public education. Accomp lishments such as these will be relevant to educational issues in other third world countries because of the increasing deterioration of the quality of public education an d the tendency for children from upper-class families to obtain private rather than public education.ReferencesBaudelot, & Establet. (1971). L'cole capitaliste en France Paris: d. Maspero.


8 of 10Baudelot, & Establet. (1975). L'cole primaire divise. Paris: d. Maspero. Cardozo, F. H., & Faletto. (1969). Dependencia y desarrollo en America Latina Mexico: Siglo XXI.Carnoy, M. (1977). La educacion como imperialismo cultural Mexico: Siglo XXI. Coraggio, J. L. (1995). Educacion y modelo de desar rollo. In CEAAL (Ed.), Construccion delas politicas educativas de Americas Latina (pp. 83-131). Lima: Tarea. De Ibarrola, M. (1990). Projecto socioeducativo, in stitution escolar y mercado de trabajo: el caso del Tecnico Medio Agropecuario. Un published Doctorado, UNM, Mexico.Freire, P. (1972). The pedagogy of the oppressed Harmondsworth: Penguin. Freire, P. (1976). L'alphabetisation et le "reve po ssible". Perspectives vol VI, pp. 70-73. Garcia-Huidobro, J., Tellet, F. & Ochoa, J. (1990). Tendencia de las investigacion educacional en America Latina. Santiago de Chile: C IDE.. Illich, I. (1973). Deschooling society Harmondsworth: Penguin. Lemez. (1989). La educacion y las strategias social es de sobrevivencia en el mercado de trabajo. Montevido: Centro d'investigacion y Experi mentacion Pedagogica (CIEP). McMeekin, R. (1996). Coordinacion de la asistencia externa para la educacion en America Latina y el Caraibe. Boletin del Projecto Principal de Educacion abril(39), 2054.MEC. (1996). Projecto Nordeste. Brasilia: Ministeri o da Educacacao e do Desporto. Meister, A. (1968). Participation, animation, dveloppement Paris: Ed. Anthropos. Pizarro, J. (1990). Investigacion de la Educacion e n Algunos Paises de America latina Ottawa: Centre international de recherche pour le d veloppement (CIRD). UNDP (1981). Dveloppement et ducation en Amrique la tine et les Carabes. Paris: UnescoPuryear, J. M. (1996). Education in Latin America: Problem and Chalenges (Working Group on Educational Reform). New York: Concil on F oreign Relations. Sanjuro, R. (1996). Distribuicao do livro didactico no Nordeste brasileiro (Projecto Nordeste ). Brasilia: MEC.Schultz, T. W. (1981). Investing in people. The economics of population qu ality Berkley: University of California Press.Serpell, R. (in press). Local accountability to rur al communities: A challege for educational planing in Africa. In F. Leach and A. L ittle (Eds.), Schools, Culture and Economics in the Developing World: Tension and Conf lict New York: Garland.


9 of 10 Tedesco, J. C. (1995). El nuevo pacto educativo. Educacion, competitividad y ciudadania en a sociedad moderna Madrid: Grupo Anaya. UNESCO. (1962). Situacion demografica, economica, s ocial y educativa en America Latina. Paris: UNESCO/CEDES.Velloso, J. (1996). SERI and capacity building in e ducational research in Latin America and the Caribbean. In SERI (Ed.), Educational research in the South: An Initial Revie w Paris: International Institute for Educational Plan ning.About the AuthorsAbdeljalil AkkariUniversity of Maryland Baltimore CountyEmail: Dr. Abdeljlil teaches courses in multicultural educ ation and sociology of education at Fribourg University (Switzerland). He developed research in Tunisia and Brasil on the relationships between education and d evelopment. He is currently as a visiting professor in the Psychology Department of the University of Maryland Baltimore county.Soledad PerezGeneva UniversitySwitzerlandEmail: Dr. Soledad Perez teaches comparative education at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). She is a specialist of Latin America n educational systems. She has done research on rural communities in Equator. She colla borated with international organizations on several projects related to educat ion in Latin America, Europe and Africa.Copyright 1998 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (602-965-26 92). The Book Review Editor is Walter E. Shepherd: The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board


10 of 10 Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Andrew Coulson Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Marshall University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Calgary Richard M. Jaeger University of North Carolina--Greensboro Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Rocky Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education William McInerney Purdue University Mary P. McKeown Arizona Board of Regents Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson Arizona State University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers University of California at Davis Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois--UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education Robert T. Stout Arizona State University