mercredi 26 juin 2013

Buenos Aires - 8. The Academic View

Never try to start your day in a second language. This morning, at sun-up (well, 8:30 since it’s Winter), I asked a man for a croissant and coffee in French, then proceeded to say, “thank you for the bathroom Madam” as he handed me a chicken empanada. Not my best example of communication in Spanish, luckily, few things change much in academia and, for the rest of the day, various academic seminars left a comforting impression of how similar educational issues in Argentina are.
     One of the most famous educators to come out of South America this past century was Paulo Freire, and the World Comparative Congress on Education (WCCES) reinforced this. Freire was a Brazilian educator whose “pedagogy of the oppressed” was revolutionary in the 60s in South America, and elsewhere in the 80s after the New York Times wrote a huge series on Freire’s work. He is best known for his ‘Angicos’ project which sought to teach literacy and ground-breaking politics to Brazilians in poverty, the people ‘who didn’t have voice’. Today, he is still cited in almost every educational paper on ethics and equality and politics. His thought was that to change education, to make society better, you have to give voice to those who do not have one – you have to bring education into the public sphere.
     Half a decade later, educators still argue over how to do that. How do you provide a voice? How do you teach literacy?
How do you bring diversity to education? Arguments we hear over and over again in parliaments and board rooms across the continent. At conferences, educators argue how much ground has been gained since the Angicos project. UNESCO, a world organization with a focus on education for the masses, has just been given a new leader – the World Bank, and it is thought that this leader may have a different focus for education – commodity rather than quality.
  Education-as-a-commodity is probably one of the biggest changes in education since Freire. Students are spoken of in ‘units’; at universities as ‘BIUs’ (basic income units); and in terms of ‘transfer per’ amounts. Education always involved finance, but never so much as it does today. European publishing conglomerates write curriculum and content dependent directly upon how much a book can sell. Education, in short, is big business.

   When UNESCO came out with the Jacques Delors report, the four pillars of global learning – learning to know; learning to do; learning to be; and learning to live together – academics world-wide embraced the ‘all encompassing curriculum’, the ‘curriculum for all’, and yet how does a ‘global curriculum’ translate on the government level? As ‘learning to make money’.
   Here, in Argentina, that is their argument too: ‘there is too much economy in education and not enough equality.’
  I guess that is the one thing we all share in our global society: we are all worried about how it is going to be paid for!

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