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Global learning crisis?

Rosa María Torres
Texto en español: ¿Crisis global de aprendizaje?

Global learning crisis?. The question refers to the term learning. We claim that speaking of a "learning crisis" has the risk of blaming the victim, of not acknowledging the teaching crisis behind such learning crisis, and of ignoring the dysfunctionality and responsibility of the education system in a holistic way. Also, the term learning crisis is very attractive for the evaluation machinery eager to assist with all sorts of standardized tests. We also discuss the need to acknowledge teacher learning and not only student learning; teachers' own learning is also in crisis. Finally, we reaffirm that the identified learning crisis affects not only poor countries but also rich ones, and is thus really global.

Children are not learning in school

A major 'discovery' came up from the extensive international meetings and deliberations stimulated by the 2015 deadline for the Education for All - EFA goals (1990-2000-2015) and the Millennium Development Goals - MDG (2000-2015): millions of children are not learning in school. Of the 650 million primary school age children in the world, 250 million are not learning the basics (reading, writing, counting), even after 3 or more years of schooling.
In 2011, of 41 countries surveyed:
- after 4 years or less in school: 1 in 4 children are unable to read all or part of a sentence
- after 5-6 years in school: 1 in 3 children are unable to read all or part of a sentence
- 61% of children who cannot read are girls
- 25% of children in low and middle income countries cannot read.
Illustration: Claudius Ceccon

The term illiteracy applies not only to adults but to children as well. Illiteracy is linked to lack of access to school, but also to access to poor quality and insufficient education, and to lack of opportunities for reading and writing. The combination of poverty and poor teaching, poor learning and poor reading conditions reinforces the worst predictions for the poor.

In 'developing countries' we know this for a long time. Completing four years of school, prescribed by the MDGs as equivalent to 'primary education', is clearly insufficient to make a child literate - able to read, write and calculate in real life situations - especially if that child comes from deprived socio-economic contexts and subordinate languages and cultures.

Same thing is true with adult literacy: the usual quick literacy programmes - more concerned with statistics than with actual learning - leave people half way, with weak and volatile reading and writing skills. A short 'post-literacy' programme does not add much. Just like children, young people and adults need a solid basic education, and exposure to reading and writing environments and acts.

Not being able to read and write is one of the main causes of school repetition in the early years of schooling worldwide. There is no scientific or even rational reason behind the idea that children must learn to read and write in one or two years. And yet, this is often mandated by national education policies and authorities. 'Failure' is typically attributed to the students rather than to the system and to those in charge of defining policies and curricula.

Few countries give students and teachers enough time to make a joyful and meaningful literacy process. Brazil - well known for its high repetition rates and its long-entrenched 'school repetition culture' - groups together the first three years of primary education, called 'literacy cycle'.

We, specialists, have been saying for decades that literacy education must be seen as an objective for at least the whole of primary education, if not for basic education (primary and lower secondary education, according to ISCED). We have also been saying that, given the importance and complexity of the task, groups in the early grades must be rather small and the best teachers should be assigned to such grades (Finland does it), challenging the logic and usual practice of school systems worldwide.

The acknowledgement by the international community of the school 'global learning crisis' comes a bit late, when the deadline for both MDG and EFA goals is coming to an end, after 15 and 25 years respectively. Hopefully such recognition will lead to world awareness and will help reshape the post-2015 education agenda worldwide.

Learning was one of the six Education for All goals approved in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990, at the launch of the Education for All initiative. (Goal 3: Improvement in learning achievement such that an agreed percentage of an appropriate age cohort - e.g. 80% of 14 year-olds - attains or surpasses a defined level of necessary learning achievement). Ten years later, at the World Education Forum in Dakar (2000), that goal was eliminated and learning was mentioned only in reference to young people and adults (Goal 3: "Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes"). That same year, the Millennium Development Goals were approved; the two goals referred to education did not mention learning.


It is definitely time to move beyond quantitative goals of access and completion, and to incorporate learning at the core of all education goals. It is time to apply the terms 'universalization' or 'democratization' not just to enrollment or completion of a certain school level, but to learning. It is time to assume that the right to education is no longer the right to access formal schooling but the right to learn.

"Global learning crisis"? - Blaming the victim

There was apparently consensus in choosing the term "global learning crisis". It is certainly global: the crisis affects not only poor but also rich countries. On the other hand, it is clear that acknowledging the learning crisis in the school system implies acknowledging the teaching crisis as well. Speaking of a learning crisis has the risk of missing the point, by placing the problem on the side of the learners rather than on the system.

Illustration: Claudius Ceccon

Blaming the victim is daily practice in the school culture. But we know - or should know - that if children are not learning in schools it is not because they are stupid but because the school system - not only teachers individually -- is unable to teach them properly and the social system is unable to offer them adequate learning conditions in and out of school (family welbeing, affection, protection, nutrition, health, sleep, security, etc.).

Both the learning crisis and the teaching crisis are related to an obsolete and dysfunctional school system that needs major changes if we want to ensure learning, learning to learn, and learning to enjoy learning.

Teacher training appears typically as the main 'solution' to educational quality and to student learning. However, even if important, teacher training is not enough. There are other quality factors related to teachers (salaries, professionalism, respect and social appreciation, participation in educational policies and decisions, etc.) and other internal and external factors intervening in school success or failure.

When it comes to teaching and learning, let us not forget that:

(a) The "global learning crisis" affects not only 'developing countries' - focus of Education for All and other international education reports and debates - but also 'developed countries'. Concern and complaints about poor reading and writing skills among primary and high-school students are common and increasingly voiced in rich - OECD - countries.

(b) The "global learning crisis" affects not only students but teachers as well. Millions of school teachers receive inadequate and poor pre- and in-service training, where they learn nothing or what they learn is not relevant and useful for their professional practice and development. There is huge waste of money and time in teacher education and training that do not translate into meaningful teacher learning

(c) Students are blamed for not learning and teachers are blamed for not teaching (or for not teaching in ways that ensure desirable student learning). However, the teaching role is not exclusive of teachers. The whole school system has been designed and operates as a teaching system. And this teaching system - the way we know it - is not adequate for learning and for learners.

Illustration: Frato

Even if teachers are trained, and even if they are well trained and paid, the learning crisis - including their own - is there. The label "global learning crisis" may activate the assessment and evaluation machinery, with its fierce competition, standardized tests, and rankings, rather than stimulate the long postponed and much needed teaching-learning revolution.

Ideas for Q education ▸ Ideas para una educación Q


Rosa María Torres

(materiales para un libro en camino / materials for a book on the making)

Paper Typography - Fubiz


12 tesis para el cambio educativo
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/08/12-tesis-para-el-cambio-educativo.html

About "good practice" in international co-operation in education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-would-be-good-practice-in.html


Analfabetismo no es ignorancia
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/01/analfabetismo-no-es-ignorancia.html

Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida (ALV)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/01/aprendizaje-lo-largo-de-la-vida-alv.html


¿Aprendizaje en el siglo 21? ¡Falta la naturaleza!
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/08/faltalanaturaleza.html


Basic Learning Needs: Different Frameworks
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/11/basic-learning-needs-different.html


¿Buen estudiante es el que saca buenas notas?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/11/buen-estudiante-es-el-que-saca-buenas.html

Calidad educativa: ¿infraestructura, tecnologías y docentes?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/02/calidad-educativa-infraestructura.html


Ciudades educadoras y derecho al aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/ciudades-educadoras-y-derecho-al_14.html

Clarificando conceptos, confusiones
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/12/separando-chana-de-juana.html

Comida rápida, aprendizaje rápido
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/05/comida-rapida-aprendizaje-rapido.html


Comunidad de Aprendizaje
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/01/comunidad-de-aprendizaje.html


Consejos prácticos para anular el gusto por la Literatura
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/04/consejos-practicos-para-anular-el-gusto.html

Cuando el aula suena, alumnos contentos trae
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/04/cundo-el-aula-suena-alumnos-contentos.html

¿Curricular y extracurricular?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/10/curricular-y-extracurricular.html

Child learning and adult learning revisited
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/02/child-learning-and-adult-learning.html 

¿China, Corea del Sur o Finlandia?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/04/china-corea-del-sur-o-finlandia.html

De alumno a aprendiz
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/11/de-alumno-aprendiz.html

De Comunidad Escolar a Comunidad de Aprendizaje
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/06/de-comunidad-escolar-comunidad-de.html

Dormir en la escuela
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/01/dormir-en-la-escuela.html

'Educación' ilustrada
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/07/educacion-ilustrada.html

Educar, ¿cuestión de meter o de sacar?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/07/educar-cuestion-de-meter-o-de-sacar.html

¿Educar para adaptar?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/educacion-adaptarse-un-mundo-cambiante.html
Education for Adaptation?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/educacion-adaptarse-un-mundo-cambiante.html


El absurdo de la repetición escolar
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/12/el-absurdo-de-la-repeticion-escolar.html

El amor es parte de la calidad de la educación
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/11/el-amor-es-parte-de-la-calidad-de-la.html

El aula y el patio
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/07/el-aula-y-el-patio.html

El derecho de niños y niñas a una educación básica
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/08/el-derecho-de-ninos-y-ninas-una.html

El "descubrimiento de América" (comprensión lectora)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/el-descubrimiento-de-america.html

El Foro Económico Mundial y la calidad educativa
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/04/el-foro-economico-mundial-y-la-calidad.html
The World Economic Forum and educational quality
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-world-economic-forum-and.html

El milagro del aprendizaje escolar
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/02/el-milagro-del-aprendizaje-escolar.html

El modelo de preparación docente que no ha funcionado
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/el-modelo-de-preparacion-docente-que-no.html

En educación no manda Don Dinero
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/02/en-educacion-no-manda-don-dinero.html


En la distracción puede estar el aprendizaje
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/04/en-la-distraccion-puede-estar-el.html

Enseñanza invisible
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/12/ensenanza-invisible.html

Escolarizado no es lo mismo que educado
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/04/escolarizado-no-es-lo-mismo-que-educado.html

Hay que remover la tierra para sembrar la semilla
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/09/hay-que-remover-la-tierra-para-sembrar.html

Humor que duele: ¡Cambiemos la educación!
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/12/humor-que-duele-cambiemos-la-educacion.html

Imagine una profesora
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/02/imagine-una-profesora.html


Knowledge-based international aid: Do we want it? Do we need it?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/10/knowldedge-based-international-aid-do.html

Lalo y Lola no valen lo mismo en el aparato escolar
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/08/lalo-y-lola-no-valen-lo-mismo-en-el.html

La escuela como liberación
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/08/laescuelacomoliberacion.html

La virtuosa C (claves para una nueva cultura del aprendizaje)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/01/la-virtuosa-c-virtuous-c.html
The Virtuous C (Keys for a Renewed Learning Culture)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/01/la-virtuosa-c-virtuous-c.html


Las 4 A como criterio para identificar buenas prácticas educativas
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/10/las-4a-como-criterios-para-identificar.html
The 4 As as criteria to identify "good practices" in education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/10/4-as-as-criteria-to-identify-good.html

Las mejores ideas ocurren en posición horizontal
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/09/las-mejores-ideas-ocurren-en-posicion.html
Leer por el gusto de leer: la clave
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/12/leer-por-el-gusto-de-leer-la-clave.html

Leer y escribir hacen bien a la salud
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/01/leer-y-escribir-hacen-bien-la-salud.html


Literacy for All: A Renewed Vision
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/literacy-for-all-renewed-vision.html
Alfabetización para Todos: una visión renovada
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/literacy-for-all-renewed-vision.html

Literacy and Lifelong Learning: The Linkages
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/01/literacy-and-lifelong-learning-linkages.html


Los 4 P: padres, profesores, periodistas y políticos
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/08/los-cuatro-p-padres-profesores.html

Los contorsionistas (a propósito de habilidades y talentos)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/06/los-contorsionistas-proposito-de.html

Los maestros son ex-alumnos
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/08/los-maestros-son-ex-alumnos-renovacion.html

Los niños como educadores de adultos
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/10/los-ninos-como-educadores-de-adultos.html


Los niños pequeños deberían ser los mimados de la sociedad
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/08/los-ninos-pequenos-deberian-ser-los.html

Lógicas de la política, lógicas de la educación
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/03/logicas-de-la-politica-logicas-de-la.html


¿Más de lo mismo? Un sistema escolar que se estira
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/06/mas-de-lo-mismo-un-sistema-escolar-que.html

¿Mejorar la educación para aliviar la pobreza? ¿O aliviar la pobreza para mejorar la educación?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/mejorar-la-educacion-para-aliviar-la.html


No existe "la educación del siglo 21"
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/no-existe-la-educacion-del-siglo-21.html

There is no "education for the 21st century"
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/there-is-no-education-for-21st-century.html

¿Nosotros de ida, ellos de vuelta?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/08/nosotros-de-ida-ellos-de-vuelta.html

On Innovation and Change in Education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/03/on-innovation-and-change-in-education.html

On Learning Anytime, Anywhere (WISE 2011)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/11/on-learning-anytime-anywhere.html

Open letter to school children
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/08/open-letter-to-school-children.html
Carta abierta para niños y niñas que van a la escuela
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/08/carta-abierta-para-ninos-y-ninas-que.html 

Para eliminar el analfabetismo hay que eliminar la pobreza
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/para-eliminar-el-analfabetismo-hay-que.html

Participación social en educación y observatorios ciudadanos
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/participacion-social-en-educacion-y.html

Pedagogía del afecto
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/pedagogia-del-afecto.html


Pequeño homenaje personal a Julio Verne y a mi mamá
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/un-pequeno-homenaje-julio-verne-y-mi.html

PISA ¿para qué?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/04/pisa-para-que.html


Por qué los maestros están llamados a ser los primeros defensores de los derechos de los niños
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/06/por-que-los-maestros-estan-llamados-ser.html

¿Por qué los padres de familia solo existen para los problemas? 
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/por-que-los-padres-de-familia-solo.html

Preguntas y respuestas sobre educación de adultos
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/06/preguntas-y-respuestas-sobre-educacion.html

Pre-niños: los cimientos invisibles
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/07/pre-ninos.html 

Pruebas PISA: Seis conclusiones y una pregunta
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/05/pruebas-pisa-seis-conclusiones-y-una.html

¿Qué es educación de CALIDAD?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/03/que-es-una-educacion-de-calidad.html

¿Qué pasaría si quienes deciden las políticas educativas tuvieran a sus hijos en planteles públicos?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2003/09/que-pasaria-si-quienes-deciden-las.html

Quito: Encuesta de Cultura Ciudadana
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/cultura-ciudadana-que-clase-de.html

Reaching the Unreached: Non-formal approaches and Universal Primary Education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/06/reaching-unreached-non-formal.html

Refranero escolar
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/refranero-escolar.html


Repensando el entusiasmo evaluador y las pruebas
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/12/repensando-el-entusiasmo-evaluador-y.html

Repensar los tiempos escolares
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/01/repensar-los-tiempos-escolares.html


Satisfacción excesiva con la educación
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/06/satisfaccion-excesiva-con-la-educacion.html
Latin America oversatisfied with public education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/06/latin-america-oversatisfied-with-public.html

Si a los niños se les permitira escribir libremente...
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/si-los-ninos-se-les-permitiera-escribir.html

"Si un libro aburre, déjelo": Borges
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/04/si-un-libro-aburre-dejelo-borges.html


Sobre educadores, buenos educadores y profesionalización
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/sobre-educadores-buenos-educadores-y.html 

¿Tecnologías en el aula? Así no
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/06/tecnologias-en-el-aula-asi-no.html

The green, the blue, the red and the pink schools
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/green-blue-red-and-pink-schools.html
Escuelas verdes, azules, rojas y rosadas
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/06/escuelas-verdes-azules-rojas-y-rosadas.html

Transforming formal education from a lifelong learning perspective
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/10/transforming-formal-education-from.html

Un Año Viejo infantil
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/01/un-ano-viejo-infantil.html

Un manual para ser niño - Gabriel García Márquez
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/04/manual-para-ser-nino-gabriel-garcia.html

Una educación del cuello para arriba
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/una-educacion-de-cuello-para-arriba.html


Una educación para resolver problemas de la vida
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/05/una-educacion-para-resolver-problemas.html

Una prueba no prueba nada
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/03/las-pruebas-no-prueban-nada.html

"Universalizar" la educación y los aprendizajes
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/09/universalizarlaeducacion.html

Y colorín, colorado, este cuento nos ha atormentado
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/07/y-colorin-colorado-este-cuento-nos-ha.html


Experiencias / Experiences


"Antes, aquí era Escuela Vieja" (Una visita a Escuela Nueva, Colombia)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/11/antes-aqui-era-escuela-vieja.html

Campaña de Renovación Pedagógica (Ecuador)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/04/campana-de-renovacion-pedagogica.html

Campaña Nacional de Alfabetización "Monseñor Leonidas Proaño" (Ecuador)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/09/la-campana-nacional-de-alfabetizacion.html


Children of the Basarwa (Botswana)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/children-of-basarwa.html

Los niños Basarwa (Botswana)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/children-of-basarwa.html


Children's rights: A community learning experience in Senegal
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/01/children-rights-community-learning.html

Cuba y Finlandia
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/06/cuba-and-finland.html
Cuba and Finland
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/06/cuba-and-finland.html

Educar a las madres en el valor del afecto y del juego
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/02/educar-las-madres-en-el-valor-del.html

El barrio como espacio pedagógico: Una escuelita itinerante (Brasil)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com.es/2011/06/el-barrio-como-espacio-pedagogico-una.html

Escuela Nueva: An innovation within formal education (Colombia)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/11/escuela-nueva-innovation-within-formal.html

Glosario mínimo sobre la educación en Finlandia
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/06/glosario-minimo-sobre-la-educacion-en.html


Instalaciones educativas abiertas a la comunidad
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/02/instalaciones-educativas-abiertas-la.html


Internet devuelve la vista y amplía la lectura a los ciegos (Uruguay)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/01/internet-devuelve-la-vista-y-la-lectura.html

La biblioteca como núcleo de desarrollo comunitario (Una experiencia en Córdoba, Argentina)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/04/la-biblioteca-como-nucleo-de-desarrollo.html

La escuela de la maestra Raquel (México)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/la-escuela-de-la-maestra-raquel.html

La Pedagogía Salesiana y el actual contexto internacional
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/09/la-pedagogia-salesiana-y-el-actual.html

Los Laureados con el premio WISE a la educación
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/12/los-laureados-con-el-premio-wise-la.html

WISE Prize for Education Laureates: Bottom-up Innovators
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/11/wise-prize-for-education-laureates.html

Niños que trabajan y estudian (CMT, Ecuador)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/11/ninos-que-trabajan-y-estudian-cmt.html


Sumak Kawsay: Voces y saberes de la Amazonía ecuatoriana
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/10/sumak-kawsay-voces-y-saberes-de-la.html

Un día de comunidad-escuela: Una experiencia en Granada
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/12/un-dia-de-comunidad-escuela-una.html

Una biblioteca escolar como debe ser (Brasil)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/09/una-biblioteca-escolar-como-debe-ser.html



Receta para la reforma educativa ▸ Recipe for education reform


Rosa María Torres

All posters


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


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

(see English text below)


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

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

PARA LA SALSA
- 1 lata de consultas y consensos pelados

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

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

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

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


All posters

                                                    RECIPE FOR EDUCATION REFORM

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

For the sauce
- 1 cup of canned consultation and consensus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Textos relacionados en este blog / Related posts in this blog
La reforma educativa tradicional
El molde de la reforma educativa
Maldición de Malinche
Repensando el entusiasmo evaluador y las pruebas
El Banco Mundial y sus errores de política educativa ▸ The World Bank and its mistaken education policies
- 12 tesis para el cambio educativo
¿Mejorar la educación para aliviar la pobreza o aliviar la pobreza para poder educar?
En educación no manda Don Dinero
Knowldedge-based international aid: Do we want it? Do we need it?
Lifelong Learning for the North, Primary Education for the South? ¿Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida para el Norte y Educación Primaria para el Sur?
- About "good practice" in international co-operation in education

About "good practice" in international co-operation in education


Gurbuz Calimar

Rosa María Torres
(document in process)

¿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

COUNTRIES AND DEVELOPMENT

▸  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.

EDUCATION

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

▸  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

On Learning Anytime, Anywhere (WISE 2011)


Jaume Piensa
 Rosa-María Torres

This is a compilation of my interventions at the "Learning Anytime, Anywhere" session held at the World Summit on Innovation in Education (WISE 2011) in Doha, Qatar, 1-3 Nov. 2011.

The format adopted by WISE for the debates required no presentations by the speakers but individual questions posed by the Chair of the session as well as 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 the oral interventions. It may not reflect the exact words of such interventions, which were interspersed with those of the other speakers.

Four people participated in this debate #WISED34
:

 ▸ Graham Brown-Martin, Chair (Learning Without Frontiers, UK)
 ▸ François Taddei (Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity at Paris Descartes University, France)

▸ Rosa-María Torres del Castillo (Fronesis, Ecuador)

▸ Ruth Wallace (Centre for Social Partnerships in Lifelong Learning, Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory, Australia)


What is Lifelong Learning (LLL)

Many people continue to associate LLL with adult education or to use it as equivalent to lifelong education or continuing education. The term itself, however, is selfdescriptive and should provide no room for confusion: Life Long Learning means learning throughout life, "from the cradle to the grave." This is, in the first place, a fact of life: 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 many other learning systems where we learn throughout life: home, community, the media, play, work, art, 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.

▸ See: 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 lifespan 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 South) but also "developed" ones (the 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).

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.

See: Rosa María Torres, On Innovation and Education

Testing does not necessarily reflect learning

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

PISA
(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.

▸ See: Rosa María Torres, Repensando el entusiasmo evaluador y las pruebas PISA (Spanish)

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.


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. 

▸ See: 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.

See: Rosa María Torres, Children of the Basarwa Niños Basarwa

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