The Politics of Nonformal Education in Latin America

By Carlos Alberto Torres | Go to book overview

thermore, limitations in the follow-up of the new literates generated functional illiterates in a short time, increasing the illiteracy rate from 12.5% to 25% in five years.


CONCLUSION: LESSONS FROM THESE EXPERIENCES

There is a degree of correspondence between changes in the socioeconomic system and educational reform. If education is always and everywhere an "instrument of the state" (as suggested by the Cuban minister of education), relevant modifications of the educational system can be possible as a result of structural changes in society. 23

Although educational institutions are dependent in the socioeconomic context, they have a relative autonomy ( Morrow and Torres, 1987; Fritzell, 1987) and, under certain circumstances, can play a counterhegemonic role. This autonomy is mostly enjoyed in nonformal education, and it is more evident in prerevolutionary processes. Examples of this assertion can be found in the educational work carried out by the revolutionary guerrilla movements in Cuba and in Nicaragua, by the Jesuits of the Universidad Centroamericana in Nicaragua, or by the repatriated intellectuals of MACE and The New Jewel newspaper in Grenada ( Guevara, 1967; La Belle, 1986; Arnove, 1986; Payne et al., 1984; Latin America Bureau, 1984).

It is evident, from the analysis presented above, that socialist-oriented experiences tend (1) to expand the system in the areas previously neglected-- usually associated with services to the poorer sectors of the population; (2) to reduce illiteracy drastically; (3) to develop notions of polytechnic education, attempting to remove the distinction between manual and mental labor--and attempting to narrow the gap between education, the work place, and social needs.

Almost by definition, successful literacy campaigns were conceived and carried out in the three transitional nations. Even though technical qualification and financial resources are important, these successes could be attributed mostly to an effective political will, the capacity for mobilization by the mass organizations, and the political momentum of the revolution. This combination of will, capacities, and momentum gives the educational symbols a natural place in the new development model, as pointed out by Bhola ( 1984) and Arnove and Graff ( 1987).

Undoubtedly, a set of fundamental problems besieged these revolutions: they included the tensions between material and moral incentives; the belated development of the forms of conscience vis-à-vis the structural changes in economy and power; pressures from the world capitalist system ( Arnove 1986: 11); the issue of democratic centralism (i.e., directiveness versus autonomy); tensions between mass expansion and quality of education; and the interplay of power and bureaucratic struggles.

Adult education teachers' training always faces a fundamental dilemma in de-

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