by ORGANIZATIONS FOR THE DEFENSE OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND ADULTS EDUCATION FORUM
THE EDUCATION POLICY OF THE ARGENTINE GOVERNMENT
In Argentina, neoconservative adjustment policies have deepened differences in society stressing inequality and social injustice; therefore, significant groups of the population are excluded from the economy, the health care and politics. Education is no exception.
The education policy of the Argentine Government, abiding by the regulations of international agencies for technical and financial assistance (specially the World Bank), fosters an education reform towards disrupting the national education system, privatizing major segments and disregarding the Government’s responsibility in providing education and financing it.
In 1992, the National Government transferred all schools to the provincial administrations without providing for the corresponding financing. The difficult economic situation of many provinces has prevented the normal provision of education in most of them. Consequently, they were forced to adjust their provincial education systems and close courses, increase the student’ teacher ratio, overpopulate classrooms, face serious facilities problems, absence of resources, delay the payment of teachers´ salaries, reduce them, etc.
Likewise, the National Government supports an educational reform that goes hand in hand with the economic adjustment founded on the modification of the structure of the educational system. The traditional division of a seven-year term for primary education and five-year term for secondary schooling goes to nine years of basic general education and another three years of specializations and on a curricular reform introduced in the form of common basic learning for the different levels.
All this has led to serious conflict and a strong debate on education.
The 1997 school year started with union protests in six provinces. In three of them – Neuquén, San Juan and Rio Negro -, the conflict got worse and classes were indefinitely interrupted. On March 24th, the Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina – CTERA (Argentine Teachers´ Confederation), the largest teachers´ union of the country assembling over 200,000 workers involved in education, went on a national strike against the Government’s education policy. Likewise, this union decided to organize a teachers´ nationwide fast opposite Congress to support the workers´ cause and the creation of an Education Fund for unpaid salaries, against salary deductions and to guarantee a salary floor at national level. Fasting started on April 2nd and it is still going on.
Protests in the provinces continued. When teachers in Neuquén were ferociously repressed, CTERA went on a largely successful second national strike to repudiate repression on March 31st and, in this framework, a teacher from Cutral Co – Neuquén – was killed by the police. CTERA went on another teachers´ strike against this manslaughter with the support of the multisector (opposing political parties, unions, human rights organizations, etc.). This was a major strike with 40,000 people protesting at Plaza de Mayo.
Teachers´ fast continued and met growing solidarity in society. As a result of this struggle process an intense social debate on education started with the participation of the media and several social sectors.
The support to the defense of the public education claimed by CTERA and several organization was evident when 100% public and private schools went on a new teachers´ strike on June 20th. At the same time, 70,000 people participated in a National March for Education.
THE SITUATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND ADULT EDUCATION
The worst problem of young people and adult education in our country is the rate of graduates from primary school. The last poll found a most revealing figure in the 15 year-old population not attending classes, only 59.6% reached primary education but, among them, approximately 50%, i.e. approximately 4 million people, did not finish it.
Illiteracy is also a significant problem. Although in Argentina the absolute illiteracy rate is low compared to international standards – approximately 3% -, it increases significantly when considering actual illiterates.
Another 29% of the population reached secondary school but, among them, over 50% quitted between first and second year. At this point, it should be mentioned that a growing number of young people failing at regular school move to adult secondary education. Finally, almost 75% of the economically active population does not have the necessary education to become a part of the working and civic force. This fact gets even worse in certain social classes and regions of the country. There, almost 70% of children from the rural working class do not finish primary school.
What happens with teachers in the meantime?
Teachers must face diverse problems everyday in a framework characterized by plummeting work and salary conditions, social disregard for the teachers´ role and their need to have more than one job which affects their specific role and leaves them almost defenseless and without response.
At the same time, they must meet the demands of the reform towards “quality education”. All this creates confusion and uncertainty as to the conditions in which the “transformation of education” is to be put in practice. Doubts cloud the position of the EDJA in the new structure, the existence of the Common Basic Contents, the lack of specific skills, etc.
As to training, there are few opportunities for teachers of young people and adults. Only in some provinces there are specialization courses at Higher Studies Institutes and Universities or specific careers for Basic Education. For Intermediate Education, there are some courses related to adults apart form training given in this subject.
THE ARGENTINE GOVERNMENT´S YOUNG PEOPLE AND ADULT EDUCATION POLICY
The national education policy for young people and adults (EDJA) does not differ with what has been mentioned so far since it is part of a legal and political system consistent with this social and economic hegemony.
EDJA is not a priority for the present education reform. Both the national and provincial governments have feigned ignorance about it, meeting the request of international agencies for technical and financial assistance (specially, the World Bank).
EDJA has progressively been disrupted and abandoned. At first, by the elimination of the National Government’s responsibility to provide education through the Jurisdiction Transfer Act (1992). Then, by the impairment of education, specially in areas with great economic difficulties. Finally, by canceling the projects for EDJA of the National Ministry of Culture and Education. This attitude became even more evident when the Dirección Nacional de Educación del Adulto (DINEA) – Adult Education Agency – was eliminated and never replaced with another national organization.
The Federal Education Act (1993) cuts down EDJA and fades out its specific objective when briefly mentioning it under “Special Systems” together with Special Education and Arts Education. EDJA organization or curricula issues have not yet been discussed. There are neither general policies nor any coordination work as to specific training for teachers.
Adults agencies were eliminated in several provinces and their services were stripped off. On the other hand, as a result of growing poverty and the implementation of the Federal Education Act, projections indicate an increasing rate of children quitting school who are potential adult education pupils in the future.
Referring to non-formal education for young people and adults, there is a wide offer of largely partial, pragmatic training for the short term that does not favor future working or learning opportunities. As to work training, it is segregated and lacks a central plan. There are courses in-company, projects organized by the Ministry of Economy and Work or held at non-government organizations and intermediate entities. They are corporate-oriented and mostly organized by private companies where the offer and demand law rules as the Government regulatory function is vacant.
There are also almost two hundred ONG´S in the country, some of which give training, counseling and social promotion to the people with different levels of integration with the Government system. However, beyond their specific contribution, they are not fit to cover the potential EDJA demand.
THE RESPONSE OF SOCIETY
In the light of this somber analysis and the absence of response from the national authorities, the implementation of measures to face the present situation of EDJA is extremely urgent. Consequently, a group of institutions comprising teachers´ unions, EDJA faculties, ONG´S for People’s Education, students´ organizations, political parties representatives, Human Rights organizations, teachers´ associations have been working for some years now towards integrating experience.
A highlight of this process was the National Conference for the Defense of the Young People and Adult Education held in the city of Buenos Aires on September 20/21, 1996. During this Conference, a paper was prepared for the regional preparatory Conference organized by UNESCO and CEAAL in Brasilia in November, 1996 and it came to be the only Argentine contribution as the Argentine Government did not draft any document at all.
This year, we have kept on working and made progress. We intend to create a Forum for the Defense of Young People and Adult Education, a multisector coordinated work. The activities of this Forum will be oriented to defend public school, establish political and education standards for EDJA, make projections and research on the sector situation at present, make public the most significant problems and training plans, etc.
The objective of these activities is to set up a democratic education for the people, an education deeply committed with the people, the working class, the system outcasts. An education transforming exclusion in inclusion, fostering democracy and participation.
That is our commitment and challenge.
COPYRIGHT © 1996 BY ORGANIZATIONS FOR THE DEFENSE OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND ADULTS EDUCATION FORUM, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS TEXT MAY BE USED AND SHARED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FAIR-USE PROVISIONS OF U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW. ANY USE OF THIS TEXT ON OTHER TERMS, IN ANY MEDIUM, REQUIRES THE CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR AND THE PUBLISHER, THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT.