Tag Archives: protests

Latin America: Higher Education in Crisis

October 27, 2011

CL Society 72: Parents

A recent article in the Economist (10/8/11) entitled “Universities in Latin America, The struggle to make the grade,” reports on the overall health of the institutions of higher education in the region and the prognosis is not good. Although there are some giant and reputable universities in Latin America, innovation and excellence in higher education has not been the hallmark of the region. Teaching techniques are deemed old-fashioned, research contribution and output has been subpar and the drop out rate of students continues to rise.

Quacquarelli Symonds, an education consultancy, on October 4, 2011 published the first regional ranking of Latin American universities by “combining measures of reputation, research output, academics’ qualifications and staff-student ratio. Of the 200 top universities, 65 are in Brazil, 35 in Mexico, 25 apiece in Argentina and Chile and 20 in Colombia. The University of Sao Paulo, the richest and biggest university in Brazil’s richest state, came top.” For a breakdown of the ranking, go to this link http://www.economist.com/node/21531468.

All and all, the University of Sao Paulo appears to be the only institution getting the high marks, especially in its scientific research endeavors making it a world leader in tropical medicine, bio-fuels and parasitology. Their success is attributed to public support it receives from the government as well as private funding and international collaborative efforts with other institutions and research organizations.

Some of the problems attributed to the failing health of the Latin American universities appear to be the following:

• the insular nature of the institutions that discourage hiring faculty from abroad but recruit their own students to faculty positions rather than persuading them to seek positions in the business and industrial sectors;

• old-fashioned / out-dated curriculum;

• absence of recognition/reward such as funding/promotion to faculty for excellence in teaching, innovation or research;

• institutions are not held accountable (e.g. loss of funding) for poor academic performance and student
dropout rate.

There is a big rise in demand in Latin America for quality education at universities that are both affordable and accessible. Perhaps the University of Sao Paulo will serve as a positive example of one such institution that has succeeded in all these aspects. The rigid rules of the past need to give way to flexibility in hiring, promotion and compensation of faculty as well as an overhaul of curriculum and infrastructure which support and rewards research and innovation.

Alan A. Saidi
Sr. VP & COO, ACEI, Inc.

Like This!

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Student Uprising: A global movement

October 20, 2011

Inútiles mojados

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

A recent (10/19/11) blog on Huffington Post states that “according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, students took out more than $100 billion in loans in 2010 and will have a $1 trillion in outstanding loans this year—twice the amount of 5 years ago.”

We have now moved into the second month of the Occupy Wall Street protests and the movement has not only taken hold in towns and cities throughout the country but spreading around the world. Chile, is one country where for the past five months, students, teachers, school administrators and their supporters have taken to the streets of Santiago protesting the high cost of education. The Occupy Wall Street protesters have been and continue to be criticized for their lack of a simple concise message. We’ve become so indoctrinated with sound bites, distilled mash-ups of easy to digest ideas that we expect the same from hundreds of thousands of leaderless self-motivated individuals who are pouring into the streets dissatisfied with a myriad of social, economic and political issues. One message that is clear to my eyes and ears is the current state of U.S. education and the student loan debt crisis. And one thing that the protesters in Chile and those in the Occupy Wall Street have in common is that a large number of those protesting are students or recently graduated college students facing a bleak employment market while saddled with unforgiveable student loans with high interest rates.

The goal of the student protesters and their supporters in Chile is to transform their country’s education system. They are seeking a referendum to significantly increase the funding and quality of public schools which they claim have been on the decline. In fact, they demand education to be 100% public. Most of the better public schools in Chile are charter schools and students still have to pay to attend such schools. And just like their US counterparts, the Chilean students are often in debt for years after graduating from university.

There is no question that our educational system too is in crisis. State institutions have cut back on course offerings as well as teaching and administrative staff. Our schools are failing.. In the words of Mark Twain: “Every time you stop a school, you’ll have to build a jail.” If we want our children to succeed we need to provide them with an educational system that is rich in resources and infrastructure with trained personnel. But that is not what is happening. More and more public schools are closing down or becoming fee-based charter schools. Those that continue to operate face overpopulated classrooms, are understaffed with teachers and administrators preoccupied with the “No Child Left Behind Act” testing mania instead of concentrating on the actual act of teaching and learning. With revenues generated from property taxes on the decline because of high foreclosures, we can safely conclude that more local schools will feel the affect of the financial downturn. Why is it that when our elected officials are faced with a budget crisis they immediately roll up their sleeves, sharpen their scalpels and unabashedly cut, slice and saw away at our public education system? Why is there this vitriol directed at publicly funded institutions which can serve our student population just as affectively as private institutions? Why do we have a system in place that is set up to drive its student population into debt the very day they enter their classroom as a college freshman?

We continue to talk about the importance of maintaining our competitive edge in the global market yet we turn out backs at our educational system. Right now we are scoring a C- in the handling of our education crisis. Dismissing the protests and ignoring the demands of our young people and their future will certainly put us on the fast track to an “F.”

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.

Like This!

Leave a comment

Filed under Education