July 19, 2004

A Bolivian Tragedy

MABB is a registered TM.
Education. This is a topic, in which I feel strongly about. One thing that could make me upset when reading the news is to see an article starting thus: The Education Reform in Bolivia did not meet its expectations.
That is exactly what I found in El Diario this morning.
This article talks about how the Education Reform (Law 1565) failed to meet its goals in a period of 10 years. How can a country not have education as one of its  priorities or as "the" priority? In my opinion, education is, aside from being a basic right, a fundamental necessity for the development of a country, not only as a society but economically and politically as well.
From the article, it looks like everyone is conceding defeat, including the government, they are blaming the incompatibility of the law with reality.  Many reasons are cited. Among them are, that the law was drafted from the neoliberal point of view; it does not leave teachers enough pedagogic discretion; does not take into account native cultures and etc., etc., etc.
There are two things that are most alarming to me in this report. The first one, the article says that Bolivian children start to read and write at the third and fourth grade. And the second is that the government spent about US$337 million between 1995 and 2003.
Now, I am not exactly sure of the statistics, but I think most children are taught to read and write (at least start) begining in Headstart or Kindergarten. I personally know many children who went to first grade already knowing how to read. If that is the case in Bolivia (children starting to read in third or fourth grade), then there is clearly a failure.
As for the money, this is just a never ending story. We hear it over and over again. There is a program to be funded. The money gets transferred. But the people who are in charge of the project keep the money, leaving the project ineffective. According to the news report, the ones who benefited the most with the education reform were the bureaucrats in the Education Ministry.
I don't want to slam on Bolivia's efforts to reform the education system. After all, the fact that they recognize there is a need for reform, already shows some seriousness and willingness to do something about it. I am just tired of hearing about failure after failure. 

I would be very pleased if this government makes education a priority. I strongly think this would be the first step towards development.