There is a tide in the affairs of men

which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

omitted, all the voyage of their life

is bound in shallows and in miseries.

--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


The publication of this book coincides with a period of intense change in the political, economic, scientific and technological fields. It also happens at a time of discontent and rejection of the status quo, with growing demands for popular participation in decisions that until recently were made in closed circles of power. Current discourse centers around themes such as individual rights, decentralization, delegation of authority, and respect for local values and regional preferences.

The papers contained in this book discuss these and related phenomena from different perspectives. However, they are linked by the fact that they point out alternative approaches to the modernization of the educational systems of the Hemisphere which are increasingly associated with aspirations of equality, greater possibilities of competing in the international market and higher income.

By publishing this book, the OAS Department of Educational Affairs (DEA) contributes to the success of the projects of reform, such as the one it has been developing in conjunction with the Ministry of Education of Paraguay. The latter activity is realized within the framework of the multinational projects financed by the OAS Member States, and is characterized by a philosophy of solidary cooperation. Employees of DEA, as well as its national and international consultants, participate in the effort to better understand the operation of Paraguayan schools (and other formal or informal entities), as long as DEA collaboration is requested by that country.

It is therefore easy to understand DEA's interest in the studies and discussions on the theme of educational reform in the Americas which are promoted by the Inter-American Dialogue and by the Corporation for Development Research (CINDE). It is also gratifying to note that some of the conclusions central to this book support the premises upon which the OAS cooperative regional programs in the areas of Education, Science and Culture are based: their complementary nature in relation to national activities; the eminently cooperative character of the projects of reform and modernization; the solidary division of responsibilities in the administration of the multinational projects between national and regional coordinators; the selection of the school (as well as other formal and informal mechanisms for promoting learning) as a focus of the process of change; and the attempt to disseminate the results of the project through the Revista Latinoamericana de Innovaciones Educativas and INFOCIECC (Information System of the OAS Inter-American Council for Education, Science and Culture).

The reader who is familiar with the notion of better spending on education in Latin America will be surprised to learn that this is not enough. In order to modernize the learning and teaching systems of the region, it is also necessary to spend more, because the tax effort is relatively low in relation to educational activities. The reader may also be surprised with the assertion that technical cooperation, as practiced by some international agencies and banks, may actually aggravate the difficulties encountered by national authorities developing reform. As we strengthen our convictions about the close relationship between education, technology and development, we realize how waves of change, generated by initiatives deriving from trade and industrial policies, alter the behavior of the educational sector, sometimes in radical and unexpected ways. This books will prove that the theme of educational reform sparks the interest of not only professionals in the field, but of a much larger audience.

Getúlio P. Carvalho