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La Educación
Número: (118) II
Año: 1994


Carlos Tunnermann has pointed out that “we are not able to offer the democratization of teaching in a society where there is no democracy” (1980, 5). Yet curiously, education also has been one of the main avenues to empower people and create societal change. The University of Panama is at a crossroads where the society around it is changing, and the institution must change as well (Ramos, Avila and Cordero 1991). What kinds of academic careers should be offered? What forms of leadership are needed, and what will be the relationship of the institution to the government and to society? These kinds of questions remain to be answered in the waning days of the 20th century.

I have suggested that an interpretive framework of an organization’s culture is one way for researchers and an organization’s participants to come to terms with the situation in which an organization exists. Because qualitative researchers are not in search of generalizations, and in particular because such little interpretive research exists about Latin American postsecondary education, a wealth of possible research remains to be undertaken so that we may better understand the social and cultural dynamics on postsecondary education in Latin America. Research on differing forms of leadership and structural responses to massification, for example, will enable greater understanding from a comparative perspective of what is meant by leadership and strategy in Latin American higher education. Investigations into knowledge production and teaching and learning may also help create a better understanding of the situatedness of knowledge. And with further research one hopes that an organization’s participants will be better able to deal with the multitude of problems that confront academe as we approach the 21st century. Such problems are as great in the United States and Europe as they are in Latin America, for issues such as institutional autonomy or the freedom of academic thought transcend national borders.

To be sure, budgets must be balanced and courses must be offered. Yet how we interpret how that budget should be balanced or what courses should be offered are cultural questions that demand interpretation. If we are able to analyze an institution from a cultural perspective, we might be better equipped to consider how change occurs. Thus, I have suggested here that individuals will gain particular insights when they interpret postsecondary organizations as unique cultures in dynamic environments and think of themselves as cultural leaders rather than bureaucratic managers.