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Colección: La Educación
Número: (119) III
Año: 1994

4. In your pedagogical thought, how would you rank some of the concerns in Latin America and the Caribbean regarding quality in education or inequalities in educational opportunities?
I think the problem of quality in education is a Latin American concept. Quality means you do the best that is possible, or the opposite of the concept of quantity. This has generally not been a concern in Europe because Europeans strive for excellence in everything they do all of the time. Our problem, or our preoccupation, is that we try to keep quality even by promoting quantity. This is almost the problem of equality. If you study literature regarding the equality in education during the last 30-40 years, you will see an enormous change. First it has been introduced as a merely operational term. Authors like Torsten Husén, who used the term equality as a merely quantitative term, are now interpreting it in a very qualitative sense. Let me give you an example. A famous president of a North American university was involved in a discussion about equality. In this discussion, he said that he was very proud of his university because it had been completely democratized and there was perfect equality. A journalist asked him what he meant by perfect equality. He replied that perfect democracy and perfect equality meant that no one in the university supported mediocracy. Perfect mediocracy is the total elimination of elite and that is equality. Now, this is a joke, but equality has been interpreted this way in recent decades, not only in common language but also in the scientific debate.
I think the problem behind this question stems from the beginning of modern educational systems which occurred during the French Revolution. The French Revolution wanted to guarantee equality to everyone. Two interesting concepts were discussed in the national assembly that was held in Paris after the Revolution. One was by Condorcet and the other by Lepletier, and they both tried to harmonize the two main ideas of French Revolution: liberty and equality. They both recognized that it was virtually impossible to achieve both at the same time and in the same measure, and they came, therefore, to the conclusion that the modern educational system would always have to decide between freedom and equality, or rather give priority to one over the other. That means that if you want to make someone equal, you must limit freedom. If you want to make someone freer, you must accept inequality. You must accept that one is better than the other. Here is an example: if you give the same amount of money to everyone and keep them economically equal, you have to eliminate freedom. If you give everyone freedom, then they can use the money as they choose, but everyone will be unequal. That is the problem, I think, behind all modern educational systems.