23 de Enero de 2018
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Colección: Trends for a common future
Autor: Noel F. McGinn
Título: Toward International Cooperation in Education for the Integration of the Americas

Cooperation as Structural Adjustment

Perspectives on international cooperation changed again following the 1970s. Despite a “decade of development” many of the countries of Latin America seemed to have gained little in their war on poverty. Efforts to develop national industrial capacity through import substitution were insufficient to protect economies from the shocks felt round the world by increased prices for oil. Debts incurred in the 1960s were now due, and governments were unable to repay them.

The economic downturn had a significant effect on the composition of the actors participating in international cooperation. Non-governmental organizations (particularly the foundations) in the “donor” countries, suffered significant losses in their endowments during the 1970s, and shifted priorities for funding to social problems in their own countries. International organizations (such as UNESCO) had even more countries asking for help, but restricted support from some industrialized nations.

The “mistakes” of previous decision-makers were blamed on planning and government bureaucracy. At first timidly but then with increasing vigor national and international voices cried out for the countries of the Americas to “open” their economies and to reduce the role of central governments. At this point international assistance agencies decided to intervene more actively in national policy making.2 This decision was justified by assertions that governments lacked the capacity or will to correct bad policy decisions. The assistance agencies called for a “policy dialogue” to insure maximal benefits from future international cooperation.3

Policy dialogue meant that from now on cooperation in the form of provision of assistance would depend on the recipient government satisfying conditions imposed by the donor. These conditions included changes in essential policies and structures of national governments.4 International assistance agencies sometimes justified their more assertive stance by arguing that nations were increasingly “interdependent” and that bad policies in one country had negative effects on others. The most severe conditions took the form of structural adjustment, in which loans were contingent upon government’s making profound changes in the size and composition of their budgets. Requests that governments spend less in most cases meant that they spent less on education and other social services. As Reimers has noted, governments could instead have cut spending on the military or public works or other sectors (Reimers, 1989; Reimers, 1990a; Reimers, 1990b). Public education appears to have lacked sufficient political support to protect its budget. Almost all countries acquiesced to the new form of cooperation. Those few that did not no longer received assistance from the agencies imposing conditions.5

The net effect of this form of international cooperation was a decline in total spending on education in most countries agreeing to structural adjustment. Increases in private spending on education fell far short of making up the loss of investment in education. Many governments reduced real expenditures by freezing teacher salaries at current levels in a situation of high inflation. The real value of teacher salaries in many countries of Latin America shrunk to be only 35 percent of what it had been ten years earlier (International Institute for Educational Planning, 1989). Salaries for educators with post secondary education were, in some countries, no more than those for persons in occupations such as street sweepers. In some cases governments reduced or eliminated spending on items that permit teachers and administrators to do their work, such as textbooks, transportation, and maintenance of buildings. The net effect of structural adjustment was a reduction in the effectiveness of public education.6

In the meantime, some bilateral assistance agencies (Canada, Japan, and some European countries) increased their amount of aid given without conditionalities. In addition, the Inter-American Development Bank, which is less insistent on conditionality, increased its total investment in education in the Americas.

Structural adjustment cooperation failed to yield the dramatic changes in policies and effectiveness that had been expected. Not all “recommended” policies were appropriate, implementation by governments was often faulty, and cuts in public welfare programs threatened the stability of emerging democratic regimes. Although some assistance agencies continue to insist on conditions for their aid, these agencies also are attempting to develop new ways to provide assistance. These new efforts are discussed in the final section on Alternative Approaches to International Cooperation.

[INDEX] [Presentation] [Introduction] [The Evolution of International Cooperation in Education in the Americas] [Cooperation After Nationalism] [International Cooperation as Supranationalism] [Cooperation for International Development] [Resistance to Aid] [Cooperation as Collaboration within Latin America] [Cooperation as Structural Adjustment] [The Current Situation of Education in the Americas] [Current Status of Education] [Summary] [Current Forms of International Cooperation] [Aid as a Form of International Cooperation] [Varieties of Aid] [Uniformization as a Consequence of Aid] [Aid or Assistance from Bilateral and Multilateral Organizations] [Cooperation by Transnational Corporations] [Aid and Assistance from NGOs] [Aid by Philanthropic Foundations] [Aid Mediated through Educational Institutions] [International Cooperation in the Form of Collaboration] [Examples of Collaboration in Higher Education] [Obstacles to International Collaboration in Higher Education] [Examples of Collaboration Between Non-governmental Organizations] [Other Instances of Collaboration] [Summary] [Globalization and International Cooperation] [The New Industrial Paradigm] [Implications of the New Industrial Paradigm for Education] [The New Development Model] [An Outline of a New Paradigm for Education] [Alternative Approaches to International Cooperation in Education] [An Example of Regional Collaboration to Develop a New Paradigm] [Notes] [References]