23 de Junio 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

Alternative Approaches to International Cooperation in Education

International cooperation in the Americas will continue, for some time, to require aid and assistance from richer to poorer countries and from outside the Americas. What is proposed here are ways to organize and direct that aid to contribute to greater collaboration in education among the countries of the Americas. The effort should meet the following criteria:
  • Increased ability to meet national objectives (e.g., of access, efficiency, quality) in all countries; with simultaneously
  • Increased differentiation (in structure, method, and content) between countries, in accordance with national ambitions.
This will require minimizing the application of “universal” solutions developed outside the region, and increased effort to develop approaches based on varying contexts within and across countries. As none of the countries in the region have advanced far in transformation of their education systems to match the new paradigm of development, this task can and should be carried out in collaborative efforts in many countries at once.

The proposals below include elements intended to:

1. increase the range of policy options from which governments (and national and regional communities) can choose;
2. de-link funding by bilateral and multilateral assistance agencies from the process of identification of policy options;
3. increase the variety of stakeholders that participate in the process of policy formulation and decision-making.

The proposals seek to reduce the external control over policies that result from most current patterns of international cooperation, and to maximize the quality and effectiveness of national education policies.

1. Increase the Variety of Policy Options— Three Approaches

a. First, international agencies can encourage their own staff to develop alternative perspectives on education and how it should be delivered. This could be accomplished by creation of an autonomous group responsible for policy research. This de-linking would provide technical assistance personnel with access to research not constrained by the paradigm dominant in the agency. For example, in Canada policy analysis and broad development research is commissioned by the International Development Research Centre, while analysis specific to the details of a given project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. In Germany one agency handles training and institutional capacity building while another funds technical assistance projects.

Agencies such as the World Bank are large enough to develop, within the organization, centers of new thinking on education that challenge the existing model of schooling and conventional wisdom about how education contributes to development. The Bank is currently engaged in a massive restructuring that creates sector-wide “advisory services” that provide the units directly responsible for loans with knowledge about the range of policy options that have been tried out in various countries. The Bank’s Education Advisory Service is developing an Educational Knowledge Management System that includes knowledge about innovations in educational practice around the world. The EAS is responsible for capturing and organizing the data that goes into the EKMS, and for presenting information about these innovations (and their cost and effectiveness) on demand to loan officers and country officials. The EAS also provides training in the utilization of information; and organizes discussions within and outside the Bank.

The promise is that the contents of the EKMS will be made available to the general community through the Internet. Other agencies, such as the IDB, are developing similar systems designed to facilitate transfer of information between databases.

b. Second, international assistance agencies can expand their funding of research to assess the cost and effectiveness of new approaches to education. The range of experimentation taking place in the Americas is very large; almost every country has some major innovation under way, and some countries are constantly trying out new programs in education. Most of these experiments are never evaluated; the knowledge acquired through their success or failure is lost and failures are sometimes repeated in other times and places.

It is quite likely that the international assistance agencies are not well positioned to capture knowledge of all or even most of the experiments taking place in the Americas. Many of the innovations are in the private sector or if in public education are not sanctioned or funded by central ministries. Many of them are not organized to produce the quantitative data that is preferred by the agencies. Their results are seldom written down, even in internal reports. National research centers are better able to capture this more “fugitive” knowledge, but currently lack funding to do so. Funding by the agencies of efforts by universities and detached research centers also has the singular advantage of making it easier to develop and maintain alternative perspectives than is possible within an agency.

c. Third, development of autonomous national capacity for decision-making can be made a primary objective of all education projects. National participation in decision-making will be greatest when requisite knowledge is produced nationally. Locally produced knowledge is not only much cheaper than that produced by expatriate researchers, it can be of much greater relevance given national values and political realities. Almost all countries now have some capacity for education research, although in many countries it is limited in volume and quality. A shift in funding from agency-generated research and reliance on expatriate researchers, to nationally generated research, would over time rectify this problem.31

2. De-Link Assistance Funding from Policy Choice

The logic behind conditionality is a reasonable desire by international assistance agencies to insure that funds are well spent. The agencies require some way to assure that governments will follow through on their agreements. Unfortunately, requiring countries to carry out policies imposed by assistance agencies contributes to further weakening of the recipient states. Continued involvement of international agencies in national decision-making maintains dependency and weakens public institutions. Without competent governments democratic institutions do not flourish, and the cycle of decay continues (Stokke, 1996).

What is required is some way to provide international assistance for education, while also requiring national governments and organizations in the civil society to develop and demonstrate moral and financial responsibility. International assistance should be provided that:

1) contributes to increasing the legitimacy of public institutions;
2) builds a relationship of trust between agencies and recipients;
3) makes funds available to local as well as national organizations; and
4) reduces the control that agencies feel obliged to exercise over project preparation and implementation.

Three Ways to Build National and Regional Institutional Capacity

Coordination of Assistance. The number of organizations that seek to provide assistance to education in the Americas is large, even if the IDB and World Bank provide the lion’s share of funding. Each organization makes demands on governments, of time and information, and often competes with others for the potential recipient’s attention. There is considerable duplication of effort in the identification of opportunities to give assistance and in the design of projects. The organizations have among themselves often discussed the desirability of coordination and it has been achieved for some short periods of time, in certain countries and between some organizations. In the Americas, however, coordination of assistance is the exception rather than the rule.

Coordination can take several forms. For example the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD occasionally organizes worldwide campaigns that provide guidelines for multilateral and bilateral assistance agencies. The Jomtien Education for All agreement is another example of a global level agreement on types of assistance of most importance. Campaigns or general definitions of problems can also be worked out at the regional level. For example the European Union has developed a position paper on education assistance. Sometimes organizations come together around a single national project (Kaluba & Williams, 1999).

Of particular interest is the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, which brings together multilateral, bilateral and non-governmental organizations. The ADEA began as Donors to African Education in 1988 and was originally regarded with some concern by African governments who saw it as a “donors’ club”. Over time, however, the countries have become regular participants in the ADEA meetings, which serves to increase their understanding of their neighboring countries as well as to understand the constraints and methods of the assistance organizations. At least 8 countries in Africa, with ADEA assistance, now meet on a regular basis to discuss ideas and programs for development of teachers in the region. Although the creation of the ADEA has not resulted in higher flows of assistance to African countries, it does appear to have helped to establish a more cooperative dialogue between (especially smaller) countries and the assistance agencies (Kaluba & Williams, 1999). This kind of dialogue encourages the recipient country to develop its own institutional capacity.

Development contracts. A second device to develop institutional capability is the development contract, a contractual arrangement in which both parties (donor and recipient) commit themselves to actions and obligations. These can move aid in the direction of being a collaborative form of cooperation between assistance agency and country, but can also be utilized for cooperative relationships among countries. The receiving country (organization or region) might agree to the same kinds of “adjustments” and “conditions” imposed under current forms of aid, while the giving country promises to change certain of its practices (for example recognition of degree programs in the recipient country) (Stokke, 1996). Experience with this form of aid is limited, but the model characterizes some of the more recent linkages with European countries and agencies. Project Columbus, for example, commits both American and European countries to change, although resources flow from Europe to Latin America.

Autonomous Development Funds. A third approach is the independent or autonomous development fund, administered by legally and politically independent bodies, which stand between the assistance organization and the recipient. They are organized and monitored to insure financial accountability, and receive competing proposals for funding from both government and non-governmental organizations in a region or country. The development funds are financed from (preferably) both domestic and external sources, for example, by the countries of the Americas but also international agencies and other countries. The financing mechanisms include transfers of public revenues, bond issues, debt swaps and conventional aid. The fund stands between international agencies, governments and non-governmental organizations.32 A board of trustees prohibited by charter from political activity manages them. They are monitored to insure use of professional criteria in decisions to finance projects, but initiatives are generated by national, central and local organizations. International organizations can withdraw their support if the fund does not live up to its charter.

Development funds are not new, but existing versions suffer critical faults. Rural funds established by assistance agencies in the 1970s allowed governments to support small projects without going through the bureaucracy. These funds typically had no oversight mechanism and became patronage devices. Most have been abandoned. International private foundations have created local counterparts, again for the purpose of financing local development initiatives. They are active in a number of countries, especially in Latin America and Asia. These are more formally structured but still are often “captured” by local actors for a political agenda. Some assistance agencies, such as UNDP and UNICEF, have created public sector foundations, often politically accountable to a single government official but relatively autonomous in operation. The fourth kind of fund are those established with World Bank financing to ameliorate the effects of structural adjustment. One example is the Social Fund in Bolivia (Hyden, 1995; Hyden, 1996).

The proposal here is to found a regional development fund for education in the Americas. The mission of this fund would be the stimulation of collaborative projects involving two or more countries seeking the development of new forms of education.

3. Increase the Variety of Stakeholders that Participate in Decision-Making

De-linking funding from policy choice through a regional development fund will do much to encourage regional participation in dialogue about education. A second requirement is the development of broad regional support for education goals and the means to achieve them. We know relatively little about how to build national consensus with respect to education.33High emphasis has been placed on “opening” decisions about education to inputs from non-educators (Schiefelbein & Tedesco, 1995). Networking strategies have been used to increase private sector dialogue with national governments (Orsini, Courcelle, & Brinkerhoff, 1996), and to help developing country universities conduct research that is more policy relevant (McGinn, 1996). Some work has also been done on how the research process can be altered to increase stakeholder participation and generate consensus (Reimers & McGinn, 1997). Missing is systematic understanding of how to develop a regional consensus about education.

One direct approach is through joint projects. Priorities for education in the Americas have been defined in several meetings of the Ministers of Education. The Organization of American States has published a “Strategic Plan for Solidary Cooperation for 1997-2001” emphasizing dialogue, exchange of information, and collaborative action in seven areas:

1. Compensatory and intersectoral policies for vulnerable populations
2. Evaluation of system performance
3. Recognition, professionalization and incentives for teachers and educational administrators
4. Improvement of educational management and institutional development
5. Improved education and training for work
6. Sustainable strategies for intercultural bilingual education for peace and citizenship
7. Utilization of information and communication technologies.

Each of these lines of action can be realized through regional efforts, at great benefit to all the countries in the Americas. Analysis of experiences across countries can yield a fuller range of successful and unsuccessful strategies than are visible in any given country. Regional collaboration permits economies of scale not achieved when countries undertake their own projects. Globalization is both cause and source of solution for some of the problems implied in the lines of action. Collaborative action at the regional level can contribute both to solving these problems and to enhancing national idiosyncrasies.

[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]