Introducing the Debate over Educational Management in Latin America

The study of educational management in Latin America is embedded in the theory movement of the social sciences and government administration, and follows the historical course of Latin American development within the international context. This assumption emerges naturally from the interaction between education and society at both national and international levels. In this sense, educational management issues faced today by Latin American nations are understood to the extent they are examined in the economic, political, and cultural contexts of society in general and of the public sector in particular. Nevertheless, within these interdependencies and in light of the global effectiveness demanded from public administration by today’s national and international economic and political conditions, educational management has its own body of knowledge and its own social practices, historically constructed according to the specific nature of educational institutions in modern society. The specificity of educational administration as a theoretical and praxeological field of study turns on the distinctive nature of education as a political and cultural practice committed to the promotion of those ethical values which enhance the full exercise of citizenship in a democratic society.

This book finds its roots in the development of these concepts and the analysis of their theoretical derivations and practical implications. Its publication grew out of the epistemological debate over Latin American education and educational management during the last two decades. Chapters and sections of the book incorporate revisions of articles previously published in diverse forms and places. The encouragement to revisit and re-edit some of the texts comes from the opportunity to publish them in a single volume and to make them more readily available for use in school practice and in university research and development.

The first aim of the book is to examine Latin American educational management in the context of its political and cultural history. Its goal is to contribute to the understanding of the evolution of knowledge about the organization and administration of Latin American schools and universities. This historical account is divided into five succeeding stages, with their corresponding conceptual and analytical approaches to studying the construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of knowledge in the field of educational management. Such a reconstructionist attempt follows the historical theory movement prevailing in Latin American applied social sciences. Even though references are made to specific individual contributions from the vast bibliography on the subject, the major concern of the publication is to examine the dominant intellectual orientation adopted in the study of political and educational institutions throughout Latin American history.

Based on the analysis of the increasing complexity of modern educational systems and on the evaluation of the state of the art of current organizational and administrative theories, the second interest of the book is related to the need for developing renewed efforts to construct and reconstruct scientific and technological knowledge in the field of Latin American educational administration. It is in this sense that Chapter Two presents a heuristic multidisciplinary paradigm for the study of educational management in Latin America. Such a multidimensional paradigm of educational administration is based on the deconstruction and reconstruction of educational and management knowledge accumulated throughout Latin American history. In fact, the historical reconstruction of theoretical and analytical models of school and university management represents an attempt to arrive at a theoretical synthesis of Latin American experience of educational administration in the international context. Such a reconstructionist effort requires a broad interdisciplinary approach, capable of explaining the economic, political, cultural, and pedagogical domains of educational management in the Western Hemisphere.

Chapter Three examines educational organization and administrative theories in light of the two dominant Western philosophical and sociological traditions of the last centuries: the positivist consensus tradition and the interactionist conflict tradition. The hypothesis is that the analysis of the limits of the grand philosophical traditions of mankind can provide valuable help for new efforts to construct and reconstruct conceptual and analytical perspectives in the study of educational administration as a mediating process. These efforts are based on the certainty that evaluating the epistemological foundations of management theories historically adopted in education allows a more comprehensive examination of the role of administrative mediation in our schools and universities. Such an evaluation facilitates a more coherent examination of the quality of life and of education and a more accurate application of the concepts of freedom, equity, participation, and democracy in the practice of educational management in Latin America.

Chapter Four examines some of the current conceptual and analytical challenges in the field of public administration and educational management in the context of the new international economic and political order. It pays special attention to some controversial issues, such as sustained human development and social management, educational management and economic development in a context of international interdependence, critical theory and collective participation in educational management, school relevance and community responsiveness in the context of the promises and fallacies of administrative decentralization, and democratic management to improve quality education for all.

As a conclusion, the book examines the need for a new ethic of international cooperation in the social sciences, with specific reference to education and educational management in Latin America. The formulation of a new ethic of technical cooperation is based on the concepts of solidarity, collective participation, and horizontalness in the relationships among the nations of the international community, with the purpose of promoting sustained human development and the collective quality of human life, both in education and society.

This publication is primarily addressed to school and university administrators, to public policy-makers and social managers, and to research and teaching faculties in education, administration, and the social sciences. Students and practitioners of comparative education, intellectual cooperation, and international relations should also find useful information in the pages of the book.

Each essay constitutes an independent effort and can serve separate academic and praxeological purposes. This orientation explains why sometimes the same concepts and interpretations are presented in different chapters. The central themes of the book are educational management in Latin America, the construction and reconstruction of its cultural identity, and the promotion of the ethical values which inspire Latin American learning and doing. Quality of life and cultural identity, freedom and equity, citizenship and democracy are permanent values which underline each one of the debates in this publication. The debates seek to examine and re-examine scientific knowledge and practical experiences in the specific field of educational management. They center around the identification of educational and management issues, the discussion of heuristic management models and paradigms, the encounter with ethical challenges, the conceptualization of new theoretical perspectives, and the construction of alternative praxeological approaches to educational management in Latin America.

The essays of this volume are working documents. They present no tailor-made models or magic solutions. Such models and solutions do not exist in the real life of schools and universities or in the offices of ministries of education. Reality compels educational management to generate specific solutions to meet specific issues confronted by specific schools and universities. To face these challenges, this book offers one more particular effort centered on the construction and diffusion of knowledge in the field of educational management in Latin America.