Friday, 12 August 2011

Looking in the rear view mirror

As I discuss here, it feels as if much of the current discussion on education currently going on in Chile is being carried out as if we were in a car going at 120 km/h, but looking only in the rear view mirror. Many of my colleagues in public education seem to think that the solutions to many of the problems lie in returning to some ideal past. Except that past never existed.

Today there are far more students -- probably close to ten times more -- in university than there were forty or fifty years ago, and they come from a much wider socioeconomic background. There are far more PhDs teaching in those universities. The demands on those teachers, in terms of research and publishing, are far greater. There is far more contact with the outside world, far more publishing in indexed journals, and far more original research being carried out.

What has been lost, by design, is the conviction that education is a right and that this right should be guaranteed by the state -- in other words, that there should be a public education system. The student movement is about that, but it often gets mixed up with this misplaced nostalgia, especially when the teachers' union gets involved. It would be useful if they did not mix the two sentiments.

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