or, to put it another way…
Peru has seen an improvement in its education system over the past few years, and Peru’s Education Minister, Jaime Saavedra, credited this in part to the teacher training undertaken by previously untrained educators. Even today there was a press release to that effect. So it seems utterly bizarre that those very same teachers – the ones who have gone back to university and undertaken the training, have been hit with a mass sacking.
Teacher Solidarity reported that over 10,000 teachers have been sacked in Peru – some with over 30 years service. It reports that:
“[t]he teachers were hired on temporary contracts, mostly to work in low-income areas, pending their completion of a teacher training qualification – they had all come straight from university. But with their salaries on average $350 a month, they were usually not in a position to fund the new qualification.“
These teachers were hired in the 1990s when teachers did not need to be qualified. In order to become qualified, they would have to find the university courses themselves, but with wages a low USD$350 a month, many have found this an impossibility.
‘The Dean of the Teachers Association, Julio Mendoza, believes that the sudden change in government policy has economic and political motives. He argues that, “Basically, the goal is to reduce salaries and save money, but on the other hand it is also trying to encourage private, for profit education. With all these difficulties that are presented for public schools, the other sector keeps growing.”‘
Many, including Mendoza, fear that Peru is gearing up to privatise the school system:
“While the state requires an education degree for someone who works in public schools, it doesn’t for private ones. Any person can teach there. While public schools require exhaustive and strict exams for directors, in private schools the only requirement is to have a university title. It doesn’t matter if you are not a teacher. Therefore, they make it easy for public schools to create a business.”
This would be a bizarre move, given the Education Minister identifying teacher training as key to Peru’s improved educational success, as teachers in Peru’s private schools do not have to be qualified.
Yet the facts speak loudly – around half of Peru’s schools are already private schools, and banks and businesses are investing in them. It seems Peru is yet another country falling foul of neoliberal ideology, which hits teachers hard and at the same time fails to benefit students.
Worldwide, in all manner of ways, education is under attack from the money-makers.
Thanks, Milton Friedman, you must be so proud.
This week Chile ended the education sector experiment started in the 1980s by dictator Pinochet that had led to, by 2014, around 60% of the nation’s schools becoming charter schools. Like Thatcher and Reagan, Pinochet was a devotee of Milton Friedman’s free market ideology (one that the National Party of New Zealand follows, too), and deregulating schools is key to that ideology.
Chile is an interesting country, educationally, so it’s no wonder researchers have paid the country a lot of attention. Unfortunately, findings are varied and often contradictory, meaning findings leave as many questions still to be asked as they answer.
A wave of protests began, challenging the unequal system. Students were fed up of the underfunding of state schools, which were allowed to accept vouchers but, unlike charter schools, were not allowed to charge top up fees. State schools also had to accept all students, while charters were allowed to cherry pick who could attend. Inequality was a huge issue.
One research paper concluded that:
“…public schools are more likely to serve disadvantaged student populations than private voucher schools… [and] the typical public school is more internally diverse than the typical private voucher school. These results are not surprising given that public schools are mandated by law to accept all students who apply, regardless of ability to pay, while private schools are permitted to use parental interviews to select and expel students as they see fit.”
It was an unequal system in a country of ever-widening social inequality. It was compounding issues, not improving them.
In 2006, widespread student protests of inequalities in the education system prompted debate over whether entrepreneurs should be able to own and run private voucher schools for profit.
Protests continued and ramped up with huge demonstrations in 2010-2011, and by 2014 Chile saw the huge “National March for Education” with tens of thousands of people taking part. This prompted Chile’s President, Michelle Bachelet, to promise an end to education policies that had divided and segregated her country.
Change is Coming
On Monday 26th January 2015, Chile signed into law “the first part of the multi-pronged reform, which includes an end to profits at state-subsidized schools and eliminates their selective entrance policies”
“”What we’ve put an end to here is a set of illegitimate bases put in place during the dictatorship, behind the nation’s back, and today we’ve recovered Chile’s historic tradition and the best practices in the world,” said Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre.”
The Minister said the next phase was to bolster the status, quality and pay of teachers and bring schools back into the state system. There are also plans to make university education free to all.
“Bachelet championed a recently approved tax overhaul that will boost the state’s coffers by $8.3 billion and help pay for the education changes. She also sent Congress a bill that seeks to balance labor relations by bolstering unions and workers’ rights.”
The charter school experiment in Chile went on for over 30 years; it is now being dismantled. The next part of this journey is not likely to be an easy one, with 200,000 students effected, but one can only hope the next incarnation is fairer and more equal.
One also hopes that other countries learn from this huge failure and take care not to find themselves in the same position.
The effect of rising neoliberalism and globalisation on education will be discussed at a public lecture at the University of Auckland next week.
Professor Christine Sleeter’s lecture; “Confronting neoliberalism; Classroom practice and social justice teaching,” will show how and why neoliberalism has gained ascendancy, how it is impacting on society and schooling, and what teachers can do to prepare an active citizenry who can advocate for their own rights as a diverse public.
Professor Sleeter, of California State University Monterey Bay, will use examples from the United States to critique briefly the kinds of market-based school reforms neoliberalism supports, and argue how a democratic and socially aware society can counter such changes. Because the market-based and privatised-based reforms have gone global, New Zealand is affected as well.
Professor Sleeter will argue that neoliberalism increasingly drives education reform internationally. While public schools face increasingly constrained funding, especially in the wake of the economic recession, market-based reforms that emphasise competition, standardisation, and accountability have expanded, driven by the corporate sector and private venture philanthropy. Who stands to benefit most from such reforms?
She uses three examples of classroom practice from the US – two illustrating what classroom teachers she has worked with do in their classrooms, and one being of a new curriculum resource in Chicago that directly takes on these issues.
Professor Sleeter is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading scholars of multicultural and anti-racist education.
She is Professor Emerita in the College of Professional Studies at California State University at Monterey Bay and remains actively involved in the ongoing development of teacher education programmes there.
Her speech will be held on Thursday 29 May at 5pm in J1 Lecture Theatre, Epsom Campus, Gate 3, 74 Epsom Ave.