Now that the political definition for the next 5 years is clear, we must move from the urgent to the important. It is convenient to be honest: the Paraguayan human resource does not have a level. In several rankings, our education is in the last place. Our population does not know/does not answer basic math and reading questions. When he/she knows how to read, he/she does not understand what he/she reads and does not have critical thinking. In these last elections we were able to see a lot of this.
It is not their fault. The Paraguayan people have not had many educational opportunities like in Argentina, Uruguay or Chile. There has been no meritocracy in the selection and promotion of educators. Political sectarianism reigns and mediocrity prevails.
The political parties do not respond to the educational crisis. Perhaps, the reason is that many political leaders have not had many opportunities either. When they do respond, they appeal to the increase in public spending. Since Stroessner was overthrown, spending on education, teacher salaries and buildings included, has tripled. Not so the educational level. The Ministry of Education reports budget execution, not on the academic performance of students in mathematics, science and reading; but they report back on the expenditures made, and not on the results achieved.
Since what is measured is done, it is not uncommon that the academic result is not a priority. Nobody is controlling. The parliament does not ask about educational levels, but about the items and salaries of the known teachers. The press and public opinion have no information or anything to compare with. At the same level of expense, what educational levels do Argentinians reach?
What happens? Why is not the greatest expense translated into greater learning and knowledge? Why does the opposite seem to happen and with higher spending, more roofs of schools are collapsing?
In Paraguay, we all have leaks in our homes. The homes of the students and those of the teachers may also have them. But whole roofs do not collapse. The teachers, in their own homes, do not wait for the situation to be so extreme to call a bricklayer. The parents of the students themselves, who complain in the news, no matter how poor they are, do not wait for the roof to collapse. They simply fix the roof, whether they have money or not. The reason is simple, the house belongs to them and any delay harms them even more.
In summary, we have two phenomena: spending in education increases and the number of collapsing roofs increases. It does not increase the educational quality nor the levels of learning of the students and the parents/teachers do not prevent the roofs from falling.
Is it because schools do not belong to parents and teachers? Is it because they belong to everyone and no one? Is it possible to change this paradigm by decentralizing education in favor, not of the municipalities or governorates, but of the parents? Cannot a parent association control the money allocated to the schools and demand better performance from the directors and educators where their children study?
Martín Burt, PhD
Executive Director of Fundación Paraguaya