eWENR, March/April 2001: The Americas


In addition to the annual tests given to high school seniors across the country, the Ministry of Education [1] is now proposing a greater emphasis on schools’ self-evaluation through tests and teacher assessments. The recent meeting of education specialists arranged by the Organization of Ibero-American States [2] stressed the usefulness of internal evaluations, including the input of students regarding class conditions and the quality of teaching. Argentinian officials say that schools will implement these measures and continue to externally administer international evaluation tests, such as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study and the Progress for International Reading Literacy Study.

— La Nacion
Feb. 25, 2001


Heavy flooding in regions of the country delayed the opening of schools in early February. Institutions in La Paz, Oruro, and parts of Beni y Pando were forced to push back their first day of classes. The Ministry of Education promised to accommodate these delays, but insisted on the fulfillment of the required 200 days of classes in primary and secondary schools. Proposed measures to compensate for the loss are the convening of classes on Saturdays and the adding of one extra period to the school day throughout the week.
— El Diario
Feb. 5, 2001


The Internet provider Vento [3] launched its distance-education program in cooperation with local UniVir [4], one of the first online universities in the country. Univir will provide the initial course content in areas such as information technology, administration and marketing. Vento brings greater technological capabilities in the form of video, archives and interactive chats. While Vento representatives have said they will cooperate with other educational institutions, they have pledged to work only with those that have received Education Ministry approval.
— Bnamericas.com
Feb. 16, 2001


Eight students at Trent University in Ontario [5] are protesting the closure of two university colleges by occupying the office of the Trent vice-president’s office. They politely excused the office employees one Monday morning, then had students form a barricade outside the door with the protesters inside.
The controversy has culminated 18 months after the university’s board of governors awarded property rights to SuperBuild [6], which paid more than $26 million to the school in return. SuperBuild Corporation works to form partnerships between the private and public sectors to improve Ontario’s infrastructure. Its board of directors is permitted under contract to do as they wished regarding the sale or closure of the university’s colleges.
Incensed students have demanded that the Trent board keep the colleges open and formulate a policy on campus privatization. They maintain that their efforts to participate with the governance board have been “consistently ignored” over the last year and a half, and pledge not to leave the office until administrators agree to negotiate.
The Arthur


Feb. 27, 2001


The University of Medellin [7] will offer two new courses of study in 2001: communications and advertising graphics, and business administration in tourism. Both courses require five years of study, in which students must learn English and complete one semester of practical experience to achieve the degree. Administration students must learn a third language as well. The two additions bring the total number of the university’s degree offerings to 11.
— El Colombiano
Jan. 29, 2001


The National Council on Private Higher Education [8] (CUNESUP) has shut down courses at the University of San Juan de la Cruz for one year, the first such suspension in the country’s history. An investigation of the school found that:
* 45 percent of its students had matriculated in classes without completing requisite courses
* 43 percent had taken exams for graduation without finishing the plan of studies
* 59 percent had acquired a master’s degree without first earning a baccalaureate
The suspension, to begin in May, will affect the university’s courses of study in law, business administration and accountancy.
La Nacion
Feb. 21, 2001


The Ministry of Education and Culture suspended classes for weeks in the mountains and eastern regions of the country due to the violence of an indigenous uprising. Among the provinces affected were Pichincha, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Carchi and Bolivar. The suspension of classes intended to prevent students from confronting the police over economic disparities, as well as to ensure the safety of officers mandated to the turbulent areas.
— La Hora
Feb. 5, 2001


Nearly 16,000 secondary schoolteachers went on strike in early February due to a delay in receiving their annual paychecks. Government officials say the teachers’ salaries are forthcoming, but that the government is facing bureaucratic problems in issuing the checks due to a recent teacher salary raise of 20 percent. Schools were closed to more than 250,000 students. Leaders of the teachers’ association promised extended strikes if the Honduran government did not expedite their pay.
— Associated Press
Feb. 7, 2001


The University of Cartago “Florencio del Castillo” has postponed its opening in the city of Esteli to May because of the enrollment of a mere 40 students. Officials at the school, which is an affiliate of the University of Cartago in Costa Rica [9], say that the institution is merely delaying its opening due to current economic difficulties within the country. But the students who have registered at the school are doubtful and many are withdrawing their matriculation. The university had said it would offer 10 career tracks, including business administration, law, tourism and hotel administration, and general medicine.
— La Prensa
Jan. 22, 2001
The University of Thomas More [10] will offer a new degree in tourism management. The initial classes will be taught in English and Spanish; for the last two years of the program, courses will be taught exclusively in English.
— La Prensa
January 2001
The Polytechnic University [11] announced that it will offer distance education courses from its centers in Managua, Esteli, Rivas and Boaca. Among the courses to be offered are law, tourism, business administration, and commerce and finance.
— La Prensa
February 2001


There continued to be much wrangling between the Ministry of Education and teacher unions over the implementation of the requisite 200-day school year. Article 114 of the General Law of Education, recently ratified by the National Council of Education and Culture (CONEC), has angered some teachers by too forcefully dictating schedules and denying a sufficient timeframe for necessary adjustments.
Top-ranking officials disagree as to how to mitigate the conflict. The secretary of state has said that current conditions necessitate a gradual evolution of the school calendar, while Conec officials maintain that the deplorable conditions are the justification for an intensified program. Others deny the basis for teacher resistance, given that the school-year regulations are a condition of state law and not subject to spontaneous debate.
All parties agree, however, that the conflict between government and the country’s teachers has only exacerbated the education problem. The ongoing debate is symptomatic of the emerging difficulties that face the government’s stringent plans for improving national education.
— Ultima Hora
Feb. 5, 2001


The University of California at Los Angeles [12] will develop an online film program in coordination with British and Australian media schools. The primary institutions of instruction will be the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television [13], the National Film and Television School of Great Britain [14], and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School [15]. The proposed Global Film School is to be backed with an initial private investment of $25-30 million. Students worldwide are expected to enroll.
— Chronicle of Higher Education
Feb. 2, 2001
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology [16] will place all its course materials on the Internet, including class outlines, reading lists, and transcribed lectures. While many schools have placed course content on their sites, they normally limit its accessibility to students or users who are charged a fee. MIT’s project plans to open up its academic material to everyone at no cost. Professors at MIT have compared the free distribution of knowledge via the Internet to the “open source” phenomenon in software development.
The project will likely cost US$ 100 million, the bulk of which will be provided by private contributions. Teachers will be free to withhold their course materials, but the responses from faculty and students at MIT have been positively in support of the program. Its planners hope that the site will aid education in developing countries, as well as provide a model for college courses worldwide.
— New York Times
April 4, 2001
Harvard Business School [17] and Stanford University [18] will collaborate in offering nondegree online management courses. The curriculum will be drawn from both universities’ business schools, as well as from Stanford’s engineering school.
— Chronicle of Higher Education
Jan. 5, 2001
One year after expressing its doubts, the U.S. Department of Education [19] will allow for the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology [20] to accredit distance-education programs. There had been worries that the Accrediting Commission’s methods and experience would not be suitable to assessing online programs, but after careful review, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity [21] has concluded otherwise.The committee’s report fully endorsed the commission, which “consistently applies and enforces its standards to ensure that the education offered by an institution, including any offered through distance education, is of sufficient quality.” The career-schools commission currently accredits almost 800 institutions worldwide.
— Chronicle of Higher Education
Jan. 5, 2001


Thousands of parents and teachers assembled for protests in Caracas in a response to proposed education reforms. President Hugo Chavez returned in kind with a march through the capital city in support of the reforms, accompanied by heavy security and 5,000 marchers.
The issue at hand is the “National Education Project,” which aims to combat the influences of globalization propagated through television and computers. The main theorist behind the project is Marxist sociologist Carlos Lanz, who claims that globalization has exerted neo-colonial control over Venezuelans and other underdeveloped countries. Chavez and education officials aim to reemphasize national identity through these reforms, a goal that opponents view as thinly disguised leftist indoctrination.
Chavez used the march as a platform to boast of his educational reforms since his election in 1998, including the creation of more than 500 “Bolivarian schools,” named after the legendary nationalist Simon Bolivar. These special programs extend the school day and give students three daily meals. He criticized recalcitrant educators for being “selfish and individualistic” and insisted that education is a public service.
The impetus for the conflict is a new decree that will allow the Ministry of Education to expel teachers and directors of all schools as advised by hand-picked supervisors. Many worry that this power will grant the government the capacity to do away with dissident political opinions and stock schools with indoctrinated educators. Education Minister Hector Navarro has tried to make the decree less threatening by agreeing not to hand-pick the new supervisors, but he has taken no steps to formally reform the decree in this manner.
— Associated Press
Feb. 7, 2001


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