Anahy Gajardo, Giovanna Carrarini, José Marin & Pierre Dasen
Indigenous peoples, poverty and human development in Latin America : 1994-2004. Washington : The World Bank. Consulté en mai 2006 sur : La educación intercultural bilingüe en América Latina : balance y perspectivas [version électronique]. Revista Ibero-americana de Educación, 20(mayo-agosto), 17-85. Consulté en mai 2006 sur : http://www.campus-oei.org/revista/rie20a02.htm
Faculty of psychology and education,
University of Geneva
While the indigenous peoples of the world live in different environments and practice a great variety of languages and cultures, they do share nonetheless a common history of domination, exclusion and subordination. In the field of education, this has led to the denial of cultural and linguistic diversity. In the past few decades, however, the education systems for indigenous peoples have changed considerably, and gradually, some programmes attempting to consider their languages and cultures have been developed.
In Latin America, it is only relatively recently that the ethnocentric methods used to teach indigenous peoples have been challenged, and this mainly through the involvement of these populations themselves. Since the 1970s, there has been a growing mobilization of indigenous peoples attempting to have their rights recognized, at the national as well as international levels. A number of their demands relate to education.
Educational indicators show a positive correlation between indigenous origin, socio-economic poverty and failure in school. In most countries of the world, indigenous peoples belong invariably to the most disadvantaged and socio-economically marginalized segments of the population and to those showing the highest rates of failure, of repeated classes and of drop out, as well as the highest rates of illiteracy (Pérez, 2003b).
In view of these facts, some have questioned the learning capacity of indigenous peoples. However, most studies and surveys show that this is not the problem. Indigenous peoples have the same abilities and faculties as the rest of the population (Mishra, this volume), but their way of life and their belief systems follow sets of values that foster knowledge and learning that differ from those used by the official education systems, which are usually governed by a mono-cultural and monolingual logic. Moreover, formal education is not homogenously offered in all the areas populated by indigenous peoples. Therefore it is not the learning potential of these populations that is in question, but the capacity of the education systems to meet the challenges of cultural and linguistic diversity.
Cultural and linguistic diversity
Indigenous peoples represent some 4% to 6% of the world population, or about 250 million in over 70 countries. In Latin America, in spite of all the policies set up during the last five centuries to assimilate indigenous peoples and homogenize Nation-States, there remain today over 40 million indigenous peoples or about 10% of the American sub-continent population (López, 1999). Except for Uruguay, where the indigenous population has been totally exterminated, all Latin American States are, to some extent, facing indigenous issues. They can also be considered, in various ways, as multilingual and multicultural societies, since they have all been populated through old and more recent migrations from Europe, Asia and Africa.
One of the most important expressions of the cultural diversity of Latin American indigenous peoples is language. Policies and education programmes for indigenous peoples have largely been designed and implemented on the basis of language. If one considers indigenous languages only (excluding Spanish, Portuguese, all Creole languages and some of the languages spoken by small migrant groups), some 400 to 450 languages are spoken in Latin America today, as well as a vast number of dialects.
At the heart of the problem…a question of definitions
Who are the "indigenous peoples"? A multitude of terms has been used to describe these populations, according to the times, the topics and national and regional contexts; they are often heavily derogatory and revealing of the way these populations are perceived. Indigenous peoples in general have suffered from these definitions imposed by others and reflecting the way the non indigenous populations consider them.
While the cultural diversity and wide geographical distribution of the indigenous peoples make it difficult to develop a universal definition, international organizations tend to use a definition to cover all cases, without mentioning national, ethnic or cultural origin. Today, the Working Group for Indigenous Peoples (offshoot of the defunct UN Commission for Human Rights, which met in Geneva between 1982 and 2006) includes peoples as culturally different and geographically distant as the Saami of Sweden and Finland, the Mapuche of Chile and Argentina or the Masai of Kenya.
Most of the definitions approved by international organizations agree on the following points (Cobo, 1986; ILO, 1989; Sanders, 1999):
Indigenous peoples are groups that are culturally different from the rest of the population and have maintained their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.
On a semantic level, terms such as indigenous, aboriginal, first nations, and so on, underline the fact that these societies inhabited an area before the groups who came at a later date from other regions, following various migratory patterns, and who settled on the same land.
Indigenous peoples maintain specific material and spiritual links with the territory they live on. The relationship of indigenous peoples with their territory is increasingly recognized as the element that distinguishes these populations from the rest of society. For indigenous peoples, nature has a spiritual dimension that goes far beyond the Western world’s purely material concept of land as a means of production: the land is one’s habitat, territory and basis of socio-political organization and socio-cultural identification. The Western concept of private property gives one the right to own and benefit from the land, and to dispose of it as an individual possession. The relationship of indigenous peoples with the land is by nature collective and sacred. The land cannot be owned and exploited: "Mother-Earth" has to be respected and preserved.
Indigenous peoples are characterized by their determination to conserve, develop and pass on to future generations the territories of their ancestors and their ethnic identity, which are the very foundation of their continuing existence as a people.
The relationship of indigenous peoples with the Nation-States in which they find themselves is colonial in nature. They are dominated by the social and political structures of the country.
The group’s self-identification and recognition mean that the individuals themselves have to determine if they belong to an indigenous group, provided that this group identifies them as indigenous.
Peoples or minorities? The issue of the right to self-determination
In international law, the discussion on the definition of ‘indigenous’ raises the issue of the terms "peoples" and "minorities", that have important implications for the right to self-determination, a right given only to "peoples". Self-determination is the only internationally-recognized right that would ensure that indigenous peoples have control over their territory and their destiny. It includes all aspects of indigenous reality, and this includes the right to choose the type of education corresponding to their aspirations. In this regard, Article 3 of the Draft UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples (UN High Commission for Human Rights, 1994) states: "Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." And Article 14:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.
2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.
3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.
In some writings within comparative education (e.g. Pérez, 2003a/b), preference is given to the use of the term "minorities", that also seems to carry more weight in the recommendations of the Council of Europe. Many nations seem to fear that indigenous groups would ask for independence if they were recognized as "peoples", with the right to self-determination; however there are three basic differences between minorities and indigenous peoples:
Prior land occupation is not an essential criterion for identification as a minority group.
The link with the territory of origin is one of the bases of indigenous identity.
While they are sociological minorities (situation of non domination within the Nation-State), the indigenous peoples are not necessarily a numerical minority.
Furthermore, the indigenous groups who want national independence are rather rare; usually, they demand some form of territorial, political and economic autonomy within a multinational and multicultural State.
Until such time as the Draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples (UNHCHR, 1994), frozen because some countries are unhappy with Article 3, is accepted, the ILO convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples (ILO, 1989) constitutes the most important legal framework concerning the rights of indigenous populations. This convention, ratified by numerous Latin American countries, defines minimal norms below which the rights of indigenous peoples should not fall. As far as education is concerned, it states, in particular, the right of indigenous peoples to control the curricula and contents of programmes, their right to set up their own institutions and means of instruction, their right to learn to read and write in the indigenous languages, as well as access to one language of the national community.
From bilingual education (BE) to intercultural bilingual education (IBE)
At the beginning of the 1960s, Latin American governments started developing education programmes for indigenous peoples. Over time, these were modified according to the progress of educational research, national and regional contexts, political whims and changes in the representations of cultural and linguistic diversity. However, all these models have one thing in common: they give a prominent place to indigenous languages, whatever their educational or political orientations.
Transitional bilingual education
Implemented during the 1960s and 1970s, the so-called transitional bilingual education model aimed at assimilating indigenous peoples. This type of programme used indigenous languages in the first few years of schooling for indigenous children, in order to facilitate their passage to the colonial language (Spanish or Portuguese). The indigenous languages were only used in so far as they represented a bridge, a way towards the national language. The programme content remained the same and the fact that the indigenous learners have a different history and different traditions was not recognized. The partial use of the indigenous language was therefore placed in a perspective of domination, which was depriving the indigenous population of its own knowledge and characteristics.
During that time, several education projects based on this model were developed, especially in Peru, Guatemala and Bolivia. They were characterized by a strong presence of churches, in particular evangelical groups, and by international cooperation. The programme of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) is a case in point: created in the 1940s in the United States, the SIL is a religious evangelical institution which, under cover of academic purposes (the study of indigenous languages and their teaching by linguists-missionaries) aims to translate the bible in all the world languages in order to better evangelize populations. The influence of SIL in Latin America was particularly strong in the tropical belt of the Amazon forest. In several cases, the SIL had the support of governments who considered it as an ally in their efforts to assimilate the indigenous populations (Marin, 1992, 1994a/b, 2000, 2001).
Maintenance bilingual education
A second model was developed in Latin America in the 1970’s-1980’s, in a context of ‘Indian awakening’ and indigenous demands. The indigenous groups, organized as federations or associations demanded, in particular, a more egalitarian access to schooling and complained that they were the victims of linguistic discrimination. They were demanding an upgrading of the indigenous languages in the schools and an access to the national language. Indeed, mastering Spanish or Portuguese is one of the conditions of social and economic integration in the national society, without which the indigenous peoples remained marginalized, with no opportunity to participate in civil society.
In this model, reading and writing are taught in the indigenous languages, and Spanish is taught as a second language, but does not dominate.
Bilingual and bicultural education
The third model was developed during the 1980s at a time when it was recognized that a cultural dimension was missing in all the education models intended for indigenous populations and it aimed (in words at least) to recognize both the culture and the language of the indigenous peoples. In this sense, it was the first attempt to integrate indigenous culture in the curricula. However, critics of this model note that the various curricula inspired by it generally integrated only fairly superficial aspects of the culture such as habitat, food, or clothing, and gave a stereotyped image of the indigenous cultures considered as isolated enclaves incapable of change. Some authors think that this model follows a similar logic to that of transitional bilingual education and is intended as a bridge towards the dominant language and culture.
Intercultural bilingual education (IBE)
A fourth model was finally developed during the 1990s and is still being implemented. It is based on a premise that considers culture not as a fixed reality with clear boundaries, but as a dynamic, evolving entity, closely associated with the interactions happening between individuals. Because it considers indigenous cultures in their interactions not only with the national culture but also with the rest of the world, this model promotes an education rooted in the culture of reference of the learners, but open to elements and knowledge from other cultural horizons, including a ‘universal’ culture. On a pedagogical level, this model emphasizes the need to go beyond a purely linguistic level and to adapt the curricula, taking into account the indigenous skills and knowledge. Therefore, it entails major changes in the teaching programmes, in order to embed them in the realities experienced by the learners. The idea is to reinforce the indigenous languages and cultures as well as to create a new paradigm that would include both indigenous and Western knowledge. A long term ambition of the IBE model would be to expand and to apply to non indigenous populations, to the rest of the population groups of Latin America, so that indigenous cultures and languages would also be represented and recognized, from an indigenous perspective, in the national school curricula.
A training programme for intercultural and bilingual teachers in the Peruvian Amazon (FORMABIAP)
This programme was started in Iquitos, Peru, in 1988 by some indigenous representatives of the federations of the Interethnic Association of the Peruvian Forest (AIDESEP) and a multidisciplinary team from the Centre for anthropological research on the Peruvian Amazon, including foreign experts. Their goal was to design an alternative school curriculum adapted to the ecological, socio-economic and cultural context of the region that met the needs of the indigenous peoples, as well as promoted their languages and cultures. The programme was set up after negotiations with the Ministry of Education through the Loreto Higher Education Institute (ISPL) and the Italian NGO Terra Nuova (Gasché, 1989).
In this programme, the trainers are recruited according to national criteria, but with a measure of autonomy given to AIDESEP and ISPL. The teachers are not necessarily indigenous and their training is multidisciplinary: education, history, anthropology, linguistics, mathematics, agronomy, fine arts and physical education. However, care is taken to ensure that the recruited teachers identify with and follow the objectives of the programme.
For the students of a particular indigenous group to access the programme, the group must be a member of a federation affiliated with AIDESEP. The regional federations have two tasks: elect the elders or indigenous specialists, one for each language and culture per ethnic group, and organize the entrance exam of the students. The indigenous communities of each federation choose their candidates according to the interest they have shown for their society and their language. They are kept informed of the students’ progress and of any problems of discipline. The students commit themselves, in writing, to work within their region and for their community at the end of the training (Rougemont, 2005).
This training programme associates traditional and Western education, without using a single system and opposing ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ education. It is not considered enough to just translate Western culture into two languages, but learning Spanish as a second language is encouraged. This type of education is associated with local ecology and with the local socio-economic, political and cultural realities (AIDESEP/ISPL/PFMB, 1988). XX QUESTION A JM: 1988 OU 1998?
For the creators of the programme, a multicultural approach may contribute to a true dialogue between ethnic groups and nations and redress the present situation of discrimination, dependence and submissiveness. But some problems remain:
How to obtain a collaboration between teachers trained in a Western university and indigenous specialists in their own language and culture in order to develop the contents of an intercultural education programme?
How to avoid imposing ready-made curricula?
How to coordinate practical experience in two cultures with a view to share knowledge and skills?
How to deal with the central issue of self-depreciation felt by the students and find ways to develop self-esteem, which is essential to the re-valorisation of their knowledge, their language and their way of life?
The involvement of indigenous organizations in this programme paved the way to a discussion of the issue of land ownership, without which these societies are doomed. In the past few years, the governments of Latin American countries have become aware of this fact and have offered a few concessions and recognized some rights. There are also political demands linked to education and several initiatives are now being developed (Amadio, 1990; Amadio & López, 1993; Gasché, 2004; Godenzzi, 1996; López 1990). Gasché (2004), for example, used his experience with FORMABIAP to respond to a request from Chiapas Indians in Mexico, who are struggling to obtain the right to their own territory and to a measure of autonomy from the Mexican State (Campa Mendoza, 1999; Varese, 1990).
The training programme in intercultural and bilingual education for the Andes countries (PROEIB-Andes)
This programme is a regional strategy for training in intercultural and bilingual education (IBE), with headquarters at the Universidad Mayor de San Símon (UMSS) in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Its first decade of operation was made possible by a bilateral technical cooperation agreement between the Bolivian Government (through UMSS) and the German Government (through its technical cooperation agency, GTZ). Five other countries joined through their ministries of education: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. Around twenty universities and indigenous organizations in the region are also participating. The next step in the process was to create the Foundation for education in multilingual and multicultural situations – FUNPROEIB-Andes – which is the new institutional framework implemented from March 2006 [XX check date of implementation].
The objectives of PROEIB-Andes are to support the sustainable development of IBE initiatives in Andean countries. The programme was set up along four axes: human resources development; research; creation of national centres for documentation and publications; and development and strengthening of a regional training network (PROEIB-Andes, 1997; OEI, 1997). The Maestria in intercultural and bilingual education is one of the multiple processes of training in human resources set up by PROEIB-Andes and it is aimed at providing partner countries with IBE-trained executive staff and at setting up a permanent exchange of educational experiences carried out in communities for and by indigenous populations. The interest of this double training perspective is to move academic training closer to the needs of the primary schools, so that they can benefit from the results of research on the culture, language and education of indigenous societies and improve the quality and equality of education where indigenous languages are spoken.
The Maestria en EIB is a university degree obtained after five semesters, intended for indigenous language speakers with university training and several years of practice in IBE. It offers two options: planning and management of IBE projects and programmes and teacher training in IBE. Since 1996, 92 students from several indigenous groups have followed this programme.
The link between training and research is one of the concerns of this programme. The practical application of the theoretical ideas through a scientific research done at the end of the course is always carried out in the area of origin of the students. The continuing interaction between the students and their society of origin, especially with the local, regional and national indigenous organizations is one of the key points of this training.
The training process itself provides a time to think about and develop a culturally-appropriate education system based on the experiences of each individual student and the knowledge of his/her community. Each participant learns on the basis of the recognition of belonging to a particular indigenous group. Specific knowledge linked to one group is thus continuously confronted with the knowledge of other ethnic groups. The students experience the concept of interculturality on a daily basis. It is in fact an experience that is constructed through interaction, even at the scientific level.
A community of learning is constituted between students, teachers, indigenous experts and leaders, and foreign researchers. Individuals become conscious of their identity and particularities, but not as separate entities to be safeguarded in closed spaces. Conflictual relations are examined in a historical, socio-political and economic perspective (Godenzzi, 1996; Moya, 1998; Zúñiga, 1999), where the linguistic, cultural and educational issues are analyzed and interpreted in a comparative fashion, in order to spot differences and commonalities. Horizontal interpersonal relationships are promoted. A multidisciplinary spirit gives the training a holistic perspective.
Knowledge is built from each participant’s individuality and experience as an individual and as a member of a group, having often experienced subordination and cultural devalorisation. Thus, the process of re-appropriation of what has been denied is a pre-condition for the introduction of new knowledge (López, no date). This fact is all the more important that this re-appropriation of cultural knowledge is allowed in a formal and official institution. A "dialogue between types of knowledge" is encouraged and sustained throughout the course of study.
The use of indigenous languages in this training is part of the re-appropriation of cultural knowledge that has been previously denied. One week in every semester is devoted to teaching the students their first language. Indigenous experts, whether academically certified or not, who have a real and acknowledged command of the language and culture of the group they represent are incorporated into the teaching team. The purpose is to foster both an oral and written command of the indigenous language. Later on, an indigenous language module includes discussion in small groups of issues linked to IBE, sometimes at a very high level of abstraction, in the indigenous languages, with a translation into Spanish whenever needed. This is an institutional attempt to recover through these languages and their cognitive contents, an educational space from which they have always been excluded. To encourage this activity, cooperative learning is an essential teaching practice. Indigenous cultures are never presented as folklore, but the purpose is a process of revalorisation and development of ethnic and intercultural identities.
Intercultural and bilingual education (IBE): new challenges
It is interesting to note that these programmes are not limited to countries with a large indigenous populations (Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia), but exist also in countries such as Brazil, Columbia and Chile, where they are a minority (D’Angelis & Veiga, 1997; Moya, 1990; Tedesco, 1990). These peoples become the actors of their own history, after having been the objects of forced assimilation policies imposed by Nation-States. IBE is conceived as a democratic project within educational policies, but it permeates the whole society and makes it more democratic, in a very broad sense (Arratia, 1994). According to Godenzzi (1996), this perspective in the Latin American context takes into account the following observations:
The goal of this intercultural approach is to foster equitable relationships in the economic, social, political and cultural sphere;
The change to a situation of equality comes from a process of social negotiation during which the participants – mainly the most marginalized indigenous peoples – manage to fight for their autonomy and define their rights as citizens.
The challenges raised by IBE projects are numerous and complex. Gasché (2004) underlines a few of them. In particular, he wonders about the concrete achievements of such programmes, versus their utopian or even angelical dimensions. He also raises the difficult issue of transferring indigenous knowledge to a written form. How can one include in the curriculum the knowledge of oral societies, for which neither the history, nor the techniques, value systems or aspirations are ever put in writing, except, and from their own points of view, in the publications of anthropologists?
Various authors (Gottret, 2001; Montoya, 2001; Perez, 2003b) show concern about the discrepancy between the theoretical concepts behind IBE and the practical applications, and about the variety of educational practices that hide behind the label of "intercultural". In particular, the persistence of practices that contribute to assimilate and homogenize while claiming to be part of IBE is a reminder of how difficult it is to change paradigms, especially when they consist of models that have marked social reality for several centuries and that tried to justify the domination of European cultures. For example, most of the programmes continue to be concerned mainly with linguistic matters and neglect the cultural aspects.
Gottret (2001), who was one of the persons in charge of IBE in the national reform of the education system in Bolivia that was proclaimed in 1992, mentions that, in theory, IBE "is not reserved for indigenous ethnic groups, but should concern – in principle – all the children of the country (as much the city children as the rural ones)" (pp.247-248). This vision has remained a utopia. Gottret’s main conclusion concerning this educational reform is that it is necessary to understand "that the curriculum should not be conceived for indigenous peoples, but with them and starting from them" (p. 245).
Montoya (2001) shares with Gottret the ideal of an IBE run by the State:
Without decisive government support, without in fact the commitment of the heads of State themselves, IBE remains a very weak proposal. A poor quality IBE that does not live up to the parents’ aspirations is sure to lead to its downfall. It would indeed be sad if the parents were to refuse IBE because of its poor quality. Indigenous people certainly deserve better. (p. 267)
The author thinks that most of the NGOs do not have the means to develop quality programmes. Although he has been advocating IBE in Peru since the 1990s (Montoya, 1989, 1990), he seems rather pessimistic. In his analysis of the Peruvian situation a decade later (Montoya, 2001), he mentions only five relatively minor positive points, such as "one step towards a better learning of Spanish" (p. 252), which in fact turns IBE back to a model of transition. On the other hand, he lists ten major problems, among which:
The structural hypocrisy of the States and their governments; the opposition of dominant classes and groups at the regional and local levels; the internalisation of domination by the indigenous people themselves; … the very difficult living and working conditions of the IBE teachers, and their poorly valued public image. (p.252)
Indeed, Montoya (2001) describes teachers trained for IBE as feeling undervalued, often being given only temporary jobs, poorly paid, many of them choosing this profession without any calling, only because they are out of a job. Their training is often minimal. "Several of these teachers have a minimal command not only of Spanish, but also of their own language", (pp. 258-9). According to Montoya’s observations, they often do not speak a pure Quechua, but frequently intermix Spanish words. This, he thinks, is "because they want to show, consciously or unconsciously, that they do know Spanish. Diglossia as a phenomenon of domination of a more prestigious language over another appears to be an important process", (pp. 257-8).
Rougemont (2005) has carried out research interviews with various actors involved in the FORMABIAP programme and in particular with teacher-trainees. She speaks of the many paradoxes linked to the fact that the programme seems to be a utopia that is far from being shared by all indigenous communities, which are marked by a too long-standing denial of their language and culture. Some of the young people sent to the training programme said that they did not speak their indigenous language, and did not identify with their indigenous culture, but were forced to do so in order to be accepted in the programme. When they had to return to their communities (since the training alternates theory and practice), they feel compelled to defend the values of the programme almost against their own people. "What happens after this short experience, which will have lasted only one year, is that they will no longer feel at home anywhere" (p.196).
Thus, Rougement (2005) seems to be rather dubious about this programme, even though it is presented as a success story. According to her analysis, the difficulty for the students to get their communities to identify themselves with pride as indigenous "comes from five emblematic figures of influence: the colonial master, the employer or trader, the mestizzo teacher, the Christian evangelist, and local authorities" (p.169). This makes one wonder whether the deleterious impact of assimilation can ever be reversed!
Perez (2003b) also mentions a series of difficulties with IBE programmes, notably that indigenous populations are not convinced of the interest for their children to learn the local languages, because they know that learning Spanish is more useful to get a job. She also remarks that the rural population tends to seek work in the towns, and therefore gets exposed to cultural homogenization. "Nevertheless, IBE is very often, developed only in the rural areas and not in the urban ones, which leads to the marginalisation of these programmes" (p. 224). Furthermore, "to be efficient, IBE should continue at the secondary school level, but most often the teaching of subjects at higher levels is done in Spanish and not in the indigenous languages" (p. 226).
In opposition to Gottret (2001) and Montoya (2001), Perez (2003b) argues that the best IBE programmes are likely to be privately funded, in particular through international public aid. This is because she sees a fundamental contradiction between the interests of the local communities fighting for their autonomy, and those of the Nation-States, that remain in cultural homogenization imposed from the top, and this despite any political discourse to the contrary.
All of these criticisms, stemming from educational researchers who are more or less close to IBE programmes, should be taken seriously, or it is likely that the enthusiasm for these innovations will gradually fade. Some solutions to these problems may be found through comparative research, taking into account the experience accumulated in different contexts.
Education for indigenous peoples in other regions
While this chapter will not attempt to deal with this issue on a worldwide level, it is clear that the question of specific education for minorities or indigenous populations is not particular to Latin America. Mishra (this volume) deals with education for Adivasi (also called ‘tribal’) populations in India. The Indian Constitution acknowledges that these groups have rights and even privileges in the form of positive discrimination. However, in spite of a quota system and efforts made to open schools in isolated areas, the quality of these schools is often very poor and school attrition is very high. The problems mentioned by Mishra show that India has not yet found the best solution to these problems.
According to Teasdale (1994, 1995, this volume; Teasdale & Little, 1995), innovations seem more promising in Oceania. In 1995 already, Teasdale described several interesting projects in New Zealand and Australia, which allowed a growing involvement of the indigenous peoples in the management of their educational systems. In New Zealand, he describes one of the rare examples where a secondary school redesigned by and for the Maoris is also attended by Pakehas (white New Zealanders). In the 1990s, Australia started a ‘two-way’ system, in which indigenous and western knowledge were taught separately, so that Aborigines could become familiar with the dominant system in order to be able to profit from it, but without necessarily accepting it, since its values are, in part, contradictory to the traditional Aboriginal values. Teasdale (this volume) shows that this slightly schizophrenic design has now been abandoned and a more syncretic approach is being implemented. He also mentions several innovations in Papua New Guinea, for example, which demonstrate that adequate solutions can be found even in the absence of massive funding.
The formal Western schooling model has become the unique system throughout the world to such an extent – Serpell (1993; Serpell & Hatano, 1997) calls it a ‘hegemonic imposition’ – that few people now dare suggest alternatives. Therefore few authors attempt to challenge schooling as an institution (but see Herzog, this volume). Battiste (2002; this volume) does take a very radical stance, insisting on the need to decolonize education as far as indigenous peoples are concerned. In the next few years, we could well see a quest for alternative systems more akin to informal education (Dasen, 2000; this volume).
According to Brandão (1991), there are two ways to analyze cultural interactions, a socio-political one centred on power, and a symbolic one, centred on knowledge. The first considers culture as a way to respond to its needs for self-reproduction and social organisation, as an instrument of the power that justifies the existing social order. Culture transforms itself in order to reproduce itself. The second way to consider culture is to see it as a collective creation around a consensus, which allows people to agree about the meaning of codes and world-views. These two perspectives co-exist, and point to the important issues that have to be taken into account in cross-cultural research and applications.
Cultural decentration in teacher training seems to be an essential step, which posits the refusal to accept stereotypes, and seeks changes in attitude; it avoids the reproduction of the mental schemes of categorization and the hierarchisation of values, and corresponds to a constant effort to understand the common elements that unite us as members of a single human species. To create the necessary conditions for living together, despite our differences, should become a collective challenge. The indigenous peoples representing the many multicultural societies of different regions of Latin America will find in the wealth of their diversity the building materials for a democratic social construction that respects their human dignity.
The problems encountered by the indigenous peoples of the Americas can shed light on those of other continents, among which Europe, which is confronted with the integration of its national or ethnic minorities, such as Gipsies. Thus, comparative education and intercultural education are united in common goals (Pérez, Groux & Ferrer, 2000). An intercultural perspective, beyond education and psychology, can help to understand the urgent need to respect cultural diversity despite the current process of globalization (Marin & Dasen, in press).
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