ASUNCION, Paraguay — If you look in central South America, just northeast of Argentina and southwest of Brazil, you will find Paraguay, a nation that is slightly smaller than the state of California. Due to its political instability, civil wars, years of dictatorship and the greater appeal of its neighboring countries, Paraguay is sure to be categorized as a country of emigration. Paraguay has greater rates of income inequality and child and maternal mortality than the average in Latin America. Furthermore, Paraguay falls below the Latin American average not only in secondary school enrollment but also several socioeconomic categories including immunization, sanitation and portable water.
Paraguay’s Problematic History & Economy’s Effect on Education
Paraguay’s history reveals much of why its political, economic and educational system are in their current situations. After achieving independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay fought the devastating War of the Triple Alliance from 1865 to 1870. This war resulted in the loss of two-thirds of its adult males as well as much of its territory.
For the next half century, Paraguay’s economy idled. Following the Chaco War of 1932 with Bolivia, Paraguay ended up gaining a large part of the Chaco lowland region. Decades later, the 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner ended in 1989 and Paraguay has remained relatively free and had had regular presidential elections since its return to democracy.
Paraguay’s economy has also fluctuated throughout its history which contributes to its current education system’s situation. In 2009, the economy fell by 3.8 percent and the government reacted by introducing fiscal and monetary stimulus packages. In 2010, Paraguay’s economy at a growth at a level 13 percent, the highest in South America only to later slow and decline between 2011 and 2012 due to strong export growth.
According to the CIA WorldFactbook, “The economy took another leap in 2013, largely due to strong export growth. Political uncertainty, corruption, limited progress on structural reform, and deficient infrastructure are the main obstacles to long-term growth.”
The CIA reports that Paraguay’s GDP per capita PPP was the equivalent of $6,800 in 2013, which is ranked number 143 in comparison to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the percentage of Paraguay’s population that falls below the poverty line was at an estimated 34.7 percent in 2010.
National Plan for the Improvement of Technical and Vocational Education in Paraguay
The National Plan for the Improvement of Technical and Vocational Education in Paraguay 2011-2013, or TVET, proposed to increase the number of institutions that offered technical education in each geographical department. Furthermore, TVET was intended to diversify vocational training programs based on the needs of the socioeconomic development in order to have qualified professionals under a competition policy.
Students in Paraguay are offered TVET programs at various levels in a variety of different forms. Formal professional training is offered at Secondary education level through the Technical and Vocational Education programs are offered at different levels in a variety of forms. Formal professional training is offered at Secondary education level through the so-called “Bachilleratos Técnicos”.
Currently, there are 24 fields to train technicians for the industrial, agricultural and service sectors. More than 600,000 students are currently enrolled in 600 technical high schools across the country. The curriculum at these technical high schools combine general education subjects with professional disciplines, and after three years of training, graduates receive their degree of “Bachiller Técnico” which grants them access to higher education and the labor market.
Secondary education-level students in Paraguay that are more interested in a professional qualification than pursuing a college degree in the short term and have completed nine years of Elementary School have the ability to participate in “Formación Profesional Media” .
Pupils may also pursue professional training programs after passing an entrance examination given by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Students may also gain access to higher education is also possible through an Academic Competency Assessment Test.
According to UNESCO, “Post-secondary professional training programmes are also offered through the so-called “Técnicos Superiores”. There are currently around 10,000 students enrolled in 287 institutions, with 88 percent belonging to the private sector, offering these kinds of programs. Upon completion of a two-to-three year training, an “Advanced Technician” degree is awarded. Students may also choose to pursue various informal or non-formal TVET systems.
Teachers in Paraguay Strike Back
In 2013, teachers in Paraguay received $10 million in pay deductions for striking to demand improvements in their retirement packages. The Supreme Court of Paraguay ruled that teachers could not receive a pay cut for striking— setting a precedent that guaranteed teachers the right to strike without their livelihood threatening their livelihood.
An article published in September 2014 by The Argentina Independent reported that the president of the Teacher’s Federation of Paraguay, Silvio Denis, made the announcement that, “teachers will organize a collective action to be repaid the amount deducted last year. They will also initiate a lawsuit against the Ministry of Education for the damages caused to thousands of educators whose incomes were affected.”
Furthermore, when the 2014 The Argentina Independent article was published, teachers were striking to increase the national education budget to secure infrastructure improvements to schools and to provide school lunches to students, as well as a 15 percent wage increase for the educators.
– Eastin Shipman