Race-work, Race-love

Quito, Day 1: Context for Knowledge Production in Ecuador

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2013 at 1:04 am

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A little less than one percent of the world’s knowledge production or research comes out of Latin America. When Dr. Raul Leon provided us with this statistic, all our jaws dropped. How can that be, we wondered.

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We met Dr. Lucas Pacheco Prado who holds a Ph.D in Economics. He primarily studies political economics and Ecuadorian higher education. He has influenced the way Ecuadorian higher education is evaluated and studied.  Dr. Pacheco Prado’s main concern is that the system largely focuses on vocational training and not the production of knowledge. A system that offers over 2000 types of degrees, he finds that it is not concerned with producing research and continues to push careers and certificates that often lead to no knowledge production. This is one possible reason for the statistic mentioned earlier.

Dr. Pacheco Prado is in the process of writing a book on the history of higher education in Ecuador. He is eager to work with higher education researchers who are interested in understanding and researching Ecuadorian higher education. Interestingly, he is the first to coordinate symposiums and conferences about the study of higher education here. His passion for this subject seems to be deeply rooted for his love of research and his country. He was really inspiring and his desire to contribute to knowledge production in Ecuador was infectious.

Below are some pictures of some of his publications.

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We met Dr. Enrique Ayala of the Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar. He is a historian by training. This institution is interesting for many reasons: one, it is the only institution in Ecuador to educate and train graduate students, master’s level and higher. Secondly, you will note that “Andean” is part of the name of the university. This designates the inclusion and partnership of students from neighboring countries from the Andes region. Dr. Ayala is very proud that in addition to a university it is also an international organization, one that opens its doors to international and regional students with great facility.

When I entered the university, I was struck by the abundance of artwork that hung outside of the university and within its walls. The artwork in the university is impressive. Dr. Ayala made himself in charge of beautifying the institution and calls himself a “frustrated architect” because his hand is in much of the design and artwork that one sees immediately upon entering its halls. I believe that this also immediately brings a type of cultural capital to students.  At some point, one would have to wonder: who are the artists, what is the artwork about?  Much of the artwork was related to Simon Bolivar, but I think the art is also made primarily by South Americans, mainly Ecuadorian artists.

Its library is special, too. Because the institution only offers education to students seeking masters and doctorates, every student’s work, theses and dissertations, are digitized and housed within the library.  Every student!  They believe that as an institution that is committed to the production of knowledge, this is an important part of knowledge building in Ecuador.

The institution is also one of the only colleges in Quito to build dorms for their students. Because of the large amount of international and regional students, they felt it necessary to build these dorms. This is another source of pride for the college.

We met three of his colleagues, all who hold PhD’s and most educated in the US. We were also informed that only 250 people hold PhDs in Ecuador….
Below are pictures from this university.

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Both gentlemen gave us some context around the 2009 higher education reform which stated that all professors must hold a Ph.D. This legislation also suggests that all professors must have it done within seven years of the reform.  Dr. Ayala also offered interesting insights about this: he believes that while some reform is necessary, expecting for great professors who have been working over 30 years and are now n their 60s to obtain a Ph.D. is criminal and will cause an even further strain on its colleges and universities.

I am still absolutely struck by how little knowledge is being exported out of Latin America. Perhaps it is why the Ecuadorian government has been taking control over the higher education system there. We also learned how upset higher education officials are about the amount of control the government is taking given that it was once completely autonomous.

Interestingly, we heard from our first speaker that the changes has racial implications but we ran out of time before he could explain. But definitely one issue that I will be on the look out for…

Finally, growing up Ecuadorian American often means that we have very little access to who are the knowledge producers, the writers, the artists, the poets, and so on… I grew up with a constant wonder about the knowledge that came out of Ecuador. Understanding it’s history a little more today helped me understand why I knew so little about this country and why it continues to be so today.

This can’t end here. There is a need to support the efforts of the knowledge creators in Ecuador; they are working under a system of education that for years has pushed vocational and career training. Could there be room for both? What are the incentives of reforming a system of vocational training to a system that produces knowledge?

Time to revisit W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington. The debate continues….

Below are more pictures from today. More to learn tomorrow! So much more to learn, so little time.

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