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Schooling and Environment in Latin-America in the Third Millennium

The difference between being and having 


is between a society centered around persons
and one centered around things.
Erik Fromm, 1976

Edgar González-Gaudiano1

Introduction
Since the inception of environmental education (EE) in the seventies,
certain characteristics of its identity as a pedagogical field have been clearly
identified with schooling. Back them, there was much insistence that it should be
conceived as a cross-curricular subject and the idea of its being assigned its own
place in the curriculum was initially discarded. In line with this view, a number of
EE conferences since Tbilisi took note of the interdisciplinary, multi-faceted
connotation of an action-oriented EE that sought to strengthen the ties that
bound the complete set of educational materials, as well as to design new
educational and informative models that would help students understand their
global context.
Even so, the placement of EE in the school curriculum has left much to be
desired over the course of the past three decades in Latin America. This can be
partly explained by educational systems resistant to change, in addition to a rigid,
closed school structure, a curriculum that still focuses on disciplines and a
teaching body uninterested in new approaches.
Twenty years ago, Stevenson (1987) wrote a significant report on advances
made on the inclusion of EE in the school system and described a world scenario
that coincides almost exactly with the current state of Latin-American schooling.
Indeed, here the panorama is shaped by the late appearance of EE in the region,
which sprang up mainly in non-formal education, propelled by the effort of NGO‘s
and with strong ties to the vernacular and rural movements (González Gaudiano,
1998, 1999, 2003).
Nowadays, apart from new information and communication technologies
(ICT), and precarious inclusion of EE in the curriculum, which varies greatly from
country to country, I detect no significant changes in the region‘s educational
systems, which are, for the main part, burdened by shortages due to low
governmental investment in the sector. The most relevant characteristics of such
systems are: reduced teaching salaries that reflect the perceived social status of
teachers (Esteva, 2003); excess demands placed on teachers‘ time due to the
need to work with more than one group a day, and even to teach different
subjects; syllabuses with overloaded subjects; schedules with non-curricular
activities (festivals, public holidays, campaigns, school trips, etc.); poor quality,
and a myriad of deficiencies and distortions.

1
Institute of Social Research, Autonomous University of Nuevo León, México.

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Environmental Education and Schooling
As is true of even the most solidly established educational fields, EE
comprises a variety of discourses of varying importance, some of which have been
forged since the field achieved international prominence.2 Many different schools
of thought, pedagogical techniques, and approaches can be identified in the
materials produced during the period 1975-1995, both with respect to education
and to the way in which environmental concerns are conceived, although there was
a noticeable dominance of approaches related to the teaching of natural sciences
and conservation education.
These dominant approaches, the greater availability of financing and an
improved capacity for incorporating innovative ideas were the factors that
brought about the swift inclusion of EE proposals in the primary education
programmes of developed countries, especially the U.S., Canada, Australia, the
U.K. and several Western European countries. Most transcendental advances were
made in this EE development process, which is still under way in OECD countries,
by means of the ‗Environment and School Initiative‘ (ENSI) project.
Nevertheless, a problem arose within the dominant approach: EE rapidly
took hold in schools with materials closely related to the ―green‖ aspects of
environmental studies geared to young children, making lessons fun and using well-
thought out teaching methods such as learning though discovery and problem
solving, in addition to the creation of affective bonds with the local natural
environment through outdoor education programmes.
The literature (OCDE, 1997; Giolitto, 1997; Greenall Gough, 1997) confirms
that the implementation of EE in developed countries has been severely skewed
towards schools, and has a predominantly biologist-naturalist emphasis and, all said
and done, little respect for its reputedly guiding principles: holistic in its
approach, complex, interdisciplinary, cross-curricular, cross-sector and multi-
contextual in nature.
During the last thirty years, EE incorporated into the primary school
curriculum is limited in scope, troubled with biases and distortions that have not
helped the programmes‘ target population to understand the complex nature of
the environment, not to mention the thoughtful, prudent use of the world‘s natural
resources to satisfy the needs of humanity. Furthermore, again Stevenson (1987,
p. 73) stresses that while it has been easy to include the goals of nature studies
and conservation education in the goals and structural organization of schools,
―the critical and action orientation of environmental education creates a far more
challenging task for schools‖. It has become apparent that the planet‘s ecological
problems have become more critical since then, and that social inequalities have
been exacerbated among ever increasing contingents of humanity.

2
The notion of discourse used in this paper is not just a particular sum of words, but
meaningful linguistic and non-linguistic constructions of society; it is a ‗totality‘, never
complete or sutured, whose signified and signifiers are constituted in different kind of
relations with other discourses.

2
Despite the overwhelming dominance of this perspective, we nonetheless
find voices advocating something completely different—the idea that the radically
disadvantaged nations can never successfully catch up; that their incorporation
into the new global economic and social order will merely maintain them in
subordinate positions, albeit within a new turn of the screw; and that they should
reject attempts to recruit them to modernizing agendas. Such arguments are not
advanced on economic grounds alone. As advocated most forcefully a generation
ago by Ivan Illich (1969, 1971, 1973), strong lines of ‗ontological‘ and moral
argument can be brought against modern concepts of society and its values and
attempts to impose them universally. From this perspective, the notion of EE in
non-northwestern countries is often treated suspiciously and with caution.
Proponents of such views are more likely to put their faith in ideals of self-
reliance, local strength and ways; community traditions, solidarity and resistance,
folk ingenuity and so on. Whatever the perspective, views across the lines agree
that the current stakes are high. There are issues perennially surrounding
environmental education, primarily:
 What counts as living environmentally well, as living ―the good life‖?
 Who can legitimately decide for others what counts as environmental
education, what must be learned and how it must be learned?

EE in Primary Schools in Latin America


What is the situation in Latin America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean?
In the first place, it is important to mention that the regional identity of EE has
undergone a different formative process and has faced different challenges and
circumstances.
In other papers (González Gaudiano 2000), I have mentioned that the
history of EE in Latin America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean has to be seen
in a different light from the route taken in developed countries. For example,
world summit resolutions have had very little influence on the process, and
whenever there has been any, it has been untimely. I have also made the point
(González Gaudiano 2003) that there exist unique discourses born of the
hybridization of the field‘s original ideas with emancipatory educational traditions
(Gadotti & Torres 1993; Puiggrós 1988). That is, in the Latin American context the
conventional position not only coexists with other forms of conceiving the problem
and acting in regard to it, but also finds itself increasingly beset by emerging
discourses such as popular environmental education and approaches related to
critical pedagogy. Hence our constitution as subjects - as pedagogical subjects - is
overdetermined by our empowerment vis-à-vis the environmental conflict and by
the positioning we assume in the educational task to be effected within the social
framework.
That is why the fissures in the field of EE are an expression of the multiple
possibilities which open up the educational task. These fissures are in fact
positive. They represent alternatives in building up the field, as opposed to the
search for an essential identity of environmental education. This type of quest,
undertaken on the basis of traditional propositions, strives to formulate in some

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definitive manner the meaning of the conflicts which are produced among the
social, economic, and ecological spheres. The productive nature of these fissures
resides in their capacity for re-articulation, for generating alternatives within the
field of environmental education.
How is this? In the first place, it is because they are fissures derived from
social participation in EE projects with different levels of commitment and
intermittence. These levels correspond to intersubjective factors linked to the
double global/local dimension of the problems which move people to act. More
specifically, they refer to the distinct form in which the environmental conflict
affects the individual, since this shapes his or her differing responses to it.
It is also possible to identify fissures in EE in Latin America due to
membership of fuzzy contours in which often we do not succeed in identifying
either the principal tasks or the key concepts and messages. We do not know how
to account for ourselves as environmental educators even to ourselves, neither can
we rely for that purpose on a project, or else we only constitute ourselves by
means of numerous immediate, remedial, and dispersed activities which enjoy - for
the moment - social approval (although one can observe an increasing distrust,
above all in the better-informed sectors, with regard to the middle- and long-
range viability and importance of many such proposals).
Nevertheless, those discourses have been relegated to the periphery of
the educational field and, in consequence, have made a greater impact on informal,
popular, adult education programmes tied to community development processes,
especially in rural and indigenous areas. Similarly, because these singular
discourses are on the periphery, defiant, unsubmissive to be ―another brick in the
wall‖, questioning schooling rituals, or because they seek to subvert existing
institutional order, they have a negligible or precarious and, in any event, very
recent, influence upon formal educational processes.
These singular discursive configurations that co-exist alongside official
worldwide EE discourse, with varying degrees of influence on concepts and
methods, have sought to regulate the field.3 The divergences and coincidences of
these discursive configurations, draw attention to a constitutive instability that
encourages the rapid creation of new constructions and frameworks, in a
somewhat open system, which in Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean has
fomented unique development, albeit unstable, questionable and marginal in equal
parts. This development has two characteristics:
First, having been relegated to the periphery of the educational field, EE
has been linked, somewhat involuntarily, to an extraordinarily eclectic mixture of
pedagogical and political traditions (i.e., Theology of Liberation, Theories of
Dependence) as well as regional educational thinkers (i.e., Simón Rodríguez, José
Martí, José Carlos Mariátegui, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Paulo Freire); varying
from socially accepted compensatory programmes designed to help academic

3
Configuration is a notion used by several prominent writers (Bordieu, Laclau, Ricouer,
Foucault, Derrida, etc.) with many different senses. By discourse configuration I am
meaning a structural arrangement that shows the open, precarious, relational and dynamic
nature that underlies any discourse.

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strugglers such as illiterates and school drop-outs and social integration
programmes (i.e. teaching Spanish to monolingual indigenous populations, street
children) to others of a more libertarian nature that upset the existing social
order (i.e. guerrillas and insurrections against despotic caciquism). And, between
these extremes, an extensive range of intermediate postures, among which we can
feature popular environmental education linked to adult education.4
Second, the fact that EE was developed on the periphery of the formal
education system —contrary to what happened in the United States, Europe and
Australia— did not favour its institutionalization. What did happen was the
appearance of a set of strategies tied to other social grievances (i.e., housing and
services in suburbs and conurbations; the recuperation of natural resource
usufruct and agrarian movements in rural communities), which has configured a
unique EE discursive framework in the region that cannot be found in other
developing regions and which also has a much more clearly identifiable political
component. This does not alter the fact that official and semi-official (from the
United Nations, large foundations, etc.) discourses also circulate in the region.
They have received more promotion from non-governmental organisations,
especially those which use didactic resources such as kits outlining good practices
and interactive software. Despite this, there has been outstanding progress made
in the region on these matters by Colombia with its Environmental School Projects
(Torres 2001); by Brazil with its national curriculum parameters and cross-
curricular issues and, recently, by Chile with its Environmental Certification in
Schools programme.

Teacher Training
In the Latin-American and Caribbean region, Brazil and Mexico are the
countries that have developed training strategies involving the highest number of
teachers, and not only due to the fact that they are the countries with the
largest populations. The ―Save the World, Raymond‖ (―Salva al mundo, Raymundo‖)
programme in Brazil reached more than 30,000 teachers and the ―Let‘s Look after
Brazil with the Schools‖ programme, announced in May, 2004, has similar targets.
For its part, the ―National Secondary School EE Course‖ has been given to more
than 45,000 Mexican teachers in the last four years. Though on a smaller scale,
practically every country in the region has set teacher training schemes in motion
(see Torres 2001b). Colombia and Chile are worthy of mention, as is Argentina,
whose Confederation of Education Workers of the Republic of Argentina
(Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina:
CTERA) recently adopted a more decisive attitude on the subject.

4
In Latin America and the Caribbean, popular and adult education are complex movements
that were not often interrelated, and which were additionally characterized by a wide
variety of traits, strategies and objectives. An essay collection compiled by Gadotti and
Torres (1993) achieves an admirable synthesis of the successes and failures of popular
and adult education during the second half of the twentieth century in the region.
Environmental concerns were included later than these movements, and had a significant
effect on them.

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These experiences open up a great opportunity not only to strengthen an
environmental dimension in teacher preparation, but to reinforce the importance
of EE in the curriculum as a whole and, in this process, to gain a more solid
articulation between contents and instructional activities, and thus give new
meanings to school learning.
However, there still exist serious teacher training problems that will not be
easily resolved with the traditional activities recommended in initial preparation
and updating courses. Stevenson (1987, p. 77) points out that given the
organizational constraints ―it is not surprising that the teachers fail to engage
students in critical and reflective analyses of environmental issues‖. This can be
attributed in part to a lack of teacher training on complex environmental issues.
Certainly, neither school structure and organisation, nor the conventional
curriculum itself, favour interdisciplinary approaches oriented towards critical
thought (Guimarães 2003, p. 20), as Stevenson also argues. In denouncing the
emphasis placed on the ―mastery of selected fragments of knowledge and skills
developed by well-structured tasks,‖ Stevenson (p. 77) explains that ―technically,
of course it is easier to test for such knowledge and skills‖.
I shall examine some of the problems the region faces, as well as their
specific characteristics, but let me pause for a moment to consider the rather
common occurrence of EE proposals in the classroom being oriented towards
helping prevent and solve complex problems which, despite their educational
components, are not pedagogical in origin but of a social, economical, cultural and,
naturally, ecological nature. This happens as a result of the general tendency of
society to convert all pending social problems into educational problems (Esteve
2003, p. 21). It also produces two additional problems:
a) An oversimplified treatment of both curriculum and teaching practice
itself that suppresses numerous possibilities for interdisciplinary study,
research-action and critical thought.
b) The undesirable and very common bias, not only in formal education but
also environmental discourse, given to environmental problems as if their
prevention and solution depended on the participation of individuals. The
individualization of the problem hides the identification of those members of
society who are specifically responsible and deflects attention from the
magnitude and complexity of their causes, postponing the implementation of
more effective, and radical measures.
On the same subject, Reigota (1999) has said that it is difficult to include
environmental issues in schools using the classical parameters of formal education
as a reference. Thus, even though it may be usual for a teacher to get
enthusiastic over the proposals presented at workshops, when he becomes aware
of the myriad of difficulties ahead, he is quickly disheartened or is forced to
oversimplify them. In this way, EE teaching activities become very similar
(excursions, interpretative paths, waste material collection, reforestation
campaigns, museum and zoo visits, and the commemoration of public holidays) since
teachers have not been adequately trained to handle practical learning. This means
that teachers do not perceive that, in one way or another, they are helping

6
reinforce and entrench an EE stereotype that is removed from ―an
interdisciplinary approach with a multidimensional profile aimed at social
participation and the solution of environmental problems with a view to changing
values, attitudes and social behaviour‖ (Francalanza, 2004, pp. 63).
It is therefore necessary to improve upon traditional teacher training
concepts, for example, by working with the social representations5 of the
different groups of actors involved in environmental questions (community
leadership, governmental officials, municipalities, social organization
representatives of women, migrant workers or unions), and by training for action
concerning specific local problems, risks and damage prevention and increasing
social participation (Guerra 2004; Mininni & Santos 1999; Santos 2001; Sato 2001;
Guimarães 2004). In contrast, the insistence has been on learning activities
designed to consistently supply knowledge: something that has already been
demonstrated not to produce the expected changes in behaviour by itself
(Sterling, 2001; Guerra, 2004). Besides, they are designs that do not even take
into account the teacher‘s development needs or her favoured teaching strategies;
at best, are based on the opinion of EE specialists who mainly work at universities;
have a type of school in mind that does not exist, and forget that teaching today
is much more complicated than twenty years ago. Even in educational systems that
presumably promote learning communities and constructivist processes of
meaningful learning, these approaches are usually not respected in teacher
training in Latin America.
Amaral (2004, pp. 147-148) describes how the usual methods of professional
teacher development are flawed, among other considerations, by:
 Separating theory from practice by developing an exaggerated
academicism;
 Distancing training contents from the teacher‘s pedagogical concepts and
practices;
 Treating teaching methods as simply putting theory into practice;
 Separating pedagogical practices from their production conditions;
 Treating the teacher as a simple executor of educational policies and an
implementer of curricular models and didactic resources;
 Using traditional techniques, predominantly exposition and demonstration;
 Confusing methods with teaching techniques, taking an instrumental view of
teaching methodology;
 Omitting the underlying concepts of any educational proposal, presenting it
neutrally, without ideology and historically out of context.
To these shortcomings, I would add the implementation of learning strategies
based on centralized teaching models where the teacher must carry out

5
Social representation in Moscovici‘s sense is a systems of values, ideas and practices with
a two-fold function; first, to establish an order which enables individuals to orientate
themselves in their material and social world and to master it; second, to enable
communication to take place amongst members of a community by providing its members
with a code for social exchange and a code for naming and classifying the various aspects
of their world, as well as their individual and group history (Moscovici, 1984).

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standardized tasks and simulations as if all schools were the same, without paying
any attention to studies on the problems that most commonly affect recently
certified teachers (Esteve, 2003), especially in emerging pedagogical fields like
EE that are not included in initial teacher training programs in most of the
countries in the region.
Furthermore, Mininni (2001, p. 21) adds that a frequent problem is that
teacher training processes lack continuity or support, to which I should further
mention that many are short-term programmes that do not become fully
established and are replaced or co-exist with other proposals that occasionally
make use of divergent approaches (i.e., community learning, team teaching).

Curriculum and School Management


In the majority of the countries of Latin America the dominant curricular
configuration for EE has revolved around ―transversality‖, expressed in cross-
curricular axes that affect conventional disciplines and activities in a variety of
levels and degrees. This organisation is a modified version of the school curriculum
engendered by the Educational Reform in Spain in 1990 (Reigota 2000; Roth 2000;
Luzzi 2000; González-Gaudiano 2000; Gutiérrez 1995). Most domestic experiences
have not been evaluated or, at least, there are almost no public reports on how
well the transversal axes worked in the region‘s primary education system. García
(2000) presented several critical concerns based on the results obtained in
Valencia, Spain. In his informal interviews with teachers during research, he shows
that transversality is in opposition to the training and willingness of teachers to
put into practice innovations that require more time and effort, as well as in
opposition to a deteriorated, decadent institutional structure anchored in the
past. Thus, the documented, successful cases have principally been the product of
individual initiatives of teachers, and sometimes of teaching community in mainly
private educational centres, who have made a personal commitment and are in the
process of reinventing their pedagogical activity on their own initiative.
In the face of a depleted6 conventional school curriculum and its growing
inability to respond to the complex challenges of the present, it might be a good
idea to turn to alternative experiences that attempt to reconcile school knowledge
with the learning picked up in everyday life (de Oliveira 2004), and that,
presumably being personal projects, do not suffer teachers‘ indifference,
insensitivity and resistance to innovative proposals. Experiences that tend to

6 ―Depleted‖ curriculum in the sense of its unusual backlog in reference to technological


advancement, and the explosion of knowledge in a world that is steadily globalized and
segmented into different social classes. The curriculum has not responded to racial and
gender differences, nor to regional markets that are each day farther from the dynamics
of globalization, making the curriculum literally foreign to the circuits of production,
circulation and consumption of the world system. This has educational, social, economic and
political repercussions: a wider educational gap, growth of poverty, unemployment,
handicaps for international commerce, increase of social and family violence, etc. Ours is
basically a decadent curricular model of positivistic inspiration which has outlasted its
historical and heuristic possibilities.

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democratize the educational sphere, fundamentally school management, also have
great potential (Clovis & Schugurensky, 2005).
In Mexico, several studies (Pardo, 2000) have analysed how the design and
implementation of innovative solutions have a tendency to solve problems of equity
and quality of education. Teachers have been discovered to occupy a subordinate
position, with respect to school principals or the curricular norm created by an
educational reform process with innovative tendencies, which identifies them as
the main obstacle to its implementation (Jiménez, 2003). Yurén and Araujo-
Olivera (2003) came to a similar conclusion when they analysed teachers‘ attitudes
towards the creation of a new secondary school subject, civic education and
ethics, as part of educational reform at the secondary level in Mexico. In this
study, the teachers, despite starting out with a favourable opinion of the subject,
and considering that the materials helped to ―recover lost values‖, agreed with the
students that it did not lead to the formation of a civic ethos (p. 636).
It is a recognised fact that any curricular reform destabilizes teaching by
undermining the structure of habitual practices and weakening the identifying
links with their cognitive referents and ―the relative precariousness of their
certainties‖ (Espeleta 2004, p. 413). In the particular case described by Yurén and
Araujo-Olivera (2004, p. 637), the main problem is that the new subject‘s
objectives implied a ―displacement in social space and the exercise of power: the
teacher had to accompany the student throughout the process, providing learning
situations and acting as his interlocutor, instead of holding the floor herself‖. But
the teacher lost confidence when she relinquished the role of instructor from
where she wielded her power. That is to say, it is important to the teacher to
maintain order and control over what happens in the classroom under her dominion
(Stevenson 1987).
The implications of this study for the EE field are immense, since EE, a
field of knowledge and action, has been promoting the search for a new teaching
model which is not only based on complex interdisciplinary manipulation of teaching
materials, but on the establishment of a different kind of pedagogical relationship
with the student and the world. This is precisely what changes made to the
conventional curriculum through the normal progression of changes in materials
have been unable to achieve.
All said and done, it is not very significant in the education of values that
the curricular contents should be treated as ―declarative (facts and concepts) or,
at best, as attitude-related materials that have to be learned through
socialization‖ (Yurén and Araujo-Olivera, p. 638). This explains why in a symposium
called ―Whatever happened to the curriculum field?‖ held during the AERA
Conference in Montreal, Canada, in April 2004, the central discussion focused on
whether curriculum actually was a pedagogical area in the process of extinction.
In Latin America, most of the educational process at primary level is based
on the teacher playing an instructional role, irrespective of whether the
curriculum‘s educational philosophy dictates otherwise. And the teacher‘s
identification with this role is further intensified on a daily basis by current
institutional practices and, more importantly, by student evaluation procedures.

9
The predominance of lecture-type teaching strategies and student activities
involving the study of additional information and ‗research‘ into previously
prepared examples is current practice. This is what Stevenson decries (1987, p.
75) by commenting that ―student thinking is confined to applying factual
information to familiar ‗well-structured‘ problems‖. Activities with learning
potential are uncommon, such as: ―debates on the values under discussion, case
analyses, comparison of habits and the establishment of norms‖ (Yurén and
Araujo-Olivera, p. 639), and even more uncommon, are strategies like staging
plays, or writing stories, letters or autobiographical narratives.
The ongoing introduction of educational innovations and the eventual
reform of the whole, or part, of the system constitute the modus operandi of
educational apparatuses in the region. It is a recurrent practice that every new
national government wants to open its administration by announcing some kind of
change to the system‘s institutional mechanism. The problem is that pedagogical
management is not included among the initiatives for change, as if it did not form
part of the institution‘s management structure and, as a result, schools cling to
organisational and working styles that date back to before the nineties (Ezpeleta,
2004). The most eagerly sought change has been administrative decentralization,
but this has not modified the educational management styles accepted as normal
by the teaching body. That is, the possibilities for EE still depend on ―first, the
structural organizations of schools and, second, the professional ideologies that
underlie teachers‘ organizations and transmission knowledge‖ (Stevenson 1987, p.
76).

Thinking Prospectively on a Regional EE


There are projects in the Latin-American educational system that may
encourage the strengthening of the environmental dimension, even in the short
term. In Mexico, for example, the Quality Schools Programme, which is designed
to improve overall learning performance, is promoting environmental projects in
schools. Although they are significantly fewer in number than those prepared for
subjects judged to be of greater educational value, such as reading and
mathematics, they have the comparative advantage of encouraging student and
parent participation in practical activities dealing with problems that are
perceived to be more relevant to their daily lives.
But whatever the scenario regarding the many approaches that may come
into being in the near future, it is necessary to block those rife with
reductionisms, naïve visions (Carvalho, 2004, p 153) and excessively centred in
individual responsibilities that are currently extended in our schools, and not
become too excited about the pedagogical possibilities offered by new information
and communication technologies. As Guerra (2004) mentions, a parabolic antenna
and a computer will never be able to make up for the deformations and gaps in
primary education teacher training courses in universities and teacher training
institutions.
It is also necessary to take advantage of the experience garnered through
the use of teachers‘ and students‘ social representations in the design of initial

10
teacher training and update courses so as to seriously promote programmes that
result in knowledge construction in autonomous groups (Calixto, 2004; Terrón,
2005). The same may be said of the importance of including local knowledge and
repertoires with a view to putting teacher training into practice as a space that
mediates between specialized knowledge and the life of the community (Sauvé,
Orellana and Qualman, 2000). Furthermore, in a process such as the one in Latin
American, reflection on one‘s own practices is vital so as to make more solid, less
erratic progress (Guimarães, 2003; Sauvé, Savoie-Zajc and Langevin, 2002), on
the construction of ―collective imaginaries‖, as well as the social subjects –
participative, well-versed on their rights, willing to work for the public good- that
we need in the region (Carvalho, 2001).
As we have seen above, education in Latin-American schools is burdened
with unsystematic practices and discretional rituals governed by a rigid
bureaucratic structure, lacking pedagogical direction and decidedly restrictive in
nature. This is why EE in schools is critical to transforming the prevalent school
system as a whole. This means that EE must not be allowed the luxury of regarding
itself as marginal to the general circumstances of the moment. In this sense, what
is required is a diversified system with the capacity to respond to different
geographical, economic and cultural conditions (fortifying the differences and
reducing the inequality), where projects require systematic, long-term
interventions and where educational innovations are promoted by means of
institutional mechanisms that encourage exchange of experiences between
conventional and innovative approaches. It will not be sufficient to improve the
distribution of budgeted funds and educational paraphernalia without training and
empowering (in the sense of the strengthening and development of capabilities)
agents, and developing their consciousness and knowledge, so as to ―change the
way we are and the way we do‖ (Torres & Tenti, 2000, p. 11).
If we truly recognize the environment as a ‗complex interaction between
social, biophysical, political, philosophical and cultural configurations‘ (Reigota,
1995, p. 76), adequate EE needs a new paideia (Taglieber, 2004) that we have as
yet been unable to define.
As can be seen in this quick review of what is being thought and done in EE
in basic formal education in Latin America, work in this region can be inscribed in
the set of complex problems and shortcomings that exist, mutatis mutandis, in its
educational systems as a whole, but more severely, due to the subordinate position
that it still has in official curricula. But it must also be recognized that EE in Latin
America offers an important potential of articulation with different scientific
disciplines, with other emerging fields of education (human rights, gender equity,
consumer and health education, to name a few), and with the everyday life of the
community. This potential has not yet been sufficiently put into value or practice,
but is the main strength of EE in the region.

References

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Amaral, I. A. (2004) ―Programas e ações de formação docente em educação
ambiental‖, in: Tagliber & Guerra. Op. cit. pp. 145-167.
Calixto F., R. (2005) Representaciones sociales y medio ambiente de los
estudiantes de la licenciatura de educación primaria. Doctoral degree thesis in
process. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. UNAM, México.
Carvalho, I. C. M. (2001) A invenção ecológica. Narrativas e trajetórias da
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