The process of creating a Postgraduate University based on the experiences of the Foundation for Development and Education (FUNDE), means to move through the broad and complex world of the vocational training. This requires to understand the national context critically, in order to assume the needs and possibilities (where an answer must be given), at the same time as we take care of the political and normative constraints that must delimit its implementation; and that would be a basic condition requiring to understand the following aspects:
There are three cornerstones behind these 12 years of experience, working in and taking care of different cities and towns, in order to achieve the proposed objectives in this vocational training work that we had assumed. We need to go in-depth on these positive experiences to tapping to a nicely sustained rhythm pointing to an educational transformation. Within the framework of the Educational Reform carried out in Bolivia, this educational transformation seeks to prioritize a change from the community; an intra and intercultural change in order to create new interactions towards entrepreneurship, to enrich the development and contribute to the decolonization; these would be core objectives regarding the release of the colonial mechanisms that still exist in the country.
We entered in the educational field back in 2006. From international cooperation organizations we knew about some problems in the field, so our first action was to support the workers with specific courses regarding the organization´s management, and their class-consciousness function. The School of Political and Trade Union Training had a wide acceptance. Subsequently, FUNDE was consolidated, and the agreements with the Federations of Teachers of Oruro and Cochabamba were signed in February 2007. Then, we could enable the development of undergraduate and graduate programs. These were later extended to the city of Sucre, with a program covering both the pre-graduated and the postgraduate level. The aim was to generate a response to the harmful effects of the neoliberal system in the political and union action imposed in 1985 through the DS 21060.
This political measure meant the concession of our natural resources to the native oligarchy and the transnational corporations' interests, and it also meant the auction and privatization of public companies, which were revolutionary achievements of workers in their constant struggles, for example the ones of April 9 of 1952, of great importance in the country's economy.
The anti-popular measure brought "offshoring", just a euphemism used to disguise the forced retirement of workers from many sectors. This situation led to a huge unemployment expanding, on one hand, the hunger and poverty and, on the other hand, destroying a lot of unions, particularly the miners´ union, an indisputable avant-garde of the workers' and people's movement that unfortunately has not yet been restored.
This regression had a negative impact on the class consciousness. The country suffered a relevant delay within a few years, because of the destruction of important contingents of workers, the absence of education, the worsening of qualitative conditions of the leaders, their split with the bases… All these were necessary demands that were complied to the letter in favor of the viability of neoliberalism as the last tactic of capitalism to solve its deep contradictions.
Under such circumstances, the teachers' organizations were still standing although severely affected, despite this situation their (almost) solitary struggle against the political, educational and economic measures presented many limitations. This was reason enough to justify the agreements made with the sector, not only for the academic studies, but for the strengthening of the political and union action (carried out with positivism), to such an extent that different classes and workshops were established and they aroused expectations, they had wide receptiveness and great effects. This situation required to expand the program to other workers and industries. That result would explain the current leadership of many of these workers in the union and in political and administrative positions promoted at departmental and national levels, even being part of the legislative power of the country.
The need to contribute to the progress of the educational reform and the consolidation of the socio-communal and productive model, allowed to open and to implement other Degree Programs in the teacher training field (before, they only reached the level of Senior technician). The training was outsourced and offices appeared in Oruro, Cochabamba, Sucre and Tarija, which had signed agreements for achieving academic certification with the Salesian University. The demand exceeded the initial expectations that made possible the creation and attention of several groups of participants.
Later FUNDE's training activity was extended with the launch of the Master’s Degree in Higher Education, 2014 and 2015 and, with the same purposes we expanded in 2016 and 2017; the program grew qualitatively because of the quantitative growth of enrollment, which responded with urgency to the transformation and advanced achieved, and that required the selection of appropriate facilitators, with experience in the training work. They even held pedagogical events, including international events with representatives of Argentina, Chile, Cuba and, of course, Bolivia. The students of the program participated, too, and it gave us a very positive balance, also because the topics developed (related to the most important problems of the postgraduate training). Subsequently, these students needed to be supported and assisted during the development of their thesis work and of their job performance once they were graduated.
Special care was taken in the training process to address the following problems:
These objectives were achieved, maybe not fully achieved, but with enough success and that created a lot of expectations for the results obtained in all programs, courses, workshops, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and the already concluded programs (except the Masters that will conclude during the second semester of the present management). This reality forces us to look ahead, and to consider the continuity as a need, along with new programs which will continue the previous programs, through a deeper critic facing the (always possible) renewal and the improvement, and all that will result in a new educational institution based on the people and pertaining to the postgraduate.
At this point with all this experience and in these circumstances, it is crucial that we vindicate the resources of irony and paradox because they are drafting an unstable existence. On one hand, we still live in a political, economic, social, cultural, educational and epistemological crisis and on the other hand we also live this unusual and fast progress in Science and Technology that should mean more human development and happiness; unfortunately, this has not occurred yet. Just the opposite: the conflicts of human existence increase and become concrete day after day.
This is our country's situation. And, despite the answers that have been given in the recent years in order to solve these problems, they still remain. And the uncertainty is refilled with stupor in the recent years because of the reactionary positions and actions of the oligarchs who encourage and finance, seeking to re-implant the neoliberalism. We must add this problem to the problems related to the presence of injustice, dependency, backwardness, lack of ideas and low cultural self-esteem that still exists, hindering the search of definitive solutions, an imaginary of vindication and profound change that is not present in the State's professional training centers because they have lost their ideological vision and their former political positions (meaning they struggled for liberation and their commitment was with the people).
From this context and from the stated viewpoints we intend to go in-depth on the epistemology (that we assume from the dialectical unity between needs and possibilities to be as objective as possible), and from there we pretend to face the urgent challenge of the postgraduate education that is inextricably linked to Bolivia's vital and sociopolitical praxis, an important and inalienable cornerstone of the human condition that must be a fundamental concern of higher education in all its expressions.
The intention is to surround the so-called FUNDE Postgraduate University with deep humanism that prioritizes attention to the creation of core values as justice, freedom, common good and solidarity; an essential spiritual fuel to access an analytic, critical and investigative education. This must lead, within the framework of an intracultural environment, to self-knowledge, and, at the same time, we need to strengthen the identities and differences in order to establish the relationship with the otherness; this being a typical feature of the intercultural field, and it is characterized by equity and respect, as established by Law 070 that defines that the education (among other characteristics) as communal, intracultural and intercultural, productive and decolonizing; these are important aspects that justify that the higher education institution, as shown, must assume the Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez Law's philosophy in all its bases, goals and principles, in addition to the productive Socio-Communal Educational Model.
In this sense, the future FUNDE Postgraduate University sets the following two goals for the first phase of its implementation. These are:
We need to repeat that it is convenient to adapt the fundamental principles, the institutional objectives, the pedagogical and investigative proposals and the extension of programs of this to-be-born University to the current educational regulations that, with absolute clarity, establish that a private university must: "Develop vocational training programs according to the socio-economic and productive needs of the different country regions¡, and the policies in accordance with the guidelines and regulations established by the Ministry of Education".
"To contribute to the development of science, research, technology and innovation in the framework of the demands and trends of the productive and socio-cultural sectors in the local, regional and national level of the Plurinational State" (Numeral 1 and 2, article 58 of the Law 070).
The validity period of private universities is guaranteed under article 94 of the New Constitution of the State of Bolivia; this provision allows the Educational Reform Law Avelino Siñani - Elizardo Pérez to establish its functioning/performance according to its article 59 and that functionally responds to article 57 where it´s declared: "Private universities are academic scientific institutions for training and research; they generate knowledge based on the development of science, technology and innovation, they respond to socio-productive needs and demands of the regions of the country, and they are governed by the policies, plans, programs and authorities of the Plurinational State".
The political basis appears from the convergence of the critical analysis of the national educational system, and its problems, scope and limitations regarding the demands of the population. The purpose is to give them a social meaning, and the recognition of the Quechua, Aymara and Guaraní communities and the many groups disseminated in the Amazon and the Chaco.
In this way, we understand that the articulated ideas by the Bolivian education, from a social participation point-of-view are the community, the productivity, the intraculturality, the interculturality and the decolonization. From that point, we can also understand that it is unique, diverse, plural, united, integrative, scientific, technical, technological, artistic and secular, in all levels of the National Educational System and in function of the liberation process.
It is important to face the false dichotomy between being and having (imposed by the mechanisms of power) because that idea only increases de gap of inequity to the detriment of the originating cultures of the dependent communities; a "have" towards the systematized profit to increase the fortunes of very few people in the world that end up submitting the "being" of the immense majority of the poor in the world, a situation that exists in the country.
Therefore, this postgraduate training crucial task will be to increase the quality of the training process. Also, to have in mind that the research is a source to organize, to plan and meet the demands of the cultural and socioeconomic development in the regions where it operates.
After adopting the current educational policies, the new Postgraduate University must respond to the demands of a pluricultural and multilingual country. It must understand the heterogeneous social composition of the national reality; in this way it must contribute to achieve a national unity towards the diversity, a strategic objective to be assumed by any government as an essential historical goal.
The existence of many cultural expressions along the country is perfectly understandable. Unfortunately, this situation has recently dragged subtle acts of domination and subjugation. As a result, an opposite idea arises, as the culture of liberation is seeking to give confidence and to feed the hope of the oppressed people where the higher education cannot block out the surroundings.
To fully understand the problem of diversity, we need to review the transformations that are currently being made to overcome exclusion and the consequent integration of the nations, peoples and minor ethnic groups that constitute the social structure.
If it is known that education constitutes the basic dynamic axis of culture, it is necessary to take into account the relativity of knowledge so that we don't fall into absolutist approaches (the way it occurred in the past), that gets in the way towards the viability of any project. However, it is pertinent to clarify that that relativity must not mean an uncertainty leading to nowhere because the only thing that is claimed (beyond the preaching of absolute and definitive truths), is the validity of knowledge for a certain time and space since overcoming and sometimes the changes are permanent.
A fundamental task of the Postgraduate University should be the orientation of the formative processes through the heterogeneity with attachment to one's own and respect for the others, a demand that involves strengthening the subjectivities for a respectful and equitable dialogue (so important for social relations and for education itself).
In order to conceive, with the highest clarity that the socio-communal participation and the democracy are not reduced only to submission to the established order or to strict adherence to laws and other forms of social organization, but (and this is fundamental) is also oriented to achieve the freedom and self-determination of Bolivians so that the population can seek and propose socio-economic, political, cultural and educational solutions for today's demands.
A postgraduate training institution must rethink the educational phenomenon broadly, due to other factors or educational and training agents involving other forms (not only of movement) but of creation of skills, knowledge and practices governed by other axiological manners that are more human and desirable. This reality requires that we understand the relevant laxity of the pedagogical science, reviewing its history and doing a rescue work of the pedagogical practices of our ancestral cultures in order to get the most from them, without ignoring the ones that come from the western culture, so that other proposals, corresponding to this historical moment, can be suggested.
Within the framework of such concern, the research acquires new connotations and requires to be assumed not as an individual action but as a collective, communal one, where there is no relationship of a subject, disposed to play the cold and passive role of knowledge objects. Nowadays we all know that we can play to be researchers, with our complex existential reality, without prioritizing none of its phenomena such as the cognitive-intellectuals one.
If we act accordingly, it is essential that we contribute to an epistemological break, vindicating the affective and emotional factors that intervene in education, in order to overcome the rationalist vision of the West that absolutizes the role of reason and thought, to the detriment of such important feelings in human beings, a defense of individualism, unsustainable at this point. Education and professional training are socio-historical phenomena that respond to certain material and spiritual conditions.
It's true: every educational process relies on training. But, when it comes to the professional training it is important to remember that its actions are directed to transform the society, the Bolivian society in this case, as an effect of the interactive evolution of the main change factors, namely: the economic, political, scientific and cultural ones, regionally and nationally, without abstraction or denial, of the phenomenon of globalization that reaches international dimensions in our days, which should contribute to taking reflexive actions that allow progress towards national liberation.
It is important to understand that every analysis and reflection on this problem has the duty to increase the desire to know. Then, the options that appear after creating new knowledge, and not ignoring the contributions of the originating cultures, will create mechanisms that contribute to the enrichment of knowledge that will support teachers and students, not only on the chosen fields of education and training, but to include more so that we can situate ourselves properly in this complex world; that is, to obtain knowledge about the origin, the nature and the sense of the universe, of the human being and its existence, so different depending on every culture.
All these points plus the assumption of the bases and objectives of this new education, will help to strength the professional capacities of the participants and, from there, they will assume the conscious responsibility and with the dream of progress of actual Bolivia, through changes of mentality, social sensitivity, conviction and, especially, the social commitment with real content and the historical significance. This is the only possible way to create conviction, points of view and independent acting that allow professionals to face new situations, make decisions and assume the consequences.
This is a difficult, but an inevitable desire, then it requires the proper conditions towards a critical, creative, investigative and, above all, proactive thinking. The idea is to learn, think and solve the real everyday problems.
Therefore, we need to enter into the complex field of the educational technology. It allows the use of new and systematically organized methods, techniques and procedures, by using technological instruments and materials such as audiovisual, electronic, IT equipment, etc., facing to assist the teaching and learning through the acquisition, assimilation, interpretation, transfer and analytic application of knowledge; an aspect that cannot be left aside for any reason.
As an institution of professional development, the functionality of the FUNDE Postgraduate University will require the design of a system where academic, pedagogical, investigative, administrative and professional practice factors are combined. This will be conceived as a socio-cultural process linked to the development of new knowledge, scientific research with the use of methodological means that encourage creativity for the production of true research; the practice of intercultural relations will require respectful and equitable dialogue, mechanisms that will contribute to the destruction of mental submission and dependence schemes (created after centuries by the dominant layers through institutions such as the family, the school at all levels and the religion). All of them need to be surpassed in order to establish new, decolonized and released subjectivities, an unavoidable task for higher education, undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
These are the cornerstones, the essential, theoretical and conceptual cornerstones that pretend to design the desired profile for this new University that we seek to build as an urgent need, appealing to the understanding and collaboration of entities like the leading one, characterized by a broad solidarity and support provided in the hard work they do.
Cochabamba, June 2018