Colombian professors prepare to hand the government demands for education reform that guarantee the rights of public universities, which they say are endangered by President Juan Manuel Santos’ education reform bill.
According to Sara Yaneth Fernandez, president of the Association of Professors for the University of Antioquia, located in Medellin, the country’s National Federation of University Professors (FANALPROU) is preparing alternative proposals to Juan Manuel Santos’ national education reform plan.
Fernandez told Colombia Reports that the association wants the government to guarantee the autonomy of the public university system to maintain the social influence for which it was created.
Santos’ plan includes the controversial element of providing private sector funding for public universities as well as internationalization of the current curriculum.
Colombian public universities emphasize social projects and value their social impact, said Fernandez. Opponents of the reform bill worry that privatizing university funding will draw money away from social impact research and towards research that only benefits the private sector.
The professors association also wants the state to guarantee funds for public education. According to Fernandez, in Latin America, Haiti is the only country that spends less funding on its public education system than Colombia.
The private sector already finances some research in public universities, according to the association president, but when the education system becomes dependent on private sector funds the system is put in danger.
“I have a dream of sufficient financial support for public universities, to recognize the needs of the public universities and to reinforce the social function of the university right now. For the young people with little resources, if the public university doesn’t exist, they don’t have any place to study,” said the president, who represents a university where 80% of enrolled students are at or below the poverty line.
According to Fernandez, FANALPROU will have a meeting in July to prepare the final proposals to present to the government.
In August, the association is expected to hold an international forum inviting other Latin American countries to share their experiences with the sort of state-guaranteed education system that Colombian professors are advocating.
Education Minister Maria Fernanda Campo announced on W Radio in April that, “The public resources will never be sufficient and it is necessary to enter the private sector for them to help us finance non-profit.”