RELEASE DATE: 19 Jul, 2017

EDITORIAL BY Caroline Risacher

This is the story of a girl—let’s call her Lizeth and let’s imagine she’s 10. Lizeth grows up in a small town at the edge of the Bolivian altiplano. She goes to public school, the proudly named Unidad Educativa Litoral Boliviano, which she has attended since primer grado. Every week starts the same way, with the raising of the Bolivian flag and the singing of the national anthem. Lizeth’s favourite classes are Science, Aymara, and Physical Education However, school days don’t last very long: only four to five hours. To fill her free time, she learns how to play rugby from a gringo who recently arrived to teach this unheard-of sport. (She and her friends greatly enjoyed playing against a boys’ team from La Paz and beating them with ease). The other day, her professor of Valores mentioned that an organisation involved in something called ‘integral education’ will come to the town and teach its spiritual programme in the afternoons.

This imaginary but very possible town is closer to reality than you might expect, with Lizeth’s story demonstrating very real changes to Bolivian schools.

Education throughout Bolivia is indeed developing, and has made major, if slow, strides since Law 1565 of 1994, introducing the idea of ‘intercultural bilingual education’ to the country. This has since been consolidated by Law 070 Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez (ASEP) in 2010 which is based around four main areas: decolonisation, plurilingualism, intra and interculturalism, and productive and communitarian education.

Inspired by the latest law and the defining concept of Vivir Bien (Suma Qamaña), the municipality of La Paz has started a programme of emotional intelligence to teach kids how to understand and manage their emotions. In order to advance a ‘secular, pluralist, and spiritual’ education, classes focusing exclusively on Catholicism have expanded their content to values, spirituality, and religions. The new law aims to redefine education to shape a new generation and a new decolonised identity, reinforcing what it means to be Bolivian.

The formation of one’s identity is certainly influenced by education with the Museo del Litoral, for example, illustrating the role of history and how the way it is taught affects the Bolivian psyche. Nevertheless, for some, school education doesn’t impact much; you can encounter some mechanics and antique photographers, self-taught professionals who, from a young age, have chosen their own path.

Bolivia does not lack spaces where people share and transmit their knowledge in unexpected ways, from a climbing school in the mining town of Llallagua to talks on the presence of LGBT+ literature in Bolivia; learning is not limited to the classroom.

The long-term effects of ASEP on Bolivian identity and future generations are yet to be seen. Unfortunately, it appears that Bolivia is still divided. There is a very clear disparity between rural and urban areas, rich and poor, boys and girls. Implementation of the law is slow at best. However, this glimpse of the state of education in Bolivia does shine a light on positive developments. ASEP promotes a vision of inclusivity, plurality, and interculturality, combined with an integral idea of education that can only bode well for the future of Bolivian students—young, old and self-taught.

For this issue, we travelled to the towns of Carmen Pampa in the Yungas, Santiago de Machaca in the altiplano, the mining town of Llallagua, we visited schools around La Paz and saw some of these changes in action. The students and teachers, masters and apprentices we have met, inspired us and showed us what the future of Bolivia might look like. For schoolchildren like Lizeth there are many opportunities opening up and we wanted to share some of these opportunities with you.


Antique Photographers

19 Jul, 2017 | Fabián Zapata

Photos: Fabián ZapataTranslation: Niall FlynnPortrait of Gregorio Alcón BeltránGregorio Alcón Beltrán:An intrepid traveller who spends his day relaxing in the square he has grown fond of and with his...

Stepping Into the Spotlight

19 Jul, 2017 | Yasmin Rufo

Bolivia takes centre stage on the UN Security CouncilOn 7 April, the Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations, Sacha Llorenti Solíz, condemned the United States’ ‘unilateral attack’ on Syria during a...

History Keeping Hope Alive

19 Jul, 2017 | Daniel Johnson

Photo: William Wroblewski With Permission From GAMLP, SMC-DECMCalle Jaén, with its colourful houses and its long history going back to the 18th century, often overshadows the small museums which...

Kicking Down Barriers

19 Jul, 2017 | Lily Turner

Photo: Fabián ZapataA Franco-Bolivian Brings Rugby to the AltiplanoI meet Jean Fontayne under the shadow of the Basilica of San Francisco, in central La Paz, on a crisp morning. We have a four-hour bu...

ZERA: Lessons of Light

19 Jul, 2017 | Julie Gaynes

Photo: Alvaro ManzanoZERA: Lessons of LightThe state of public education in Bolivia is slowly improving despite slippery oversight and limited funding. Even massive reform from money-lending instituti...

Choreographing Identity

19 Jul, 2017 | Lily Turner

Photo: Lily TurnerThe role of traditional dance in Bolivian educationWhen visiting the Unidad Educativa Piloto Adhemar Gehain in La Paz, I stand on the sidelines watching a Physical Education class ta...

A World Without Evil

19 Jul, 2017 | Julie Gaynes

Jesus welcomes readers with open arms on the covers of books teaching Valores in Bolivia. But in practice he is just a familiar face, breathing a message of unity without diminishing other truths. Wit...

Art and Identity

19 Jul, 2017 | Michael Protheroe

With a series of LGBT+-related events running over the last few weeks in La Paz, I discovered a ‘¿Literatura homosexual en Bolivia?’ panel, and, not knowing much about Bolivian literature, I was intri...

Decolonising Language Education

19 Jul, 2017 | Michael Protheroe

Illustration: Hugo L. CuéllarThe challenges of reform in a diverse BoliviaBolivia, or the Plurinational State of Bolivia, has 37 official languages. Roughly 70% of the population identifies as indigen...

Programa Inteligencia Emocional (PIE)

19 Jul, 2017 | Julie Gaynes

The Emotional Approach At the forefront of new education developments are both private and public organisations strategising for equality in schools and empowering children through interdisciplinary c...

Rock Climbing in Llallagua

19 Jul, 2017 | Daniel Johnson

Photo: Daniel JohnsonAn uncommon sport high up in the AltiplanoOn a chilly Sunday morning, we set off down a valley next to a spa near Llallagua, a town between Oruro and Potosí, to meet the climbers....

Photo-essay: Mechanical Works

19 Jul, 2017 | Fabián Zapata

Photos: Fabián ZapataTranslation: Michael ProtheroeServicing your car in La PazIn almost every corner of the city, there are built-in makeshift mechanical workshops that meet the demand of ramshackle...