Between February 9 and 17, 1931, the second pedagogical conference in the history of Paraguay took place. He was summoned by the Director General of the Schools, Ramon Indalisio Cardoso, and responded for several purposes: the conference space should be used to “test the preparation of teachers, (…) listen to the teachers’ opinion on reform, unify their concepts and ideals, strengthen the bonds of solidarity that unite teachers”; But, mainly, to legitimize the reform that began in 1921 and was passed by Law No. 689 of 1924.
Kurdish policy in education had multiple bases: the first, his extensive personal experience in teaching, which began in 1898 when he was appointed director of the Villarrica Boys’ School. The second rule, its goal, is always clear, to establish a pedagogy in Paraguay, in a critical dialogue with the main contemporary trends in education, and in breaking with the hitherto dominant Argentine influence. Experimentation and pedagogical innovation was another fundamental foundation, to which he attached great importance perhaps since 1903 when, with the agronomist José Benítez, at the Villarrica school, he began to experiment in the school gardens. The experience of orchards in Cardoso stimulated the development of various ideas regarding nature, the value of agriculture for Paraguay and the pedagogical significance of experience and doing. These ideas are central to his pedagogical project, as he read in his work For Common Education.
This tendency to experimentation has led the teacher to organize experiments and investigations of a different nature since he took office: since his time this was the first measurement of weight and height for boys and girls of school age; also carry out psychological tests for the first time; The first survey on childhood values, in 1922, with boys and girls from Escuela Brasil; Experiments of the Dalton scheme and the Winnetka method, since 1926. In 1931, the Paraguayan Ordinary School, under the direction of María Felicidad González, organized the first experimental psychology laboratory. La Nueva Enseñanza, the official body of the General Directorate of Schools, publishes the results of investigations carried out by teachers.
The educational conference is the place where speaking based on the pedagogical knowledge of the time, the methodological results of the experiments made using the methods of the new school, under this imprint to give the reform the solidity of the most advanced knowledge of the period.
“Beyond the great scholastic advances of our neighbours, above their lush pedagogical methods, and their huge schoolhouses, we have looked farther afield for inspiration,” Cardoso says in his opening speech. “We saw the beginning of a great pedagogical movement promoted by Montessori, Dewey, James, Kirschensteiner, Deroli and Freer,” – adds the teacher. He adds to this “a battalion of dedicated and enthusiastic teachers who are able to fight for the greatness of the Paraguayan School”. The goal pursued by the Cardocian Project is ambitious: “We have dared to invent the liberation of national education.”
This active assumption was embodied throughout Congress, in exhibitions in which educators, methods, strategies, and school tools were mentioned, along with the independent thinking of Paraguayan teachers on topics such as the rural school.
Regarding the educational role of the family, teacher Cristobal Pérez cites in his conference Rural Schools. preliminary notes to the Soviet teacher Alberto Berkevich (or Berkevich); During her lecture on career guidance, Esperanza Abraham mentioned Steve Frank Parsons, who is considered the father and pioneer of career guidance and career choice. He also quotes the sayings of Alfred Adler, a student of Freud. He turned to Jean Piaget, who was then an emerging figure in the field of education; John Dewey, Jean Piaget; He suggests using psychological schemas according to the models of Decroly, Christeaens, Claparede, Rossolimo, Van Ginneken and others.
Clotilde Bourdon, teacher of Guaireña, refers to the regular schools, from her role as principal of the Villarrica Normal School. In his presentation, he brought on James B. Wickersham to support his notions of regular school organization. He turns to Guillermo Martínez Achembach, who became director of the Museo Ameghino de Santa Fe, in connection with the teaching of ethics and morals. For her part, Ermelinda M. de Ros supports part of her explorations of the relationship between the regular and the new school in the creator of the so-called Dalton Plan, Helen Parkhurst.
The centrality of childhood and its concerns in the educational process from the point of view of authors such as Rousseau, Fenelon, Pestalozzi, Spencer, Tolstoy, Kirchensteiner, and Freer, was mentioned by Adolfo Avalos, a prominent teacher and union leader of the teaching profession in Paraguay. Manuel B. De Mendoza, building on Montessori concepts, developed his explanation of the importance of kindergarten; While Christina Bogado salutes the importance of Montessori for preschoolers, maintaining that the Decroly method is typical for lower and middle grades. For the higher grades, he recommends the projects method.
Adelaide in Rossi, in an exhibition worthy of a modern, critical and more comprehensive revival of these lines, develops a conception of the New School, after critical and detailed review of authors such as Coutou, Grunder, Ferriere, Helen Key, and Parkhurst; and the various Escolanovist methods: the well-known Dalton plan and the Winnetka method; But also Project Method, Jenna’s Method and others.
The Fifth Section of Congress approved the socialization of the educational experiences of the Dalton Plan and the Winnetka Method that had been developed since 1926 in some schools in the capital. Offered by Maria J. Rodinho the methodological and critical experience of implementing the Dalton Plan in the school he directs, Graduate School No. 2, “Manuel Amarilla”; The application was implemented by teachers Flora Latazza and Rosalia Quidillo. “Labs”, “tasks” and “contracts” pass through the entire educational experience, with which Rodino proposes modifications that make the method applicable in the educational reality of those years. Magdalena Sosa Jovelanos, Principal of Experimental School No. 3, also presented the experience of the Dalton Plan, developed by history teacher Ophelia Gomez Bueno. Escuela Brasil’s principal, Adela Ruiz, explained the difficulties involved in “color blindness” with one teacher.
In the last chapter of Congress, Section VI, School Inspector Federico Mezza presented the challenges to inspecting schools, based on experiences galvanized from the functions and activities of this body, such as school cooperatives.
In addition to the study of modern pedagogy, the character of thinking based on the reality of Paraguay deserves to be highlighted, especially in the passages on the rural school: Thoughts on the role of the teaching profession and the family (with empirical references on the state of the rural family); The importance of school gardens. Stimulating local industries. The rural school as a community space; the need for a specialized rural school inspection; Discussions about whether to increase the number of schools or not; normal training quality; They are part of the contributions of a teaching authority that has a strong missionary talent.
It is important to look back, with the caveat of falling into the temptation to paint a non-existent “golden age,” to identify the features which made these assumptions possible, to their limits, for the teaching profession in relation to education. Knowledge. Was it only the ordinary school that stimulated this specialization of the teaching profession with regard to pedagogical ideas? What role did educational conferences play? What could be the role of teachers’ associations? What role did the visible leaders play: Manuel Riquelme, Ramon Cardoso, Adelaide in Rossi, Maria Felicidad Gonzalez? The educational transformation may also consist of transforming our knowledge of Paraguay’s education past.
Source: The 1931 Pedagogical Conference. A digital publication of the Norberto Bobbio School of Government and Public Policy, with introductory texts by Francisco Jimenez and Silvia Teresa Nunez and author of this article. Available for free download at: www.escuelabobbio.edu.py.