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Uruguay Table of Contents


Education under the Colorados, 1985-88

Shortly after entering office in March 1985, Sanguinetti passed a decree aimed at restoring greater autonomy to the education system. Conae was replaced by the National Administration of Public Education, which oversaw three decentralized councils--one for primary, one for secondary, and one for technical education. Full autonomy was restored to the University of the Republic. Whereas total spending on education represented 7.4 percent of the national budget in 1984, by 1987 this had risen to 10.9 percent, equivalent to US$175 million.

From 1985 to 1988, the government agreed to rehire all teachers and professors who had lost their jobs during the political purges after 1973 (3,241 accepted the offer of returning to their old jobs, but 1,520 took retirement instead). In many cases, the rehiring of former teachers led to unnecessary numbers of staff, as the government undertook not to fire any of the replacement teachers that had been taken on under the military, although in some cases they lacked qualifications.

Clashes between the education authorities and the government were common after 1985, given the existence of a relatively conservative government and far more liberal teachers. Nevertheless, an element of balance between centralized control and decentralized initiative was successfully restored. Relations between the government and the University of the Republic were surprisingly smooth, and the latter's share of the national budget grew from 2.5 percent in 1984 to 4.3 percent (US$59 million) in 1988.

During the period of military rule, another phenomenon began to emerge--the establishment of private research institutes. These relied entirely on funds from foreign development foundations, such as the Inter-American Foundation (a United States agency), the International Development Agency (a Canadian agency), and various West European equivalents (see Political Forces and Interest Groups , ch. 4). The new institutes were comparatively small, usually only hiring a dozen or so full-time staff, but they constituted an important haven for academics who had lost their jobs for political reasons. Without these private centers, even more academics would have been forced into exile.

Among the new private research centers was the Latin American Center of Human Economy (Centro Latinoamericano de Economía Humana--CLAEH). By far the largest of the centers, the CLAEH was closely linked to the Christian Democrats. Apart from carrying out a broad range of sociological and economic research, it also conducted courses for university-level students and published what was for a time Uruguay's only social science journal. Somewhat more to the left was the Economic Research Center (Centro de Investigaciones Económicas--CINVE), which specialized in research on the economy, particularly that of the rural sector and the impact of the economic liberalization pursued under the military. Two other institutes with a more sociological agenda of research were the Center of Information and Studies of Uruguay (Centro de Informaciones y Estudios del Uruguay--CIESU) and the Interdisciplinary Center of Development Studies, Uruguay (Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios del Desarrollo, Uruguay--CIEDUR).

With the return to democracy in 1985, many of these centers found it hard to continue to win foreign grants to undertake their research, and most of their personnel attempted to return to their former jobs in higher education. Where possible, however, the teachers tried to retain both positions.

Data as of December 1990