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A Catalyst for Inter-American Higher Education

by Kenneth Holland - 1963

If education is an essential part of economic, social, and political development, then those who are concerned with hemispheric progress—whether they be statesmen, administrators, or educators—must put a vigorous emphasis on helping to provide adequate educational facilities and to train the human resources of the Americas.

EARLY THIS YEAR, North and South America talked to each other via the orbiting Relay I satellite, inaugurating a new era of communications between the countries of the western hemisphere. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Brazilian Foreign Minister Hermes Lima took part in a 20-minute program in which the messages were bounced off the satellite. Lima said, "I am happy to realize that the Americas . . . are contributing through the research of scientists of one of their greatest countries to this giant step towards the unification of mankind."

On the same day, the State Department Newsletter published an interview with Ward P. Allen, an official of the Department's Latin American division. Mr. Allen reported that before leaving Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he had been Consul General, he had received a letter from a village on the edge of the jungle 60 miles to the east, asking for help in establishing a school for adults and children. The letter specifically requested a teacher's desk, portable blackboard, six wooden benches, three boxes of chalk, and 50 notebooks with pencils. It was signed with one name and 25 thumb prints.

Somewhere between these two extremes, high technological advancement and primitive illiteracy, lie the staggering problems of education in Latin America. If education is an essential part of economic, social, and political development, then those who are concerned with hemispheric progress—whether they be statesmen, administrators, or educators—must put a vigorous emphasis on helping to provide adequate educational facilities and to train the human resources of the Americas.


The problems of Latin American education at every level—elementary, secondary, and university—are all interrelated. Recently, there has been increased effort to improve educational standards at all levels. United States government agencies such as the former International Cooperation Administration (ICA) and the present Agency for International Development (AID) have been especially concerned with the educational needs of Latin America. Regional and international organizations like the Organization of American States and UNESCO, particularly in its Major Project for the Development of Primary Education and its regional surveys, continue to stress the importance of education in economic and social development.

It is also significant that among the objectives of the Alliance for Progress, as set forth in its 1961 Charter of Punta del Este, is the elimination of adult illiteracy and, by 1970, the assurance of six years of primary education for every school-age child. Another Alliance goal is the expansion of vocational, technical, and higher educational facilities.

One of the less well known but interesting efforts toward the improvement of higher education in Latin America has been the work of the Council on Higher Education in the American Republics (CHEAR) which has been quietly but determinedly advancing educational relations and mutual understanding between North and Latin American leaders in higher education during the last five years. The Council was formed in the Spring of 1958, when the Carnegie Corporation of New York made a grant to the Institute of International Education and asked it to administer a program which could establish meaningful contacts between educators of North and Latin America. The Ford Foundation joined the Carnegie Corporation as a sponsoring agency in 1960.

Although it began as an informal discussion group, CHEAR has grown into an organization able to perform many functions in inter-American higher education, and many action projects have resulted from its deliberations. It has become the principal agency that provides continuing opportunities for university presidents and rectors from North and Latin America to exchange professional ideas, information, reactions, and requests for cooperation. Its objectives are accomplished primarily through a series of small annual conferences of selected Latin and North American educators who discuss problems of higher education in the hemisphere; through visits by participating educators to universities in North and Latin America; through seminars to study and make recommendations on major issues, and through the development and carrying out of educational projects designed to meet jointly determined educational needs and interests.

The program to improve communication among North and Latin American scholars was developed with the cooperation of Dr. Frederick Burkhardt, President of the American Council of Learned Societies. His paper, "Inter-American Scholarly Communications in the Humanities and Social Sciences," was translated into many languages and was given world-wide distribution among colleges and universities, corporations, foundations, scholarly publications, professional societies, and government agencies. It also stimulated a series of seminars organized by CHEAR that have brought together some 20 Latin and North American specialists with excellent results.

Some of the questions explored at these seminars have been how to improve library sciences and provide much needed textbooks in Latin America; how to strengthen and expand Latin American area study programs in US institutions and US study programs in Latin American universities; and how to stimulate and aid teaching and research in scientific and technological fields in Latin American universities. The methods of teaching sociology, economics, and the history of ideas in Latin American institutions have also been discussed, as has the subject of interdisciplinary education. The recommendations of several of the seminars have been translated into action.


The seminar on Inter-American Library Science, held in Monticello, Illinois, in January, 1961, with the American Library Association, led to a survey of types of books and materials being produced by university presses. It was conducted by Professor August Fruge of UCLA and Professor Carlos Boach Garcia of Mexico. Following this, a study of the possibilities for producing instructional materials through commercial channels was made by Franklin Publications. Extension of the activities of this non-profit organization into Latin America seems to be assured. Other publishing firms and foundations are also interested now in producing and distributing books and other learning materials to Latin American universities. In the last year, CHEAR has been called upon frequently to advise and confer with such publishers as McGraw-Hill, Appleton-Century-Crofts, Vision and Visao.

At the seminar in Latin American Area Studies, conducted with the University of California at Los Angeles in February, 1961, and led by Chancellor Franklin Murphy, who is a member of CHEAR, an opportunity was provided for a selected group of Inter-American program directors to share information on common problems faced in developing new study programs. Subsequent to the meeting, several universities reexamined their existing Latin American area offerings or initiated new ones. Other developments, probably influenced by the CHEAR recommendations, were that the Ford Foundation extended its Foreign Area Training Fellowship to include Latin American countries and that the US government appropriated funds to strengthen Latin American area studies.

After the Sociology Seminar, held at Stanford University in August, 1961, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council with the American Sociological Association, a number of the participants volunteered to conduct relevant research in their own countries. The papers were collected by the Social Science Research Council for publication and distribution to leading sociologists in North and Latin America. At the Interdisciplinary Conference on Latin American Education, held at Princeton in December, 1961, a series of specific recommendations were produced in a number of different fields that have been presented to various governmental and non-governmental organizations for consideration and implementation. Similarly, the Economics Seminar, conducted by the Social Science Research Council with the American Economics Association at Santiago, Chile, in August, 1962, generated a series of analyses and recommendations of value to universities in strengthening their faculties of economics. The report of this seminar has been prepared in both English and Spanish and is being widely distributed among universities throughout the hemisphere.

Additional accomplishments have been the result of CHEAR deliberations. For instance, President T. Keith Glennan and Professor Raymond Bolz of Case Institute of Technology, with Professor Rex Hopper of Brooklyn College, surveyed engineering and technical education in Latin America for the Council. In his report to the 1962 CHEAR Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Glennan pointed out the great need for skilled, well trained technicians and junior engineers throughout Latin America. These individuals, understanding modern processing techniques and manufacturing methods, were needed as foremen, supervisors, and specialists in quality control and the application of new methods. Dr. Glennan estimated that technicians should be trained at the ratio of ten or fifteen to one graduate engineer. His findings motivated a hemispheric Engineering Educators Seminar, held last February at the Case Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Glennan, who is co-chairman of CHEAR with Dr. Risieri Frondizi, until recently Rector of the University of Buenos Aires, has also originated a proposal with Dr. James A. Perkins of the Carnegie Corporation to establish a Foundation for Engineering and Technology. Charged with stimulating and aiding teaching and research in the sciences and their technological applications in Latin America, it would also assist the rapid development into centers of excellence of a small number of selected Latin American universities. Key responsibilities of the proposed foundation would be exchanges of professors for research, training, and experience, equipping science and engineering laboratories, and the establishment of a graduate fellowship program. Assistance to science teaching in secondary schools and teacher-training institutions is also envisaged.


In another survey conducted by CHEAR, Dr. Milton Katz, Director of International Legal Studies at Harvard University, studied the nature of Latin American legal education. This enterprise led to a request from Brazil and Chile to meet with Harvard specialists in law, economics, and sociology to consider ways to improve university programs for the training of lawyers. The meeting was held in December, 1962, in Brazil with the support of the Ford Foundation. Out of this conclave has come a plan to establish experimental programs for students of law at the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Santiago with the advice and counsel of the law school of Harvard University.

To clarify the type and extent of our higher educational activities with Latin America, CHEAR sent questionnaires to over 1,000 US colleges and universities and 150 comparable Latin American institutions. The questionnaire sought information on inter-American programs and plans in operation or being planned, and on personnel, institutional resources, and other interests relevant to educational activities with Latin America. The responses from Latin American institutions are still being collected, and a report will be produced in the near future. This project generated wide interest in Latin America and has led to a number of requests from universities for advice and assistance from CHEAR.

Another similar CHEAR project is the Comparative Study of Higher Education in the American Republics, financed by the Ford Foundation. For the past two years, a staff under the general supervision of Dr. Anisio S. Teixeire of Brazil, with Dr. Harold Benjamin as the senior North American consultant, has been working on a detailed study of higher education in the Americas, collecting data from both large and small universities. Because of a lack of printed reports and documents, investigations have had to be conducted through many personal visits to universities and by use of specially selected consultants in the different geographic regions. The report, now under final preparation in book form, will not only treat the history, organization, programs, faculty, student population, and major problems of Latin American universities; it will also analyze developments and conditions affecting the future growth and impact of higher education. The volume will be printed in English, Spanish, and Portugese for distribution primarily in the western hemisphere. It is anticipated that this comprehensive study will contribute to better understanding of higher education and provide the basis for establishing more effective cooperative relationships among universities in the Americas.

Participants in CHEAR conferences and meetings concur that the exchange of ideas among North and Latin American educators can produce measurable and useful results. For instance, during the San Francisco Conference of 1961, Rector Juan Gomez-Millas of the University of Chile was intrigued by a discussion of California's two-year college plan. He requested that specialists from California visit Chile to investigate the possibility of establishing such institutions there. The Ford Foundation made this possible, and as a result, the first three of a series of eight to ten two-year colleges have been constructed in Chile. Whereas at the University of Chile, only two per cent of its student body come from the worker, farmer, and other lower income families, the new two-year colleges draw 27 to 28 per cent from these groups, thereby providing a novel educational opportunity to an important segment of the Chilean population.


Another example of direct material assistance being given by CHEAR to Latin American educators and students is its scholarly journals project. Available evidence indicated that few US learned journals in the humanities and social sciences were being read in Latin America in spite of continuing requests by professors for these materials. After careful consideration, CHEAR and the American Council of Learned Societies selected thirteen major scholarly journals in the appropriate disciplines and in June, 1962, presented one-year gift subscriptions to these publications to 775 leading scholars and institutions in Latin America. A previous check had revealed that none of these journals had had a circulation in Latin America greater than 71 copies. Letters received from the new recipients clearly reveal not only their gratitude, but also their intention to share the journals widely with colleagues and students.

A second project for the distribution of professional journals to eminent Latin American scholars in the fields of engineering, science, and technology has been proposed for 1963. The National Science Foundation, Pan American Union, and Case Institute of Technology, among others, are participating in developing this project. One hundred subscriptions each of twelve different scientific and engineering journals will be awarded to educators and institutions. While these projects are developed to familiarize Latin Americans with our journals, a similar plan is being prepared to make available the best Latin American journals to scholars in the United States.

Information exchange is a mutually advantageous business. To advise and assist individual Latin American educators or groups of educators have also been important aims of the Council. For instance, CHEAR supported two visits to the United States by Dr. Carlos Tunnermann Bernheim, who studied in detail the organization and function of three US regional educational associations. In this way, CHEAR was able to help the Consejo Superior Universkario Centroamericano (Central American Council on Higher Education) to develop its plan of cooperation among the universities of that area. It also provided professional assistance and advice to the director and staff of CSUCA and aided in its designing projects for submission to foundations and other financing agencies.

Where there is inter-governmental sensitivity, working contacts between educators can helpfully be maintained through CHEAR—witness the case of the organization in 1962 of a multi-agency planning group to assist the University of Santo Domingo. Because of the sensitivity of relations between the United States and the Dominican Republic, the Department of State and the Inter-American Agency established working contacts with the administrators of the University. Dr. William Spencer, of the Institute of International Education, and Dr. Arturo Morales Carrion, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, visited Santo Domingo to confer with the rector and deans. Later, Dr. Orlando Olcese, Rector of the National Agrarian University of Peru, represented CHEAR on a working mission to the Dominican Republic, sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank, to determine projects eligible for development loans.


The continuing exchange of ideas at meetings and conferences of CHEAR participants has a catalytic effect. It stimulates educators of both continents to explore and investigate ways of improving our educational systems. As an example, at the 1962 CHEAR Conference in Rio de Janeiro, a full session was devoted to a consideration of secondary education. The rectors and presidents were unanimous in believing that the universities have a responsibility to help secondary schools provide the high quality of graduates who are essential if the university is successfully to train future leaders. Accordingly, a small team of North and Latin American specialists in secondary education was appointed to study one aspect of the situation. Guided by Dr. Risieri Frondizi and Dr. William Spencer, the team, composed of three Latin and three North Americans, studied the possibilities offered through university-related secondary schools to assist in the over-all development and improvement of secondary education. The group spent four weeks visiting selected secondary schools in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico and presented specific recommendations and projects for implementation by CHEAR at the Mexico Conference this past February.

This Fifth Annual Conference of the Council on Higher Education in the American Republics has been the culmination of five years of intensive work. Items on the agenda reveal the wide range of academic interests. In addition to die report of the secondary education team, it included a report and recommendations by the inter-American engineering educators conference, the seminar on legal studies, and the seminar on agricultural education in Latin America. A significant session was the discussion of the place of the humanities in the technological curriculum, led by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, Marcel Roche, Director of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigations, and Dr. Lynn White, Professor of History at the University of California at Los Angeles.

As the various private and governmental agencies and organizations continue to assist with the development of education in the Americas, it seems evident that CHEAR is making a distinctive contribution. It is an inter-American organization for higher education, uniquely qualified to inform and to provide advice to universities, governments and international agencies, foundations, and business concerns on problems and projects directly concerned with educational development and inter-university cooperation in the Americas. Only by keeping the channels of educational communications open and by continuing the exchange of ideas and information on topics of common concern and interest can we help close the many gaps in education and establish a more understanding spirit of friendship in the Americas. Instantaneous communication via satellites may assure wider distribution of information, but only the direct meeting of minds among educated men and women will insure mutual understanding and respect.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 64 Number 8, 1963, p. 687-687
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 2865, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 2:53:42 PM

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