Popular participation in Cochabamba, Bolivia as an ameliorative policy treatment affecting public education
Popular Participation is a public policy characterized by decentralization and devolution of responsibility and resources for a wide range of public services, including public education, from the national to the municipal level, with the objective to solve or ameliorate three historical and typical problems of Latin American developing nations: corruption in government interactions, lack of government legitimacy and an enduring rural/urban divide. This study analyzes the effectiveness of the Bolivian Popular Participation law (1994) through policy study from 2000–2004, including fieldwork in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2002. The policy research focused on Popular Participation and successive policy initiatives that modified or impacted public services, particularly public education. The fieldwork in Cochabamba focused on civil society and government interactions regarding public education. This study finds that in the Bolivian response to development initiatives, Popular Participation is not functioning as intended. Rather than reducing corruption, the research found a tendency toward increased bureaucratization which nullified civil society's ability to monitor government. Rather than increasing the legitimacy of the government, the trend has been toward an increase in normalization of relations between government and civil society, in that the political space created by Popular Participation has been systematically marginalized or co-opted. The rural/urban divide has not been reduced; rather, the study reveals a tendency to recast active participation as passive observation, particularly in policy documents, and this passive observation occurs so late in the policy process as to be ineffective. Poststructuralist critiques of the development discourse offer a useful framework for understanding Popular Participation in the Bolivian context.
0340: Educational sociology