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Bolivia

Constitutional & Legal Foundations


The present constitution of Bolivia dates back to 1967 but was revised in 1994. There are three branches to the government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch is the president and vice-president, both elected for five years, and the cabinet, appointed by the president. Traditionally strong, the executive branch tends to initiate the legislation and, by doing so, it limits the power of Congress to debating and approving the laws. The last elections took place in 1997; the next ones are scheduled for June 2002. The National Congress is composed of two chambers, the Senate with 27 senators and the chamber of deputies with 130 seats. Both chambers are elected by popular vote for five years. The Supreme Court heads the judicial branch of five levels, which include a lower court and a departmental court. Though very corrupt in the past, the courts have been reformed by the present government. The National Congress appoints judges for 10 years. A recent governmental reform distributes a significant part of the national revenues to municipalities, which has allowed considerable improvements to take place in the traditionally neglected countryside. Another significant reform gives less power to the central government in the choice of officials and more to the nine departments' local governments. Each town elects its mayor and council. Every five years, general elections obligate all citizens of voting age to vote.

The Education Reform Law (Law 1565) of 1994 provides for free education, extends the primary school requirement and, above all, recognizes popular public participation in the planning of intercultural and bilingual education. Together, these three laws, among others, have proven to have made a positive impact on education in Bolivia.

In pre-colonial times, the great Inca Empire granted only the indigenous nobles and upper classes an education. The transmission of the Incan culture and social structure was thus assured. Inca monarchs lived in polygamy and usually left very large families of 100 or even 200 children. There were two types of nobility. The first were the male descendants of royal blood. Their privileges included the education they received, the way they dressed, and the language they spoke. They lived at court, belonged to counsels, had access to great offices and the priesthood, and commanded armies.

A second type of nobility, the Curacas, were chiefs of colonized nations. They were allowed to rule over their subjects but had to leave their descendants to be educated by the Incas as proof of their loyalty and as guarantee of their good will. The Incan schools taught the children of noblemen and of Curacas the dialect, religion, astronomy, agriculture, science, quipus (knotted threads that served as a means of communicating ideas and arithmetic), laws, government, geography, and history of the Empire. Students also listened to the chronicles compiled by the amautas (wisemen) and by the haravecs (poets). When the Spanish arrived in 1525, they deliberately ignored the Amerindians education and dramatically cut the transmission of tradition. The Amerindians' plight was then ignored until 1993 when President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada recognized the many native languages of Bolivia, in an act that changed a policy that had kept Indians uneducated. Together with world efforts to improve education in third world countries, this 1993 act helped trigger the attempt at a national education reform. However, the implementation of this act requires a better infrastructure, and the resolution of problems is slow.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceBolivia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education