Mami Umayahara

This paper (excerpt) presents the overview of progress toward Education for All (EFA) in the region of Latin America.1 While the focus of the analysis is on the progress/challenges of Latin American countries toward EFA since the World Education Forum (Dakar, 2000), it examines the regional tendencies of educational policies and strategies introduced in the Latin American countries since the World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien, 1990), particularly in the context of the Education Reforms that started in the late 1980s and 1990s. Due to the limited space, the paper draws information and data mostly from sources other than UIS, since the UIS data are analysed more extensively in the EFA Global Monitoring Report. Mami Umayahara currently works at the Executive Office of the Education Sector of UNESCO in Paris, France. Previously, she worked at the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (Santiago, Chile) in the areas of early childhood education and regional follow-up of Education for All (EFA). She has also engaged in research and advocacy activities for EFA, including literacy and adult education. She is currently a doctoral student of education at the Institute of Education, University of London (UK).

Regional Overview of Progress toward EFA since Dakar: Latin America

Regional Education Overview before Dakar

For the region of Latin America, the dawn of the new millennium signified continuing social and economic struggles but at the same time, a hope for a more democratic and equitable society. During the decades immediately before the World Declaration on Education for All (1990), most Latin America countries had suffered much from the worst human rights violation records during the civil wars and military dictatorships as well as from the economic stagnation in the 1970s and the "lost decade" of the 1980s. The mounting external debts and subsequent structural adjustment programmes imposed a "disproportionate impact" on the countries' education expenditures and as a result, the educational expansion achieved in the 1960s and 1970s came to a halt.

The 1990s, however, was characterized by the renewed and significant efforts made by Latin American countries to modernise and improve their education systems through major education reforms. While the education policies before and during the 1980s focused on the expansion of primary or basic education access, attention shifted to the quality of education, linked with development and international competition, and to the equity of education, by ensuring equal opportunities for quality education, hence, giving more educational opportunities to the most vulnerable groups (UNESCO-OREALC, 2001, pp. 88-89). Even though the countries linked the education reforms with different policy agendas, such as modernising the State and the economy (Chile and Costa Rica), putting an end to violent political conflicts (El Salvador and Nicaragua) and improving fiscal redistribution policies (Argentina and Peru), the central theme of these reforms was the reconceptualisation of the role of the central State in governing, financing, administering and improving education. Aiming at improving the quality, efficiency and equity of education, the education reform policies during the 1990s introduced structural changes in the management of education systems (decentralisation, privatisation and school autonomy), curricular reforms and development of learning achievement assessment systems, and professional enhancement of teachers. The strikingly similar strategies adopted by the countries for these education reforms (Table 1) reflected, on the one hand, the consensus on the regional education agenda adopted at the Summit of the Americas (Miami 1994 and Santiago 1998) and

Table 1: Summary of Policy Objectives Adopted by Education Reforms in Latin American Countries during the 1990s

Source: Task Force on Education, Equity, and Economic Competitiveness in Latin America & the Caribbean. (2001), based on Gajardo (1999).

the PROMEDLAC IV, V and VI meetings of Education Ministers (Quito 1991, Santiago 1993 and Kingston 1995, respectively). On the other hand, they also reflected the recommendations made by international agencies, such as the World Bank, ECLAC (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, CEPAL in Spanish) and UNESCO, as well as the World Declaration on Education for All, which emphasised the equity and quality of education for social and economic transformation and development.

Social Context of the Region at the Time of Dakar

According to ECLAC data (CEPAL, 2004a, p. 7), although the percentage of the population living below the poverty line decreased between the times of Jomtien (1990) and Dakar (2000) from 48.3% to 42.6% in Latin America, its magnitude in fact increased from 200 million to 207 million due to population growth. Even more worrisome is that both the poverty rate and the population living below the poverty line have increased since 2000 as a result of low economic growth, although the increase may have been halted in 2004 (Figure 1).

In addition, there is a particular phenomenon in Latin America that the relative economic growth during the 1990s did not generate the

Figure 1: Evolution of Poverty and Extreme Poverty in Latin America 1990-2004

Source: CEPAL 2004a. The 2003 and 2004 figures are estimated, based on the 2002 data.

expected employment in the formal sector, and the unemployment rate is high for women (1.4 times as high as that for men), young people (twice as high as the total economically active population) and people from the lower and middle income strata (the unemployment rate for the 20% poorest urban population is 6 times as high as that for the 20% richest).

With respect to the distribution of income, Latin America continues to be the world's most unequal region. ECLAC argues that given the extremely high level of income concentration in the region, its improvement is not only an ethical imperative, but would also directly contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction (CEPAL, 2004a, pp.11-12). This socio-economic structure has resulted in increased social fragmentation, violence and conflicts, and discontent among the less-privileged, which without doubt affect schools and other educational settings (UNESCO-OREALC, 2003, pp. 10-11).

In spite of this distressing social panorama, many Latin American countries witnessed profound changes in the political culture of consensus-building and democratisation during the 1990s, mainly thanks to the peace agreements and the reinstallation of democratic governments. This political and social environment has also fostered democratic decision-making and social participation in education, both at education system and school levels. Therefore, the new emphasis on social participation and equity in education, as expressed in the Education Reform policies of the 1990s, coincided with the Education for All commitment and marked a great opportunity for Latin America at the time of Dakar.

Countries' Commitments to EFA

As mentioned, Latin American countries before the World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien 1990) focused their education efforts on expanding basic (or primary) education coverage. Particularly after the Jomtien Declaration, however, they began to extend compulsory schooling, which currently lasts between 6 and 12 years. In fact, most Latin American countries today use the term "basic education", instead of "primary education", to refer to the first level of education considered minimum schooling, consisting of 8 or 9 grades.

As primary and lower secondary education coverage expands, the countries are beginning to pay more attention to extending compulsory schooling to other age groups, namely preschool and secondary education. While the legislation on compulsory schooling itself does not guarantee learners' attendance at school or effective learning, this general trend reflects the EFA declaration, which stresses the universal right to satisfy "basic learning needs". As a result, during the Education Reforms of the 1990s, many Latin American countries included as part of compulsory "General Basic Education" one or more years of early childhood education and lower secondary education. Among those countries whose legislative modifications could be verified in official documents, seven made the change to extend compulsory schooling during the 1990s. More recent, post-Dakar legislative changes include the constitutional reform approved in Chile in which compulsory schooling was extended from 8 to 12 years to include upper-secondary education (May 2003) and Mexico's constitutional modification (November 2002) that established compulsory preschool education for children between three and five years old, to be implemented progressively by the school year 2007-2008.

Moreover, recent research findings have also stimulated countries' preoccupation beyond primary schooling. For example, the ECLAC study indicates that a person requires a minimum of secondary school completion and 12 years of schooling in order to improve the probability of earning sufficient income to live above the poverty line (CEPAL 1997). The recent research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, on the other hand, demonstrates the irrefutable benefits of positive stimuli in early childhood for children's physical, psychoso-cial and cognitive development as well as their future academic and professional performance. It can be also said that given the current high primary repetition and dropout rates (to be discussed in the next section) as well as the severe employment prospective, the region is now forced to pay closer attention to early childhood and secondary education.

In terms of the countries' post-Dakar political commitment to Education for All, they continue to prioritise quality, equity and efficiency of education, addressed in their national education reform policies. In other words, the education reform policies in the 1990s, which have much in common with the EFA commitments, continue to be in place in the region to date. Another priority often mentioned in education policy discourse is to foster social participation in education, whose necessity has become evident as the decentralisation of education management and school autonomy have been promoted. However, although civil society has a long history and accumulated experience of promoting educational and other social issues, the region's political history and social participation are characterised by high polarisation and crises of governability (UNESCO-OREALC 2004a). The Education Reforms themselves of the 1990s have also met strong criticisms from teachers and their unions, partially due to their insufficient participation in defining the reforms. It was this context in which the Dakar Framework for Action was adopted, recommending explicitly that countries develop national EFA plans with "the engagement and participation of civil society in the formulation, implementation, and monitoring of strategies for educational development".

The Regional EFA Monitoring Report 2003, published by UNESCO-OREALC (2004a), examines the experiences of national EFA plan development among the Latin American countries and evaluates the degree to which the national governments fulfilled their commitment to develop and strengthen national action plans "through a more transparent and democratic process". This section, then, provides an update on the status of national EFA plans in each country, according to the recent survey of the national EFA co-ordinators, conducted by UNESCO-OREALC. Ten out of the 19 Latin American countries have

Figure 2: Trend in Public Expenditure as a Percentage of GNP: Comparison between at the time of Jomtien (1990), pre-Dakar (c. 1998) and post-Dakar (c.2002).

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics. * c.2002 data not available "UIS estimate

developed national EFA plans, and four others have draft plans under review. The information gathered is not sufficient to draw a general conclusion regarding the nature of the post-Dakar education plans; neither does the time and space for this regional overview allow an analysis of each national plan. Nevertheless, it can be said that while some were developed within or in reference to other overall education laws or development frameworks, others were prepared as governments' sector documents, and therefore, go through revision or sometimes suffer complete disregard upon the change of administration. Most countries state that their plans reflect all of the six Dakar goals, with particular attention to the quality and equity of education as well as the efficient and participatory education management systems. Also underscored in these national education plans is teacher training and professional enhancement.

Figure 3. Relationship between Average Reading Literacy Performance and the Per-Student Public Expenditure (USD converted using purchasing power parities, PPPs)

Source: OECD and UNESCO-UIS, 2003.

From another perspective, Latin American countries' enhanced commitment to education is demonstrated by their increased public investment in education, expressed as a percentage of GNR Figure 2 shows each country's trend in public expenditure as a percentage of GNP at the time of Jomtien (1990), before Dakar (c. 1998) and after Dakar (c. 2002). The regional average increased substantially from 2.9% in 1990 to 4.1% in 1998, and then slightly to 4.2% in 2002. Despite the general upward trend of public expenditure in education, the notable downfall in Ecuador in the post-Dakar period probably reflects the economic and financial crisis in 1999/2000, when the country decided to dolarise the economy to prevent hyperinflation.

ECLAC and UNESCO-OREALC (2005) point out, however, that while this regional average (4.2% of GNP or 4.1% of GDP) is coming closer to the average percentage of GDP invested by OECD countries (5.5%), the per-student investment of Latin American countries is much lower than that of the OECD countries (p. 19). In this relation, the analysis of PISA 2000 is noteworthy, in that it demonstrates a strong relationship between the average reading skills of 15-year olds and the average per-student expenditure from the beginning of primary education up to the age of 15, as shown in Figure 3 (OECD and UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2003, pp. 112-113 and 287). On the other hand, looking at the trend line of Figure 3, one can notice that the average student performance levels of the five Latin American countries that participated in the study are even lower than the levels expected from their per-student expenditure. For this reason, ECLAC and UNESCO-OREALC maintain that Latin American countries must make better use of education expenditure in service of learning, particularly in the context of the current "demographic bonus" of the decreasing proportion of children and young people in the population (ECLAC and UNESCO-OREALC, 2005, p. 20).

Policies and Strategies for Post-Dakar EFA

Most Latin American countries are today maintaining the education reform policies introduced in the 1990s. It is no surprise therefore that these reform policies reflecting the regional education agenda of education and aiming at improving education equity and quality coincide with the EFA discourse adopted in Jomtien and Dakar. In other words, current education policies of the region need to be understood in the context of these education reforms of the 1990s. This section highlights the regional tendency of existing education policies and strategies in the post-Dakar period, with concrete examples adopted by some countries. There is a certain level of agreement in the region that education reforms introduced during the 1990s have not brought sufficient expected progress in quality, equity and efficiency of education. Many studies now indicate that these education reforms focused mainly on the structural and management issues of education systems (e.g., decentralisation and school administration), and they did not take enough account of and involve sufficient participation by teachers, which limited the possibilities for education policies to be translated into teaching practices in classroom. While acknowledging that it may take time for such profound structural changes to bear fruit at school level, longitudinal comparisons between before and after the reforms suggest that there is little or no improvement in students' learning achievement or primary/secondary education completion. In fact, the gap between students from rich and poor family backgrounds (and between urban and rural residence) in these indicators remains wide. Moreover, in international comparative studies of student academic achievement, such as TIMSS and PISA, Latin American countries, even those that claim among the highest education standards in the region, such as Chile, come out far below European and Asian countries.2

Structural reforms based on decentralisation and privatisation, have often consisted in providing per-student subsides to schools via decentralised units (e.g., municipalities). Although this strategy has allowed governments to increase substantially public spending per student, subsides to schools do not bring much improvement in terms of equity of access and quality, as they do not necessarily provide more resources to poorer families (because schools receive the sum). On the contrary, they create or maintain differences of resource availability among schools, based on their characteristics (e.g., public vs. private; urban vs. rural). When privately owned schools receive public subsides, they usually have more resources than public schools, as the former usually attract students from better-off families and can combine the public subsides with family contributions. Rural schools have fewer resources than urban schools, as they have fewer students, and therefore, receive fewer subsides.

Notwithstanding, Latin American countries have been tackling the persistent educational inequality through specific programmes that target disadvantaged groups. Carnoy (2004, p. 49) argues that in contrast to the system-wide structural reforms, these "compensatory" programmes are more likely to succeed in improving academic performance for the targeted groups, precisely because these groups normally receive fewer or lower-quality education resources. Given the inherently inequitable social structure of Latin America, equity-driven reforms are more strategic - and often prove more successful, as described below -than trying to improve average student performance, and they make "the quality of schooling at least more equitable" (ibid). This is because raising the average student achievement level requires substantial improvement in teaching, including the reduction of teacher absenteeism, recruiting better qualified and trained individuals into teaching, distributing more able teachers more equitably among schools, and creating a level of commitment among teachers to improving student performance (p. 45).

Some national governments, on the other hand, have been successfully carrying out large-scale programmes to provide direct financial support to low-income families - sometimes as part of a comprehensive social welfare programme - in order to ensure that their children attend and remain in school. The voucher system introduced in secondary education in Colombia allows children from lowest-income families, who do not have space in public schools, to study at private schools. Bolsa Escola ("School Scholarship") of Brazil and PRO-GRESA of Mexico are probably the best-known social programmes that have succeeded in opening up educational opportunities and increasing student school attendance. Since 2001, the National Bolsa Escola Programme combines education with a poverty-reduction strategy, by providing families living below the national poverty line with a monthly BRL15 (approx. USD5) per child between 6 and 15 years of age (corresponding to educagao fundamental or "basic education"), on the condition that he/she is enrolled in and attends school regularly. While the programme has existed in various regions since 1995, this federal programme, managed by the Ministry of Education and Sports, has allowed the expansion of the programme under the new name Bolsa Familia, and in the school year 2002/03, it benefited some 5.7 million families or 8.3 million children (Ministrerio da Educagao, Brazil, no date).

PROGRESA (Programa Education, SaludyAlimentation "Education, Health and Food Programme"), co-ordinated by the Ministry of Social Development of Mexico, was initiated in 1997, to benefit almost 2.5 million low-income families through monetary and in-kind subsides. The programme is an inter-sectoral initiative among the Ministry of Public Education, the Ministry of Health, the Mexican Institute of Social Security and the Ministry of Social Development as well as state and municipal governments. It promotes shared responsibility between the government and the families in sending children under 18 years of age to school (between 3rd primary grade and 3rd secondary grade) and in obtaining adequate health attention and nutrition for the families. With the new President taking office in 2002, the programme's name was changed to Oportunidades ("Opportunities"), and thanks to the USD1 billion loan from the Inter-American Development Bank in the same year, the programme was expanded to cover up to 5 million families in 2004 (Secretarfa de Desarrollo Social, Mexico, no date). Bolsa Escola/Bolsa Familia and PROGRESA/Oportunidades have in common that they aim at breaking the inter-generational poverty cycle through focusing direct subsides on low-income families and on their children's education, and that it is mothers of the children who receive monetary transfers, based on the assumption that they make the best judgement in using the resources and fulfilling children's needs. Both programmes have been evaluated positively, particularly where this relates to their success in increasing lasting school participation by children coming from the countries' poorest populations (see for example, CEPAL 2002; PREAL 2002; IFPRI 2000).

Another targeted strategy is to provide direct financial assistance to or implement specific programmes in schools with students with low learning achievement (who are usually from disadvantaged social backgrounds). These include the P-900 programme in Chile, which after targeting the first 900 significantly low-scoring schools in 1990, was extended to cover almost 2,500 schools by the end of the 1990s and successfully raised their test scores. In a similar way, in Uruguay the government provides direct financial assistance to low-scoring schools, resulting in higher test scores.

Latin American countries have a long tradition of implementing education strategies and programmes that target other specific disadvantaged populations, such as the rural sector and indigenous populations. Among the most-documented successful programmes are Esculea Nueva ("New School") of Colombia and EDUCO in El Salvador, which involve active participation by local communities in managing schools in rural and marginalised areas, in order to extend school access to these groups and improve the relevance of learning experiences. Nevertheless, the more recent strategies and programmes described above may be a new trend, in the sense that they focus on the issue of equity, trying to compensate for the disadvantaged background of students through direct interventions from central government to families and schools where the learners are found. They also aim at improving not only their school access but also their length of schooling and learning achievement. It is noteworthy that these equity-driven, successful programmes described thus far began in the 1990s (and even in the 1970s in the case of Escuela Nueva) and have continued or been expanded -over time and governmental changes - even though their names may have been changed (e.g., Bolsa Escola/Bolsa Familia and PROGRESA/Opo/tun/dades). This indicates the importance of sustained political and social commitment and efforts.

If equity-driven strategies that target the disadvantaged are essential in improving educational equity in the region, improved teaching is indispensable in making large improvements in average student performance. When the structural reforms of the education system have not brought expected results in terms of raising students' learning achievement, public education policies have fixed their attention on teaching performance. Teacher issues, however, have been the most challenging and contentious in the education policy sphere, as they are politically and ideologically charged; their financial implications are huge; and the technical definition has been largely weak. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, teachers and their unions are generally critical of the education reforms introduced, as they feel, on the one hand, that the definition of the reform policies has not taken enough account of their opinions, and on the other, that the reforms have increased their work demands without improving sufficiently their salaries and working conditions. As a result, during the 1990s and to date, almost all countries have experienced frequent and sometimes radical forms of teacher disputes, which have often caused many school days lost for students.

Presently, national policy discussions and strategies related to teachers centre around three themes: working conditions, pre-service and in-service training, and institutional management (i.e., teacher's performance appraisal). Teacher salaries in general are low in the region, too low to attract better candidates, and the countries have taken different directions in the past decade. While teacher salaries have increased modestly in Chile and Uruguay following the restoration of democratic governments, Argentina and Nicaragua have imposed large reductions in teacher salaries. It is also well documented that teachers' professional careers in Latin American countries are very limited, only possible by leaving the classroom to take up management positions (i.e., head teachers and then inspectors). On average, in OECD countries (Mexico included) teachers' starting salaries are at the same level as GDP per capita (ratio of 1.0), growing steadily to reach the ratio of 1.4 after 15 years of teaching experience. Teachers in non-OECD Latin American countries except Chile, however, start their carreers with salaries below the national average income level, at ratio ranging between 0.6 (Uruguay) and 0.9 (Peru). After 15 years of service, they receive 1.4 and 1.5 times higher salaries in Argentina and Brazil respectively, while in Chile and Uruguay the ratio between the starting and mid-career salaries is only 1.2. Peru, on the other hand, has no increase in basic salaries throughout the teaching career.

When it comes to teacher training, Navarro and Verdisco (2000, p. 3) argue that teacher training in Latin America stems from a working hypothesis that training should compensate for whatever teachers lack in terms of skills, motivation or knowledge, instead of fostering their professional enhancement or lifelong learning. For example, in terms of pre-service training, the region has the tendency to transfer teacher training programmes from secondary education to higher education, increasing the years of schooling required to teach. In fact, the average education attainment level of Latin American teachers (12 years) is much lower than that of the OECD countries (16 years) (OECD 2004, cited in Vaillant, 2004, p.12). Although the in-service efforts during the 1980s and 1990s received strong criticisms for lack of practical use and effects (Vaillant, 2004, p.21), Navarro and Verdisco (2000) identify six major trends in some innovative experiences:

  • Classroom-based training
  • Effective teacher education understood as continuing education
  • Intensive use of group training and networking
  • Intensive use of pedagogical support and supervision
  • Integration of training into the larger framework of teacher career regulations and incentives, and
  • Training understood as a response to social and educational priorities at the local level

With regard to teaching performance evaluation, Chile is the only country in Latin America that has since 1996 evaluated systematically public (i.e., state-run as well as state-subsided, privately-run) schools and their teachers and provided monetary reward to the schools and teachers whose performance is evaluated as excellent within each category (rural/urban; basic/secondary school; students' socio-economic characteristics). Based on this Sistema Nacional de Evaluation del Desempeno Docente ("National Evaluation System of Teacher Performance", SNED), after two years of discussions and negotiations, the technical commission composed of the Ministry of Education, the teachers' union and the national association of municipalities drafted a proposal on a new law on teacher evaluation aiming at better teaching and learning performance, which was approved in the congress in January 2004 (Ministry of Education, Chile 2003, cited in Vaillant, 2004, p.33). The latest evaluation administered in 2004, however, could evaluate only 1,719 teachers - compared with 13,000 teachers in 2003 - due to the protests driven by some teachers' union leaders. In this latest performance evaluation, only 62% of teachers were assessed as competent or outstanding (52% and 10%, respectively), while 37% scored the basic or unsatisfactory levels (34% and 3% respectively). This distribution between performance levels has not changed since the 2003 evaluation (La Segunda, 2005). In order to improve teaching quality, teacher issues must be dealt with from a holistic perspective, encompassing their salaries and working conditions; professional enhancement and career development; education and training; and performance evaluation.

Progress toward the Dakar Goals

Adult Literacy

During the 1980s, there existed a gap between the actions aimed at literacy, characterized by massive literacy campaigns, and programmes of basic, secondary and professional training targeting young people and adults. However, during the 1990s, gradually more integrated programmes were developed, creating more articulation between education and work as well as diversifying the educational offer. Unlike the decades of the 1960s through the 1980s, there is a tendency in the region to consider literacy "out of fashion", and the issue no longer appears as a political priority for national development (Kalman 2000). Moreover, there is a trend to consider that the best option for raising the literacy rate is ensuring basic education for the school-age population, instead of creating new youth and adult education programmes. This tendency has resulted in the loss of specificity in the field of adult education, leaving this area outside of the education reform processes (UNESCO-OREALC 2001, pp. 205-206). Moreover, in most countries of the region, the governmental actions and education policies related to training of adult educators are largely absent, leaving the responsibilities mostly to universities and NGOs (UNESCO-OREALC, 2004d, p. 49).

Unfortunately, regionally comparable data and information on adult education (e.g., education profile of the adult population, offer and participation in adult education programmes) are very scarce. No data could be found to analyse the changes in literacy rates since Dakar. Nonetheless, UIS presents adult literacy rates (15 years and over) for 2000-2004, estimated by UIS or the countries themselves on the basis of population censuses. According to these data, it is estimated that in 2000 the region had some 36 million non-literate adults (regional literacy rate of 88.8%), of which 20 million are women. It is estimated that in 2005, the number of non-literate adults will have decreased to 34 million (15 million males and 19 million females), raising the regional literacy rate to 90.5% (UNESCO-OREALC 2004a, p. 39).

Despite this elevated regional literacy rate, some countries (all in Central America) currently have a low adult literacy rate of 80% or lower - namely, Guatemala (69.9%), Nicaragua (76.7%), El Salvador (79.7%) and Honduras (80.0%) - requiring further, substantial efforts to achieve the Dakar goal of reducing the adult illiteracy rate by 50% by 2015. Moreover, it is important to note that adult literacy rates manifest a gender disparity that disadvantages for women in the countries with large indigenous populations, such as Bolivia, Guatemala and Peru, evidencing the region's history of educational inequity.

Another way to look at the educational profile of adults is examination of their schooling attainment. There was a slight improvement in the adult education profile in urban areas between the pre-Dakar (c.1998) and post-Dakar (c.2002) periods in most countries, while in three countries (Bolivia, Chile and Nicaragua) there was a slight decrease. On the other hand, in all countries but Panama, the average years of schooling obtained among the rural adult population increased, although, generally speaking, they remain very low. Even though the increased number of years is probably the result of the increased educational profile of younger generations, rather than older generations having studied newly through adult education programmes, it is encouraging that these young people are raising the adult educational profile, as they are the new generation of workers as well as potential parents who will educate future generations.

Adult literacy and education reached a momentum at CONFINTEA V (Hamburg 1997). As a follow-up, the Regional Framework of Action for Education of Young People and Adults in Latin America and the Caribbean (2000-2010), was adopted in 2000 after a series of consultations of stakeholders in the region. In this framework priorities and strategies are defined, with the aim of achieving the pending objectives: to improve the unequal distribution of the educational offer for young people and adults, to contribute to the creation of mechanisms that allow silenced demands to be expressed, and to meet effectively such demands. The seven priority areas established in this framework are: literacy; education and work; education, citizenship and human rights; education with peasants and indigenous populations; education and youth; education and gender; education for sustainable local development. In order to achieve lifelong learning, as established in the Regional Framework, it is essential to improve the link between education and work; articulate different adult education programmes and service delivery methods; certify and guarantee training equivalent to formal basic education; and ensure adequate training of educators of young people and adults.

Remaining Challenges

In this regional overview, the recurring theme is equity of education, not only in its access but also in its quality. There is no doubt that Latin American countries have made substantial efforts and investment, and they have achieved significant progress since the time of Jomtien and after Dakar. However, even five years after Dakar, educational equity has not improved sufficiently and schools tend to remain selective and/or inequitable. For this reason, countries must take distributive measures for equitable human and social development, by giving resources- including improved learning opportunities

- to the disadvantaged groups of the population. In order to increase the amount of educational opportunities for these groups, countries need to promote equity-driven policies and programmes, aiming at increasing their access to and completion of at least primary and secondary education. This might include such redistributive policies as providing scholarships or vouchers to students from low-income families or charging user fees to those who can afford them and then using those resources to finance educational expansion for those least able to afford them.

Furthermore, in order to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty, in addition to the amount of educational opportunities, the quality of teaching these disadvantaged groups receive must be substantially improved. They need more and better - and not less or worse as they have now - education, so that they can increase the probability of improving their socio-economic status and fostering their personal development through education. For learners from disadvantaged situations, the impact of (even small increments in) good learning experiences at school is much larger than for those from families with a higher socio-cultural and socio-economic background. Such pro-equity measures are much more cost-effective - if not only ethical - since raising learning outcomes of already high-performing students or the average outcomes of the population is much more difficult and costly. Therefore, as suggested by Carnoy (pp. 49 and 53), countries should, in addition to general teacher training policies, pursue a strategy to place better teachers in the schools attended by disadvantaged groups, in order to ensure, at least, the equity of quality.

ECLAC and UNESCO-OREALC (2005) estimate that the region requires an additional USD149 billion, in order to fulfil education goals by 2015,3 representing nearly 7.5% of GDP for the year 2000 of the 22 countries examined4 (pp. 31 -38). However, unless the countries make substantial efforts to improve educational equity, they will not be able to achieve the Dakar goals, as the socio-economic structure of Latin American countries is such that the gap between the poor and the rich is maintaining itself with tenacity, if not widening. Furthermore, achieving educational equity and quality would require profound conceptual and cultural changes. The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action (1994), which reaffirms EFA and establishes the principle of inclusion, asserts that ordinary schools should accommodate all children, regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions. Ten years later, the preliminary version of the regional evaluation the decade after Salamanca (UNESCO-OREALC 2005) indicates that the concept of "inclusion" is increasingly present in the education policy and practice discourse in the region but is still used as synonym of "integration", that is, incorporating students with disabilities or other special learning needs into regular school. It is time that we recognised that Education for All in Latin America cannot be achieved without achieving equitable and inclusive education. In order to do so, each person - not only governments or teachers, but also every individual in society - must take the shared responsibility of meeting this collective commitment, for education is a right and an imperative for all at the same time.

 

Notes

1 In this paper, the region of Latin America refers to the 19 Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama), the Caribbean (Cuba and the Dominican Republic) and South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela).

2 Chile alone participated in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS-R) in 1999, finishing 35th of the 38 participating countries. In 1996, Colombia and Mexico participated in the same test. While Colombia ranked 40lh out of the 41 countries, Mexico refused to make its score public. In the PISA 2000 reading assessment, of the 41 participating countries, the average scores of Latin American countries also ranked low: Mexico (34lh), Argentina (35lh), Chile (36th), Brazil (37th), and Peru (41st).

3 For this projection exercise, four goals to be achieved by 2015 were considered: (1) universal preschool education (100% net enrolment) for children between 3 and 5 years of age; (2) universal completion of primary schooling, referring to the five years of schooling for children between 6 and 12 years of age (although the study used as the baseline indicator the net enrolment rate, and not the primary completion rate); (3) raising secondary education net enrolment rate to 75% for population between 13 and 18 years of age; and (4) eradicating illiteracy among population15 years of age and older.

4 The 22 countries include, in addition to the 19 Latin American countries, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

References

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