A greater commitment and further actions to eliminate illiteracy in a short time frame, clearly defined inclusion policies and consolidation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), with specific educational measures, were the central decisions of the 2013 International Pedagogy Conference.
For five days, more than 4,000 Cuban delegates and visitors from 44 countries, including academics, teachers, officials, and representatives from international organizations, discussed in Havana central issues affecting education systems in the region.
At the center of the debates were urgent questions on the quality of education, teacher training, the preparation of students for professional life, literacy teaching for women, young people and adults, as well as educational requirements which consider indigenous populations, early years, and persons of African descent.
One of the achievements of this meeting of educators was the approval of the Final Declaration, which emphasized the need to pursue the struggle for peace and democracy, with the aim of ensuring a higher educational level for the peoples in order to better understand the global problems currently faced by humanity.
Among the resolutions made in the different sessions in the 2013 Conference were calls to adopt a single philosophy on education, develop joint research projects, promote learning in the Sciences and continue to strengthen teacher training.
Framework for regional integration
The first meeting of education ministers from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), was undoubtedly a clear indication that regional integration involves much more than political unity strategies.
The eradication of illiteracy in Latin America and the Caribbean was the main focus of the event. In the meeting of education ministers of the 26 member countries it was acknowledged that, despite progress in the area, some countries still have lower than desired levels of literacy.
Recognizing that education is a right for everybody, the CELAC ministers approved a plan which includes literacy for all and quality of education as one of the community’s objectives.
Also important in this context was the agreement to work toward 100% literacy by 2015 in countries in which 90% of the population are able to read and write, and to achieve a similar target by 2020 in countries with a current lower level.
Equally significant were calls to reinforce UNESCO’s role as a global agency for education priorities, the decision to jointly draw up, with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, a good practice catalogue for literacy teaching, and the creation of a permanent CELAC working group for feedback on the implementation of these agreements.
Salvadoran Minister Francis Hatos Hasbún commented that the conference discussed basic undertakings such as “increasing educational quality and availability in Latin America, fundamental issues geared towards ensuring that quality is the central pivot of educational planning.”
Possibilities versus realities
Figures outlined in the 2013 Pedagogy Conference demonstrate substantial advances in education in Latin America and the Caribbean, but they still fall short of fulfilling the Education for All initiative, launched at the World Education Forum in Dakar (Senegal) in 2000.
According to figures presented by Ana Lucia D’Emilio, regional UNICEF education advisor, Latin America has one of the highest levels of students repeating school years in elementary education, with only Sub-Saharan Africa having a higher rate. In addition, abandonment of secondary education begins at 12 years of age, with increased levels at 15 and above.
It is possible to reverse this trend in the region and this view was shared by conference delegates, who recognized the need to eliminate barriers to reaching secondary education, eradicate disparities between the sexes in terms of access to education, to ensure a more just and equitable distribution of resources for education programs, and to reward schools committed to reaching their goals with committed action.
The plans are outlined to put into practice all these agreements. All that is needed is to begin working today to make them a reality.
Yenia Silva Correa