The Daily Herald – UNESCO, UNICEF and ECLAC warn LAC will fall short of education targets set by Agenda 2030
Children in a BAC class.
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Economic difficulties in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the slowdown and stagnation of progress towards Sustainable Development Goal number four of the United Nations (SDG 4) and school achievements observed between 2015 and 2021.
This is revealed in “Education in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Crossroads. The SDG4-Education 2030 Regional Monitoring Report”, launched on September 8 as part of International Literacy Day.
Fruit of the collaboration between the Regional Office for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean OREALC/UNESCO Santiago, the UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean LACRO and the Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC), the report identifies challenges facing the region and areas that require urgent attention to achieve the goals of SDG4. The wealth and breadth of information contained in the report make it an essential regional input for policymakers and the Transforming Education Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General.
The publication summarizes five major regional trends during the 2015-2021 cycle. The first two highlight positive aspects in the evolution of various relevant indicators of education.
The first trend expresses the continuity of the general growth in the levels of education of the population, evident in the increase in levels of adult literacy and the highest level of education attained by the population, indicators which have been progressing steadily since decades. For example, over the past 10 years, the number of illiterates has decreased by 7.7 million, although in rural areas 12.8% of the young and adult population is still illiterate.
Claudia Uribe, Director of OREALC/UNESCO Santiago, says: “Evidence shows positive news, but reinforces the pressing need for greater investment and state capacity to lead systemic improvement and transformation. education to accelerate progress towards the education goals set in 2015.”
The second trend illustrates a more recent improvement in certain school indicators, combined with a reduction in inequalities. Access to preschool education has increased, especially in rural areas and among the lowest income quintile of the population. Completion of secondary education has also improved, especially among the most vulnerable groups. On the other hand, between 2000 and 2020, the proportion of overage pupils in primary education increased from 14.4% to 7.8%, while in lower secondary education it fell from 18% to 13% between 2010 and 2020.
In 2019, the gross enrollment rate in pre-school education (from the age of three to the start of primary school) was 77.5%, with steady growth over the past 20 years. “Between 2015 and 2020, enrollment in pre-primary education (zero to two years) increased by 2.1 million children, a faster pace than in previous years. However, since the start of the pandemic, we have observed how early childhood has not been prioritized, putting these gains at risk. We urge governments to invest in early childhood so that no child is left behind,” said Rada Noeva, Deputy Regional Director in charge of UNICEF LACRO.
The following three trends contain harbingers of changes in education indicators. The third trend shows a slowdown in the improvement of certain indicators that had progressed over the past decades. For example, between 2015 and 2020, secondary education completion rates increased by 1.9 percentage points for lower secondary and 2.1 for upper secondary, while over for the period 2010-2015, these values were 6.1 and 6.0 respectively.
The fourth trend indicates a worrying stagnation in key indicators of access to primary and secondary education and assessments of the quality of learning. The percentage of the population not enrolled in primary and secondary education remained practically unchanged during the period. “In 2019, approximately 10.4 million children and young people were excluded from access to primary and secondary education in Latin America and the Caribbean. These figures predate the pandemic, the effects of which add greater fragility to the trajectories that guarantee permanence in the education system,” said Alberto Arenas de Mesa, director of the Social Development Division of ECLAC.
The impact of the pandemic has seriously threatened educational achievements. Comparisons of the results of the UNESCO Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study 2019 with the previous assessment Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study TERCE 2013 show that the region has failed to improve in the areas of reading , mathematics and science, which had occurred between 2006 and 2013. With regard to secondary education, the results of the 10 Latin American countries participating in the latest edition of the Program for International (PISA) 2018 from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the regional average did not vary between 2015 and 2018 in the three domains.
The fifth trend indicates an increase in some specific gaps at the tertiary level. Although the cycle of expansion of higher education has continued between 2015 and 2020, incorporating 17 million students over the past 20 years, this expansion is uneven. For example, access to higher education in the rural sector increased only slightly between 2015 and 2020. The gaps in access between men and women have widened: if the gross enrollment rate in higher education in 2000 for both groups was between 21% and 25%, in 2020 the gap has widened, with 61.7% for women and 46.8% for men. Access gaps by socio-economic level have also widened. In recent years, higher education has almost exclusively favored the middle and upper income sectors.
Regarding education financing, a key dimension of education policy and the trends identified, 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have reduced their public investment in education since 2015. This stagnation has intensified with the COVID-19 crisis, which for 2020 alone led to an economic contraction of 7.7% of gross domestic product (GDP). Between 2015 and 2019, education expenditure as a percentage of total government expenditure increased from 16.1% to 15.4% in the region. In relation to GDP, this percentage fell from 4.5% to 4.3%.
The figures provided in this report have been taken into account in the preparation of the Buenos Aires Declaration (2022) and are part of the III Regional Meeting of Ministers of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean. In this statement, education authorities in the region acknowledged the challenges to meet the targets of SDG 2030 4 and acknowledged the need for deep transformation that addresses the structural and systemic factors that have contributed to inequalities. and educational injustice in the region.
The Education Transformation Summit, to be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 19, will provide a global forum to take stock of efforts needed to recover from pandemic-related learning losses, reimagining education systems for the world of today and tomorrow, and revitalizing national and global efforts to achieve SDG 4. ~UNICEF~