UNICEF and UNESCO present a new report on education in Latin America and the Caribbean
22.1 million boys, girls and adolescents in the region are not in school or are at serious risk of dropping out.
• Complete, timely, sustained and full schooling is the duty of all.
PANAMA/MONTREAL/SANTIAGO, 31 August 2012 – In Latin America and the Caribbean there are approximately 117 million boys, girls and adolescents in the preschool, primary and basic secondary education age groups. However, 6.5 million of them do not attend school and 15.6 million attend school carrying the burden of failure and inequality expressed in either a two- or more-year lag behind the normal age for their school grade or a record of grade repetition.
This is the main information provided in a report entitled “Finishing School. A Right for Children´s Development: A Joint Effort” presented today by UNICEF and the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) through the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS).
In recent decades, the educational systems of Latin America and the Caribbean have extended to cover the vast majority of boys, girls and adolescents. Regional initiatives have occurred, such as the “Education Goals for 2021: the Education we Want for the Bicentennial Generation” launched in 2010, ultimately aiming to improve quality and equity in education to counter poverty and inequality and favour social inclusion.
However, there are still many pockets of actual or potential exclusion: boys and girls who enter the educational system late, who repeatedly fail, who do not come across learning experiences that allow them to develop their capacities and who encounter discrimination. The message transmitted in the title of the report, “Finishing School. A Right for Children´s Development: A Joint Effort”, again brings to the fore the target to fulfill the educational rights of children and, in turn, to insist on the need for cooperative and effective ways to achieve this.
This report, starts by recognizing the profiles of the groups most affected by exclusion and then identifies the barriers that hamper a sustained, timely and full education for these boys, girls and adolescents. Finally, it outlines appropriate strategies for an approach to the issues. The methodological perspective adopted presents an innovatory approach for the region, as it identifies the profiles of excluded groups before moving on to pinpoint the barriers. This approach rules out the notion that the profiles themselves are the cause of exclusion, concentrating instead on the barriers to education supply, unlike other analyses and interpretations of the past decade that have concentrated mostly on demand-side problems.
Five dimensions of exclusion
Five dimensions of exclusion are identified within the framework of the report as the five factors that might evict a child from school and the school system from one day to the next:
Dimension 1: boys and girls of infant and primary school age not in infant or primary school.
Dimension 2: boys and girls of primary age not in primary or secondary school, distinguishing between those who have never attended primary school, those who have started school late, or those who have participated for a restricted amount of time and who drop out without completing the whole level.
Dimension 3: boys, girls and adolescents of basic secondary school age not in primary or secondary school.
Dimension 4: boys and girls in primary school but at serious risk of dropping out.
Dimension 5: boys, girls and adolescents in basic secondary school, but in serious risk of dropping out.
This report stresses that boys, girls and adolescents from indigenous, Afro-descendant or disabled groups, or those living in rural areas, are at greater risk of exclusion or grade repetition. The data analyzed showed that in some countries less than 50% of the secondary school-age population in rural areas is attending school. There is also a clear link between the element of child labour and school attendance - students aged between 12 and 14 years who are at work, many of whom are receiving schooling, showed lower rates of attendance than those who do not work. Furthermore, in some countries, Afro-descendant boys and girls find themselves facing late entry or educational failure more frequently.
Delayed schooling can be viewed as an indicator or warning factor for exclusion as the situation is generated and then accumulates to the point where students in some schools are studying with 1, 2, 3 and more years of grade repetition or lag between their school grade and the normal age of study.
For some boys and girls, this education lag starts in preschool education, and just such a complex situation affects 11.6% of this age group who start primary education in initial education when their age-group should be entering first grade.
This is doubly damaging as these boys and girls will inevitably start primary school late and in the meantime they also ‘fill’ spaces that should be available to other younger children in their community.
The levels of lag detected in primary education indicate that many pupils are still attending primary education when they have reached secondary school age. The latest available information indicates that close to 22% of students in this age bracket do not complete primary schooling on time. As they work their way through primary education and on into basic secondary, education lag increases the probability of students dropping out of school.
A Joint Effort
The report reveals that most of those who have dropped out of school early in the region have experienced several years of schooling in which they have accumulated various forms of educational failure and it indicates that coverage targets cannot be achieved if this problem is not approached, as this situation culminates in the early expulsion from school of the most vulnerable groups. Therefore, when the time for analysis and action is ripe, the issues of coverage and quality must be approached together, in combination for positive outcomes on inclusion to be achieved.
The concept of the ‘Joint Effort’ is a call to end blame attribution between sectors and instead to assume the collective and cooperative efforts needed in order to guarantee the right to education. National and sub-national government bodies, funding and co-operation entities, teaching unions, the media, families, communities, universities and research centres must come in from the fringes and assume their responsibilities in order for the school system to fulfill its mission in the best possible way.
“Education is the key to confronting the deep inequities in our region, and therefore we must work from all sectors so that all girls, boys and adolescents can complete their schooling” said UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen. “Efforts made in the education sector must be coordinated with those in the social protection, health and nutrition sectors, as well as with families and communities. UNICEF actively works to make this form of coordination reality.”
Jorge Sequeira, UNESCO Regional Director of Education agreed with this diagnosis, adding that “the priority for improving educational quality for boys, girls and adolescents, equipping them with pertinent and relevant knowledge, giving them the possibility to develop with dignity and with a sense of belonging to their societies is an essential requirement of our educational system if we aspire to make completion of these levels of education a universal occurrence.”
A global initiative
“Finishing School. A Right for Children´s Development: A Joint Effort” is part of the Global Initiative on Out-of School Children promoted by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics. Since its launch in early 2010, it has targeted efforts in 26 countries, performing national studies, a panorama of each of the regions, a global study and a world conference to mobilize resources for equity. In Latin America and the Caribbean, this process translated into the production of country level studies on exclusion from education in Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia, and into the construction of this regional report using aggregated data for the other countries.