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Dakar Follow-up > Cochabamba Declaration


The Ministers of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean, meeting at the request of UNESCO at the VII Meeting of the Regional Intergovernmental Committee of the Major Project for Education (PROMEDLAC VII) taking place in Cochabamba from March 5 to 7, 2001, recognise that the execution of this project during the past two decades represents the most important effort on the part of the countries to make education a priority on our development agendas.

The countries in the region, aware of the importance of the education of children, youth, and adults, have made great efforts to meet the goals of the project since its creation in 1981. Some countries have made progress, particularly in the number of children enrolled in the school system. However, the region as a whole has not yet met the proposed objectives.

As governments, we reiterate our commitment to the objectives of the Major Project in the Field of Education to attain basic schooling for all, to provide literacy learning for young people and adults, and to bring to completion the necessary reforms aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of education.

In Latin America and the Caribbean there are still around forty million illiterates over fifteen years of age who represent more than eleven percent of the overall population of this region. This situation places limitations on the human and citizen rights of these individuals and becomes, in turn, an obstacle to the learning of their children. Every country should continue to search for efficient methods for eradicating illiteracy, including the use of radio and television.

Basic education for all has not been secured, since some children fail to enrol in school, while significant repetition and dropout rates persist. Consequently, not all children complete their primary education. Governments shall continue to assign a high priority to basic education coverage until every school-age boy and girl is enrolled in and goes through the education system.

Furthermore, stronger efforts are needed in order to provide higher quality education services, seeking to attain equity, given that severe differences persist among and within the countries. The first comparative sub- regional study of the Latin American Laboratory for the Assessment of Educational Quality (1999), revealed these differences and the importance, in terms of learning achievements, of such factors as teacher professionalism and dedication, the school environment, family educational level, and the availability in schools of textbooks and teaching materials.

We recognise that the current socio-economic situation in the region adversely impacts education possibilities: 220 million individuals in Latin America and the Caribbean currently live in poverty.

An increasing number of people is excluded from the benefits of social and economic development that accompany globalisation because they are affected by limitations in their education which prevent them from participating actively in this process.

We recognise as well that there are signs of hope that it will be possible to transform the potential of education into a determinant factor in human development. A current culmination of a sustained phase of growth in the expansion of services and coverage of basic education within the context of the search for greater quality and equity has seen effective co-operation efforts on the part of governments and among countries, as well as increasing participation of new actors. There is now a clear recognition of the need to promote life-long education within multiple and interactive human and education environments, and to lend more importance to the subject of values. We wish our education to be strengthened by being firmly based on the possibilities of learning to be, to do, to know and to live together, while absorbing as a positive factor our rich ethnic and cultural diversity;

The World Forum of Dakar in April, 2000, established the six goals for Education for All, thus embracing the commitments made by the Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean in Santo Domingo through their Plan of Action. The Ministers have therefore committed themselves to have the States work together with civil society to agree on policies, strategies, and actions to meet the established goals.

Therefore, having recognised and analysed the reports and proposals presented in the meeting,

We declare:

1. Our concern for having not yet fully achieved all the goals proposed in the Major Project of Education, which continue to be basic priorities and commitments for the countries of the region that have been unable so far to attain them.

2. That education systems must speed up the pace of their transformations in order to not fall behind relative to the changes taking place in other spheres of society, so as to lead a qualitative leap in education. The efforts that are currently taking place in favour of systemic change through reforms in education will be of little benefit if change does not take place as well in education processes and actors. This means that we must focus our attention on the quality of teaching practices, linking this with changes in school management and improving such practices and their results, thus facilitating the creation of the necessary conditions for schools to be adequate learning environments for students.

3. That teachers are irreplaceable for the achievement of quality learning in the classroom. Changes sought through reform are based upon the will and preparation of instructors to teach. Facing and solving the teacher question with a comprehensive approach continues to be a key and urgent factor in the next five years. The professional training of teachers and their role need to be rethought and viewed with a systemic focus that integrates initial and on-the-job activities, effective participation in improvement to improve quality, creation within teacher training institutions of the constant interaction of working groups and education research. The participation of new actors and the introduction of new technologies must work to reinforce the professional role of teachers. Additionally, we must urgently consider all other issues that affect the ability of teachers to perform their tasks under proper working conditions, that offer opportunities for continued professional growth: adequate remuneration, professional development, career-long learning, performance assessment, and responsibility for student learning outcomes;

4. That without education, human development is not possible. Admittedly, education, by itself, cannot eliminate poverty; nor is it capable of creating necessary conditions for sustained economic growth or social well-being. But it continues to be the basis for personal development and a determining factor for significantly improving equal access to opportunities for an improved quality of life. This strengthens our conviction that education is, above all, a basic right of all people, and that States, through their governments, bear the inalienable responsibility of making this right a reality. Within a region of growing social inequality, the strengthening and the transformation of public education represents a key mechanism for effective social democratization. This demands urgent economic, social and cultural policies that support education policies aimed fundamentally at catering to those who have been excluded and marginalised in Latin America and the Caribbean to overcome current exclusion from quality education;

5. That within a pluralistic and diverse world, Latin America and the Caribbean have much to offer if they take advantage of the wealth of their ethnic, linguistic, traditional, and cultural diversity. To do so, our education should not only recognise and respect such diversity; it should also value it and make it into a learning resource. Education systems should offer learning opportunities to each child, young person, and adult, cultivating a diversity of abilities, vocations, and styles, with particular emphasis on special learning needs. Governments and societies bear the responsibility of fully respecting this right, making all efforts within their reach to assure that individual, socio-economic, ethnic, gender-based, and linguistic differences are not transformed into inequality of opportunity or into any form of discrimination;

6. That a new kind of school is needed. It is absolutely essential that schools be more flexible and highly responsive, and that they possess effective pedagogical and managerial autonomy. They should be given sufficient support to enable them to organise and to carry out their own education projects, in response to the needs and diversity of the community they serve, projects which are constructed in a collective manner, and that they assume - together with government entities and other actors - the responsibility for results. This requires that governments provide financial, human, and material resources to all educational institutions under their jurisdiction, targeting them to the poorer segments of the population;

7. That because education is a right and duty that every person shares with society, it is necessary to create adequate and flexible mechanisms to assure on-going participation of a multiplicity of actors, and that inter-sector practices be encouraged in the field of education. Integrating mechanisms should treat distinct areas of educational activities, beginning with the family, the classroom and the school, and giving special attention to the link with local development. As a necessary condition for increasing community participation in education, the State should assume effective leadership, encouraging participation by society in the design, execution, and assessment of research on the impact of education policies;

8. That the status of young people as a strategic social group in Latin America and the Caribbean requires specific education solutions that provide young people with skills for living, for working, and for citizenship. Secondary education should be a regional priority in those countries that have achieved full access to primary education. The option of encouraging new and flexible forms of learning represents one answer for adolescents and young people living in poverty and exclusion - those who have abandoned formal schooling without having access to quality education. The realities of the current labour market in a context of few opportunities for formal employment, requires providing job training, overcoming barriers in order to achieve an effective transition between the school system and employment. Furthermore, growing problems of juvenile violence inside and outside the school, of drug dependence, of adolescent pregnancy and fatherhood, as well as the low level of citizen participation of young people, require efforts in values education and urgently needed solutions from educators and from society;

9. That it is necessary to broaden the attention of formal and non-formal education to groups of very young children and of adults who heretofore have not been adequately considered in current national strategies and the education of whom is a necessary condition for improving quality and equity in life-long learning.

10. That the teaching of information and communication technologies should take place within the framework of social and education policies that are committed to equity and quality. A clear challenge in the coming years will be the building of a school model in which students and teachers learn to make use of technology at the service of their respective learning processes. However, we should not forget that the choice of making this learning more efficient should consider primarily the potential of people - particularly that of teachers - and the respect for cultural identity, rather than merely the promises of technology itself. The use of technology provides new possibilities for distance education and for the development of learning networks that can do much to make life-long learning a reality. The introduction of technologies - such as computers - in public schools should be viewed as an agent of equality of opportunity by assuring wide-range access to such learning tools;

11. That in order to improve educational quality, coverage and relevance a significant increase is needed in the funds allocated to education, striving for greater efficiency in the use of resources and their equitable distribution;

12. That countries in Latin America and the Caribbean need to count on renewed international cooperation that contributes to carrying forward the tasks and proposals of this Declaration, strengthening national decision-making and execution abilities. Therefore, in addition to taking the Dakar Declaration as a reference framework, it is important to bring to this project hemispheric initiatives such as the Summit of the Americas and international initiatives that have allowed new actors to participate and enriched educational development projects. The validity of these commitments and agreements demand that we maintain sound and positive relationships with international institutions that provide technical and/or financial support for education development projects in the Region, encouraging responsibility and accountability of these institutions for the outcomes of their cooperation. Greater efforts should be made to ensure that these agencies respect the priorities, interests and characteristics of each nation by stimulating horizontal cooperation between countries.

13. That, considering the above-specified factors and the need for actions in Latin America and the Caribbean that incorporate common objectives and activities, we believe that it is necessary to ask UNESCO to take the initiative in organising, together with the ministers of the Region, a Regional Project with a 15-year perspective that includes the fundamental elements of this Declaration, according to the recommendations issued at this meeting, and carrying out periodic assessments every five years.

Cochabamba, Bolivia, March 6, 2001

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