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At the request of UNESCO, we, the Ministers of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean, are meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia from March 5-7, 2001 for the Seventh Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Major Project in the Field of Education (PROMEDLAC VII).

The Cochabamba Declaration was adopted at this meeting which included a balance of the achievements attained and the shortcomings of the objectives of the Major Project in the Field of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, based on which the recommendations for educational policies at the beginning of the 21st Century have been adopted.

I. The New Meanings of Education in a Constantly Changing Globalised World

We recommend that:

Recommendation 1: There be periodic discussions on the meaning of education and that participants include educators, academicians, politicians, parents, and various associations, inspiring the interest of the public and the media. These discussions should cover themes relating to education in the 21st century from a policy perspective of training in citizenship: the full exercise of democratic rights and social participation; basic competencies for informed and responsible citizenship; the establishment of a culture of science for all; the fostering of values and attitudes of respect and appreciation for oneself and for others as a basis for living together in peace; and procedures to continue learning and adding to knowledge.

Recommendation 2: What is basic and ranks as a priority to be learned by all male and female students be identified and established, so that the "pillars of education" appear in balance, both in their humanistic and in their technical and vocational dimensions, considering the needs of individuals and the demands of the social, cultural, work and political worlds, establishing goals and progress milestones in learning processes.

Recommendation 3: Curricula be periodically revised and updated in order to introduce and/or reinforce learning that makes possible the development of such dimensions. This review should be carried out by education administrators and by every school. Thinking about and adapting curricula should be a central element in teaching practice. Teachers need to adopt the curriculum proposed by education administrators as their own, enriching it according to the needs of their students and to their context.

II. Quality Learning and Responding to Diversity: Key Elements in Education Policy

We recommend that:

Recommendation 4: Education policies be formulated and executed focusing on education processes, actors, and contexts, aimed at achieving learning outcomes. In order to achieve better quality of learning, attention must be focused on changing pedagogical processes, influencing the culture of the different actors that take part in teaching and learning, recognising the specific responsibilities that must be assumed by everyone involved, and on changing the culture of schools, placing their management at the service of learning.

Recommendation 5: Research and studies be fostered on the implementation of education reforms in order to fine-tune such processes and to consolidate changes of education within countries.

Recommendation 6: Maximum priority be given to basic learning skills in order to facilitate accessing information, technology, and culture and so that people to may continue to learn. Effective learning of these competencies requires using new teaching methods and means. The mastery of basic competencies should be complemented by learning that favours the development of skills in personal equilibrium, inter-personal relations, socialisation, and cognitive development, with special attention to the mastery of abilities that aid people in learning to learn and to interpret, to organise and to analyse and use information.

Recommendation 7: Time dedicated to learning be extended, with progressive increases in the school year to a minimum of 200 academic days and extend school days in order to reach at least 1,000 hours per year. This increase should be accompanied by measures that make most effective use of the additional time. Therefore, it is necessary to utilise flexible and diversified teaching methods.

Recommendation 8: Pedagogical processes be transformed so that all students may receive quality education. Pedagogical processes should be student-centred, using a variety of situations and strategies in order to assure that each and every student achieves meaningful learning and, working in co-operation, participate actively in the process.

Recommendation 9: Special attention be given to affective and emotional factors, due to their great influence on the learning process. We must offer support to all students, value them, believe in them, and stimulate their abilities. These aspects will have an impact on their motivation and self-esteem, and positively reinforce the learning process. Interactions between students themselves are also important. Therefore, it is important to use co-operative learning strategies and to establish communication and participation channels for students in school activities.

Recommendation 10: Diversity and inter-cultural awareness be valued as elements that enrich learning. Pedagogical processes must consider the needs of each student so that the social, cultural, gender-based, capability and motivational differences, in order to favour enhanced learning, mutual understanding and coexistence.

Recommendation 11: Processes of integration to regular schooling be strengthened for children and young people with special education needs, safeguarding their dignity, avoiding any type of discrimination and providing them with the special assistance needed in order for them to receive quality education.

Recommendation 12: Intercultural dimension of curricula and education practices be strengthened, giving equal value to different cultures, particularly to original cultures, assuring through priority and targeted care the learning of their native languages by native peoples.

Recommendation 13: Education strategies be established for children and young people living in extremely difficult circumstances, such as those affected by catastrophic diseases (HIV/AIDS), at risk of drug addiction, displaced or migrant, those living in extreme poverty and street children.

Recommendation 14: Comprehensive and sound education on human sexuality be established and fostered to achieve responsible behaviours and broad training in ethical and moral values.

Recommendation 15: Schools be transformed into educational environments open to the entire community. The quality of teaching and the learning that takes place in classrooms depend, to a large extent, on the functioning and organisation of the school. Schools must enrich and adapt the official curriculum, fashioning it according to the needs of students and of their context. Schools should offer alternative methodologies so that all students may acquire basic learning through different paths. Schools must become learning and development environments not only for students, but also for teachers and the community as well. The development of open schools, with a good working environment, can contribute positively to the reduction of violence and problems of drug use that exist in many schools. Furthermore, this may help to develop a positive environment for the community to deal with emergencies such as catastrophes or epidemics.

III. Strengthening and Giving New Meaning to the Role of Teachers

We recommend that:

Recommendation 16: Priority be given to the development of comprehensive national policies in regard to the teaching profession, so that they may respond effectively to the demands of society. This requires linking initial and in-service teacher training, combining teaching career paths with commitment and accountability for results, and improving working conditions and salaries.

Recommendation 17: Policies should result in profound changes in the organisation of the work of teachers and in the specific role that each professional plays in education. The current learning needs of children, young people, and adults cannot be left to exclusively to each teacher individually and in isolation. Rather, these needs should be treated by all teachers of each school and, whenever possible, with the support and collaboration of other professionals. This requires changes in the organisation of learning processes in schools, that include the growing participation of other actors, families, and the progressive incorporation of new technologies.

Recommendation 18: Groups of schoolteachers be established and strengthened in each school, working together to develop education projects and/or training areas through changes in their teaching practices. To this end, education authorities should create conditions that permit teachers to have sufficient time available to carry out collective tasks and to gradually advance towards having teachers dedicate themselves solely to working in a single school.

Recommendation 19: Progress be made in initial and in-service teacher training, so that these activities are not fragmented, do not over-burden professionals, are in accordance with new demands for professional enhancement and performance, so that training may be changed into a continuous process truly linked to what takes place in schools. Initial and in-service teacher training must be closely connected to research on education practices.

Recommendation 20: Necessary working conditions be created, to ensure adequate performance of teachers in difficult circumstances, conducting studies regarding the risks that teachers are exposed to under such conditions, providing personal and collective support to teachers through assistance provided by other specialised professionals. Other preventive measures should be taken, such as support networks between schools, better links to the community, exchanges and study grants, in order to improve teaching performance. Teachers should be encouraged to play a leading role in the changes required by reform processes. The foregoing implies establishing environments, procedures and structures to facilitate teacher participation at different levels, in schools, and in the local, regional and national communities. Initiatives should be fostered to encourage public recognition for teachers from the community to improve both their self-image and their social status.

IV. Management Processes at the Service of Learning and Participation

We recommend:

Recommendation 21: That periodic assessments and research studies be carried out on the processes of decentralisation in education in order to chart its progress and its deficiencies. The results obtained should enable countries to modify or reinforce their managerial strategies to foster pedagogical processes and to assure adequate and timely availability of human, technical, material, and financial resources for all schools. Particular attention should be given to more isolated and poorer schools.

Recommendation 22: That strategies be formulated in order to guarantee that schools develop their activities with the pedagogical and managerial autonomy necessary to favour the work of teachers with their students. Pedagogy in schools should be supported by the development of in-school education plans developed by all teachers and with the participation of families and students under the leadership of the school principal. Such projects are important in order to assure motivation, collective effort, the use of common criteria by teachers, and the continuation of activities through time.

Recommendation 23: Leadership be trained, both in the school system and each individual school. This training is necessary in the school system in order that schools may be effectively guided in their search for quality education, the promotion of equity, the development of curricula, the assessment of learning, the enhanced professionalism of teachers, and the encouragement of society to participate. School principals need this type of training to allow them to lead the preparation and collective implementation of education plans and to promote community participation. Greater school autonomy and participation is the preferred means for teachers to develop, together with the community, plans that improve the education of girls and boys, young people, and adults.

Recommendation 24: Participation in education be encouraged on the part of families, of State organisations such as legislatures, other government sectors and society as a whole. Without the support of policies that cut across different sectors it will not be possible to achieve goals such as those related to promoting greater equity. Without the support of society as a whole it will not be possible to make the required qualitative leap. Community participation may be encouraged by a more open, participatory managerial style including public accountability for outcomes, and that has the school and its teachers as an objective, viewing the student as the primary actor. Education should be recognised as a right and a duty for one and all.

Recommendation 25: National agreements and consensus be established to demonstrate that education is truly a national priority and a task that involves society as a whole. Such agreements should include common objectives and defined responsibilities and procedures to assess them. Among common tasks, we recommend performing national Education For All forums as proposed in the Action Framework of the World Forum of Education For All in Dakar.

We recommend that:

Recommendation 26 Maximum priority continue to be given to basic education, with special attention to groups that are most vulnerable: underprivileged children, children with special education needs, working children, migrants, displaced children, those from isolated rural areas, and native peoples. Society as a whole, and governments in particular have undeniable responsibility of assuring universal coverage of basic education so that all people, without exception, acquire basic skills in order to fully exercise their citizenship.

Recommendation 27 Equality of opportunities should focus not only on access to education, but also on creating conditions that guarantee learning of equal quality for all. In order for this to be accomplished, action must be taken directed at offering education that is flexible and diversified, while strengthening at the same time the demand of the underprivileged for quality education. The various educational services should be equal in quality, to which end, formal institutional services should be made more flexible.

Recommendation 28 Education for young people and adults be strengthened, and integrated into on-going processes of modernisation and reform. To which end, the education services should be extended to include youths and adults, thus facilitating life-long education opportunities. Due to its specificity, education for these groups requires giving greater importance to institutionalisation and to generating networks between ministries of education, the workplace, other government entities, NGOs, and universities.

Recommendation 29 Investment in early childhood education be increased, especially for the most underprivileged sectors of the population. Efforts should be focused on extending the supply of education services in order to assure in coming years universal coverage for the 3 to 6 year-old group and gradually extend these services to include children under 3. Similarly, changes should be undertaken in early childhood education in close co-operation with primary education, without losing sight of the special nature of the former. Training for parents as first educators of their children should be a fundamental strategy in early childhood programs, along with efforts by NGOs, local governments, communities and other social actors.

Recommendation 30 Learning and training opportunities be increased for adolescents and young people through the development of a reformed secondary and professional education. It is important, however, that this be done in a gradual manner in order to achieve wider access to this level, the permanence of its learners, carrying out educational reforms to make them more relevant to the new demands of people and of society. The different objectives of this level of education require offering a balanced, sufficiently diversified curriculum with different linkages between secondary and professional education.

Recommendation 31 Countries should continue to give priority to adult and youth literacy initiatives, applying more effective methods, using the mass media such as radio and television, mobilising and raising funds in order to produce indispensable written material.

VI- Means and technologies for educational transformation

We recommend that:

Recommendation 32 Architectonic solutions be designed, with environment-friendly education environments, encouraging the participation of the education community so that the school facilities and equipment are conducive to the teaching-learning process and relevant to the social and cultural reality of the community which they serve. Recommendation 33 Priority given to the provision of books and school libraries, and the stimulation of the pleasure of reading be maintained, scheduling time within the school day for recreational reading.

Recommendation 34 According to the possibilities of each country, and with the principle of equity as a guide, long-range policies be adopted and implemented to make possible the incorporation of new information and communication technologies. Simultaneously develop assertive policies for the utilisation of mass media (radio, television) and new technologies, in order to support student learning and teacher training.

Recommendation 35 Regional information and communication observatories for education be established that supply information to authorities in order to provide for the exchange of experiences and for the establishment of policy criteria in these areas.

Recommendation 36 Training activities be promoted in order for teachers to use the new technologies creatively.

Recommendation 37 The creation of international, regional, and national networks of schools, students, and teachers be encouraged using the Internet and other means as a channel for communication and exchange of experiences.

Recommendation 38 The adoption of more conventional audio-visual technologies be intensified within public schools, training teachers in their use.

Recommendation 39 Horizontal co-operation be promoted in order to generate information technology products and digitised curricular content for teaching purposes, adapted to the cultural conditions inherent to the different sub-regions.

VII- Funding quality learning for all.

We recommend that:

Recommendation 40 Considering the long-term financial requirements of education policies and the need to achieve higher quality learning outcomes in order to meet the urgent needs of the new century, efforts be continued to significantly increase investment in education. The use of resources in education must be viewed as an investment, and not merely as an expense.

Recommendation 41 The allocation of public resources to education be improved, accompanied by other measures that favour quality learning, and focusing on the poorest and most vulnerable areas and schools so as to decrease high rates of grade repetition and school drop-out, thus improving the internal efficiency of systems and enhancing equity.

Recommendation 42 A more equitable distribution of resources be sought in which per-capita public spending on education services promote affirmative action for the benefit of the low-income population. This measure, besides its redistribution effects, possesses the virtue of alleviating the considerable efforts the low-income families make to pay for the education of their children.

Recommendation 43 A broad and timely information system be developed that allows insight into proper spending and its impact on the system and on schools, based on which a sufficient and sustainable amount of public funds should be allocated.

Recommendation 44 Decided joint action be sought from the Latin American and Caribbean governments to mitigate the overwhelming weight of foreign debt, allocating the resources thus freed, to education. Additionally, establish specific and verifiable actions to reduce military expenditures, to channel these funds into the implementation of specific education projects.

VIII- Information technology systems to improve educational policy and practice

We recommend:

Recommendation 45 Comprehensive information system policies be developed that include education research, assessment, innovations, statistics, and indicators. It is important to have access to information systems covering every aspect related to the educational system, with quality, universal, timely, valid, reliable and transparent information, which effectively fosters both education policy decision making and accountability before society.

Recommendation 46 A culture that promotes evaluation be fostered in the various countries, generating public debates on the meaning and orientation of the education quality evaluation systems. At the same time, models should be created that consider social-economic and cultural contexts in schools; teaching and learning processes and strategies; student outcomes in regard to knowledge, attitudes, and values; and the views that parents, teachers, and students have of their schools. These models should be broad, and include both external and internal assessment on the part of each school.

Recommendation 47 Policies to foster innovation in education be fostered in the areas of greatest interest to countries, based on the systematisation and dissemination of such innovations. Internet and other means should be used to construct networks and open spaces of communication between progressive teachers so they can share, discuss, and learn from such experiences.

Recommendation 48 Research in education be fostered in order to produce knowledge on factors that have a bearing on meaningful learning, disseminating and using the information obtained in the decision-making process. In order to do so, research must be stimulated and collaboration encouraged between universities, academic centres, and schools so that research may aid in improving school management and teaching practices. In addition, teachers should be encouraged to reflect on and systematise their teaching practices.

Recommendation 49 Accountability for outcomes be fostered. To this end, indicators must be designed that allow the comparison of outcomes at regional and international levels; not for the purpose of ranking schools and countries, but rather as a way of identifying successful experiences and those factors that have an impact on learning to improve education policy decision-making.

IX- International Co-operation

We recommend that:

Recommendation 50 A new style of co-operation be fostered, centred more on the transfer of theoretical and practical knowledge, on innovative and effective experiences, and on co-operation between countries in the region and between the region and the rest of the hemisphere and other multilateral forums in the world. Agencies can aid countries in mutually sharing information on how they are achieving higher levels of skill in the development of education innovations, strategies, and reforms. Co-operation agencies should demonstrate constant credibility through the timeliness, transparency, competence, pertinence, reliability and sustainability of the results of their activities.

Recommendation 51 International agencies support co-operation projects that strengthen nationally-established education policies, within the context of absolute respect, transparency and commitment to national policy guidelines and create working groups in collaboration with other countries on relevant themes that open new fields of horizontal co-operation and promote opportunities for reflection among agencies on the meaning and styles of co-operation, particularly emphasising education integration processes generated in the region.

Recommendation 52 Co-ordination between international agencies be improved for the generation and development of joint programmes or projects in the preparation of events and periodic meetings of ministers and other high officials. It is important to produce a common agenda for co-operation, agreed upon by agencies and by countries, that makes a rational use of their technical and financial resources, achieves greater effectiveness, and implements a rigorous follow-up of adopted agreements.

Recommendation 53 We request that UNESCO take the initiative of organising together with the Ministers of the region, a 15-year Regional Project, which includes essential elements of this Declaration, in accordance with the recommendations set forth in this meeting, and conducting evaluations every five years.

Recommendation 54 We urge the President of the VII Meeting of the Major Project in the Field of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean to submit this Recommendation at the next UNESCO-sponsored General Conference.

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