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Indigenous knowledge and education policies in Latin America: Towards an epistemic dialogue. Second report (in Spanish)

19 March, 2019 -The international commitment to providing inclusive and equitable quality lifelong learning for all pays special attention to vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples. Education also plays a fundamental role in the preservation of the diversity of such peoples, and in the revitalization, development and transmission of their languages, oral traditions, writing systems and worldviews.

In this context, the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO) launched the publication Indigenous knowledge and education policies in Latin America: Towards an epistemic dialogue on 14 March 2019 with the support of the Intercultural Bilingual Education Program (PEIB) of Chile’s Ministry of Education.

The focus of this publication

This report (available in Spanish) presents the results of research conducted in six Latin American countries -Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru- on the incorporation of the knowledge of indigenous peoples, interculturality and multilingualism into education policies.

The main goals of this study are:

    • To describe how states have implemented education policies, approaches and specific tools for effectively incorporating indigenous knowledge and practices.
    • To analyze how indigenous peoples have generated proposals and experiences that have impacted the inclusion of their knowledge and the main readings of the current situation of intercultural education.
    • To identify the challenges that countries are facing and formulate recommendations that contribute to progress in the area of intercultural work towards 2030.

    What is the contribution of this report?

    This report contributes to the discussion and development of proposals for incorporating indigenous knowledge into countries’ education systems. The study seeks to expand regional collaboration in this important area for the achievement of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4-Education 2030 based on the belief that cultural diversity is a source of wealth and not a drag on education systems.

    What are the main conclusions?

    • Countries must recognize themselves as plural and multicultural. This begins with the legal recognition of peoples and their languages, as official languages and/or languages of instruction.
    • In the majority of the countries covered in this study, significant progress has been made on intercultural education policies and the creation of institutions that focus exclusively on this area.
    • In several of the countries covered in the report, there is limited funding for the implementation of an intercultural education model that can shape dialogue with forms of indigenous knowledge.
    • The institutional structure available to make progress in this area continues to be fragile. Professionals who foster intercultural education and engage in dialogue on these topics are in unstable positions.
    • The ways in which intercultural education is implemented and policies on dialogue with indigenous knowledge continue to be an appendix to educational policies and have not become a fundamental pillar of them.
    • The idea that policies on indigenous knowledge and languages should only be implemented in areas in which there is a high density of indigenous peoples continues to prevail. As a result, their impact is compartmentalized, focused and reduced.
    • The challenge should be for indigenous people to form part of improvements in education and for respect, understanding of diversity and the knowledge and languages of indigenous peoples to be included in this effort. The process should be comprehensive and not isolated.
    • It is necessary to understand that intercultural education policies and the incorporation of indigenous knowledge must progress on different levels without leaving aside the goal of transformative incidence at the national level.
    • In order to dialogue with the knowledge of indigenous peoples, that knowledge must be recognized and reassessed. In general, there is a need to discuss and revisit plans, budgets, curricula and textbooks in the education sector and to train teachers to integrate concepts of intercultural education and promote respect for diversity based on pluralism and universal values such as human rights.
    • There is a need to move towards the creation of intercultural higher education institutions focused on promoting the dialogue among cultures, generating knowledge and responding to the needs and demands of indigenous peoples.
    • This series of challenges requires that better monitoring methods be created based on statistics on the population, demographic data on languages, educational policy documents, surveys and socio-linguistic research, among other things. The actions developed in this area should feature the participation of indigenous specialists and the leaders and scholars of their communities.
    • At the same time, there is need to move forward with strategies for decolonizing knowledge, recognizing that there is no single form of knowledge and that there is no inferior or superior knowledge. The model that is the goal of this effort validates diverse forms of knowing, thinking and interacting with the world and among people. Truly inclusive education must reflect this reality.


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