31.03.2017 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

Indigenous Knowledge and practices in Education in Latin America. Exploratory analysis of how indigenous cultural worldviews and concepts influence regional educational policy

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Latin America and the Caribbean is home to over 600 indigenous peoples which have been historically underserved by education systems and overall social policy. As has been confirmed by the Third Regional and Comparative and Explanatory Study (TERCE), indigenous populations lag behind in all social indicators in the region when compared to non-indigenous groups, and indigenous learners have consistently obtained the lowest results in learning achievement in the past ten years.

Achieving the goal of leaving no one behind in the region translates into the need for more and better quality education for indigenous peoples, but also for their recognition and representation in education policy. This means for indigenous peoples to be able to exercise their right to establish and control their educational systems (Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007, Art. 14) and to bring their culture and knowledge to the forefront of educational decision-making in terms of purpose, content and organization. The inclusion of indigenous cultures, knowledge systems, worldviews and beliefs holds promise not only for making education more relevant, and its organization more flexible, but also for enriching the curriculum with more pertinent and sustainable practices.  

The present study explores the idea of an ‘epistemic otherness’ building from the knowledge and values underpinning indigenous social and educational practices in the region. In particular, it looks at how these values and forms of knowledge have been taken up in education policy in three countries of the Andean Region: Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, which have recently undergone constitutional and political reforms so as to acknowledge their multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual formations.

For every case, an analysis is made of how indigenous cultures and worldviews have been considered in education policy and to what extent they have entered into dialogue with the conceptions of education that preceded their integration. A number of indigenous cultural practices in education are also analyzed in each country along with their potential to enhance cultural and linguistic pertinence, and to provide insight into the feasibility of extending these practices beyond indigenous communities so as to favor inclusion and cohesion among educational communities.

This publication is an invitation to consider indigenous knowledge as a legitimate source of inspiration for education policies that may contribute to the well-being of all and to the sustainability of the planet.

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