27.12.2015 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

Teaching careers in Latin America: merit-based measures for professional development

This report reviews the current situation for the teaching profession in Latin America. The regulations of 18 countries in the region were gathered based on four core concepts: the access mechanisms to the teaching career, workplace promotion  strategies,  assessment  processes  for  teachers  and  the  exit procedures from the field. Afterward, special attention was given to incentives and teaching encouragement programs developed in the region.

The teaching careers in Latin America have heterogeneous legal contexts in terms of their legal nature, technical orientation and internal organization. This is due to the extensive period of time during which these regulations have originated.  As of 2014, careers that were designed and approved in the fifties coexist together with the most recent regulations of 2013.

However, it is possible to organize teaching careers in Latin America into three groups using two characteristics: the scope and length of the career measured from the strategies of horizontal and vertical promotion and also the inclusion of evaluation mechanisms that have high-impact consequences; i.e. performance assessments of teachers that may result in the loss of job stability.

The majority of the regulations in the region fall into the first group. For all of them, the career dynamic is based on criteria such as seniority and the accrual of certifications. Not only is performance evaluation not considered. Moreover, job stability is guaranteed by the state except in those cases where there was a problem with moral or ethical behaviour or due to normal retirement processes. 

The second group includes those careers that have their foundation in the first generation careers, but also happen to have some of the characteristics of the new careers.  In most cases these traits are linked to performance evaluation.
The third group is the second generation of careers. These are the most recent ones and are designed strictly using a merit-based approach.  In these careers, job stability is associated with the results of performance evaluations and usually favours horizontal promotions.

The region must develop more research on the results of implementing the new generations of teaching careers. This permits the use of specific information that complements the ideological orientation of the reforms.  While this is ongoing, it is possible to have some general ideas that aid in the implementation of said careers and the design of future regulations.

In the future, designing new careers and the most recent regulations should seek to recognize and reward individual good practices, without sacrificing the collective essence of education. This is the first great challenge that the regulatory policies for teaching must deal with.  Further challenges should include more options for job promotion and new possibilities for workspaces; the  establishment  of  links  between  careers  and  training  plans  under  a comprehensive teaching policy framework; the creation of frameworks for performance, standards and specific competencies on the role and practice of educators; the design of specific regulations aligned with the national legal framework; and the formulation of integrated encouragement and incentive plans for teacher performance.

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