In the coming days, Santiago de Chile will become the epicentre of a transcendental meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean. On 25 and 26 January 2024, the South American country will host the extraordinary meeting of Ministers of Education of the region, entitled “Education Ministerial: Santiago 2024”. This initiative, convened by UNESCO and the Chilean Ministry of Education, is co-organized by the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAF), the World Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and UNICEF.
The fundamental purpose of this meeting is the formulation of an agenda with concrete actions, emerging from a political and technical space, in order to approach and overcome the educational crisis that has emerged in the post-pandemic. Given the magnitude of the event, it is expected to have a significant impact on 33 countries in the region, affecting approximately 125 million students, who receive education from 6.9 million teachers.
The meeting will take place at ECLAC in Santiago, constituting a crucial forum for the exchange of experiences and the design of public policies aimed at the reactivation, recovery and transformation of education. These policies are conceived as accelerators of the educational goals established in the 2030 Agenda, thus marking a milestone in the search for concrete solutions to the current challenges of the education system.
This event is a follow-up to the previous UN Education Transformation Summit, which outlined strategies for overcoming the education crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and reimagined future education systems. At the Summit, the global commitment to education as a public good was renewed, underlining the need to mobilise action, ambition and solidarity to find solutions within existing commitments.
The relevance of this meeting is reflected in the confirmed participation of Ministers of Education from a number of countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay. These education leaders will participate in various activities, discussions and bilateral meetings that will be coordinated in advance, thus fostering a constructive exchange of ideas and practices.
The context of this meeting is crucial, as international evidence points to the fact that we are facing the biggest education crisis in the last 100 years. Latin America and the Caribbean, being one of the most unequal regions in the world, has suffered a particularly severe impact, affecting more than 170 million students who, on average, have lost 1.5 years of schooling due to the pandemic.
In addition, the data reveal historical debts in the region’s education systems to ensure inclusive, equitable and quality education. It highlights that 4.3 million children of primary and lower secondary school age remain out of school, representing a core of exclusion that persists despite the efforts of countries in the region.
Claudia Uribe, Director of UNESCO’s Regional Office in Santiago, stresses the need to redouble efforts to place educational recovery and transformation at the centre of the political and social agenda. It is emphasised that this process must be accompanied by actionable and well-directed plans backed by adequate resources, as the future of an entire generation depends on it.
Nicolás Cataldo, Chile’s Minister of Education, adds that during the meeting, experiences on education policies and their financing will be exchanged. The aim is to make progress in the reactivation, recovery and transformation of education to address the monumental challenges facing the region after the impact of emergencies and prolonged crises such as the pandemic. The ultimate aspiration is for states to find effective ways to close the gaps and ensure quality education for all.
The event is particularly relevant as it will have a direct impact on 33 ministries of education, which are responsible for meeting the educational needs of approximately 125 million students and 6.9 million teachers. The meeting will also serve as a platform to advance the definition of public policies aimed at fundamental learning, which is crucial considering the challenges revealed by the latest PISA 2022 test results, where three out of four students in the region do not reach the minimum competencies in Mathematics and more than half lack basic skills in Reading and Science.
The International Network on Human Rights Europe (RIDHE) is actively committed to education-related causes, advocating for respect, integration and inclusion. Through awareness-raising campaigns, lobbying and networking with local and international organisations, the network seeks to influence government policies and the international community. Its primary objective is to ensure the implementation of effective strategies that address the root causes of the lack of access to education, thereby promoting equitable access to quality and appropriate education.