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At UNICEF seminar, students from region seek changes in secondary education

© UNICEF Argentina/2008
Young delegates at the first joint seminar on secondary education organized by UNICEF.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, 15 September 2008 – Students at the Institute Filii Dei in the Retiro neighbourhood of Buenos Aires recently welcomed a delegation of their peers participating in an international seminar on secondary education organized by UNICEF.

Among the 20 adolescents who met with students at this school in one of the Argentine capital’s most impoverished districts was Angeles Hernández Lavarol, who attends the Institute herself and represented the school at the three-day seminar.

“It was a very fruitful experience,” said Angeles. “The girls and boys with whom I shared the seminar had the opportunity to visit my school and exchange experiences with my classmates. And my classmates were very happy because they were given the chance to expose their reality.”

The other young people involved in the seminar came from Brazil, Chile and other parts of Argentina. They spent three days discussing issues of concern among themselves along with 500 specialists and high-ranking officials – including Argentine Minister of Education Juan Carlos Tedesco, Chilean Minister of Education Mónica Jiménez and Brazilian Education Secretary María do Pilar Lacerda.

© UNICEF Argentina/2008
At the seminar on secondary education (from left): Brazilian Education Secretary María do Pilar Lacerda, Argentine Minister of Education Juan Carlos Tedesco and Chilean Minister of Education, Mónica Jiménez.

Building education equity

Millions of children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean do not attend school, according to UNICEF. Thousands more drop out of school before they finish their secondary education. In Argentina, for example, more than a third of secondary school-age children are not in school.

Many students and specialists have identified improved inclusion and quality education as necessary preconditions for retaining more students in secondary schools.

“There are different realities,” said Juan Nascimbene, another student delegate from Argentina. “But the truth is that we have many things in common, some shared complaints and many proposals that can improve the situation in these three countries.”

“Society needs to embrace the voice of youth,” Juan continued. “Many times, people say that we adolescents are apathetic, that we are not interested in politics, that we are not interested in anything. But we need to be given a chance. We want to change reality, we want education to be a right for all.”

Added student Cintia Santana of Brazil: “This seminar opened new perspectives for me,” “Things that I thought didn’t happen in other countries – that I thought happened only in Brazil – I see now are problems we have in common.”

Proposal to generate change

At the end of the seminar, the young delegates drafted their conclusions into a proposal for changes to improve the quality and inclusiveness of secondary education.

The students called upon government leaders to generate change, beginning with more dialogue with teachers, more places for students to gather and work together, and the introduction of indigenous languages into the curriculum. They also pointed out the need to equip schools with computers and basic infrastructure; use a variety of teaching methodologies for solving practical problems; and respect their diversity.

The UNICEF offices in Brazil, Chile and Argentina will continue to support the goals raised at the seminar, including:

  • Adaptation of national curriculum
  • Revision of quality evaluation processes
  • Legal reforms
  • Effective spaces for participation of adolescents, respecting their diversity.

“Secondary education gives great potentialities to break the inherited cycle of poverty in the region,” concluded UNICEF Regional Director Nils Kastberg. “The challenge now is quality, retention, inclusion, especially for vulnerable groups such as indigenous and people with disabilities. The secondary school needs to educate students to continue studying, working and exercising their citizenship.”




2 September 2008:
Young delegates from an international seminar held in Argentina speak about their vision for positive changes in secondary education.
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