Reimagining education in Latin America and the Caribbean
UNICEF brings together public and private sectors and youth to take on the learning crisis
COVID-19 has caused the most significant disruption to learning in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean. By November 2021, 71 million of the region’s children and adolescents were still affected by school closures. While governments have made significant efforts to deploy remote learning, too many children and adolescents are on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Even before the pandemic, the region was facing a learning crisis. More than a third of students were not achieving minimum proficiency in reading while just over half of them were not meeting learning standards in mathematics. An estimated 10.4 million children were out of school, increasing their risks of violence, exploitation and abuse, as well as barriers to earning later in life.
“We don’t trust what we’re learning or how we’re learning it,” said Emely Sanchez Peña, a youth leader from Costa Rica, at Opportunities in the Crisis to Reimagine Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, a webinar organized by UNICEF as a part of the inaugural Global Forum for Children and Youth.
At the online event, moderated by Dr. Claudia Urrea, Senior Associate Director for pK-12 at the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL), representatives from the public and private sector discussed digital solutions to address the learning crisis.
"We must guarantee educational policies that provide digital inclusion," said Ariel Martinez, Minister of Education of La Rioja in Argentina, as he shared his province’s experience in leveraging public-private partnerships to connect 95 per cent of schools, including those in hard-to-reach rural areas, to the internet.
“Technology has the ability to equalize opportunities,” added Ana Lucia Lenis, Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for Spanish-speaking countries at Google, highlighting the company’s efforts to support young people through initiatives like online certification programmes.
Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, also participated in the webinar and called on governments and private sector partners to recommit to a better education for children and adolescents across the region.
“We need joint commitments that leverage investment, expertise and innovation in a complementary way,” said Jean Gough. “We have solutions. They need to be scaled up.”
Answering the Regional Director’s call, Johanna Slim, Director of Early Childhood Education at the Carlos Slim Foundation, shared their commitment to keep investing in initiatives to help parents care for their children, including mental health support as they cope with change and loss during the pandemic.
Likewise, Vera Cabral, Director of Education at Microsoft Brazil, shared the company’s continued collaboration with UNICEF on Learning Passport, a digital solution that seeks to close the learning poverty gap. To date, the learning platform has launched in Honduras and Mexico and will reach Brazil, Costa Rica, and Jamaica in 2022.
Emely Sanchez Peña closed the webinar with a reminder for adults to co-create solutions with youth: “Young people are the only opportunity for your present plans to last, to be prosperous, and for the future world that we dream of to materialize.”
Join UNICEF to reimagine education in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Spanish investment case link: https://www.unicef.org/lac/informes/reimaginar-la-educacion-en-america-latina-y-caribe
Six opportunities to reimagine education in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Put children and youth at the heart of discussions and the solutions: Engage with young people as advocates, thought leaders and agents of social mobilization to help drive this historic change at scale
- Work in partnership to mobilize commitments and investments for education in complementary ways, especially to promote inclusive digital learning, prioritizing marginalized children and young people.
- Engage the private sector and youth to generate learning experiences and content that is relevant to prepare youth to succeed in life.
- Close the digital gap. Connect schools to the internet to enable children and young people to learn anywhere and anytime. Ensure that the most marginalized children and adolescents have access to devices, especially smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Make available zero rating access to digital learning content and applications
- Advocate. Increase the proportion of official development assistance going towards pre-primary and primary education in low-and middle-income countries.
- Share and connect. Share knowledge, policy and advocacy solutions that can reach children at speed and scale, and can inspire others to replicate