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UNICEF and UNESCO present a new report on education in Latin America and the Caribbean

22.1 million children and adolescents in the region are not in school or at serious risk of dropping out

• Late entry to schooling and grade repetition are the main determinants of exclusion.
• Complete, timely, sustained and full schooling is everybody’s duty

Panama/Montreal/Santiago, 31 August 2012 – In Latin America and the Caribbean there are approximately 117 million children and adolescents in preschool, primary and basic secondary education age groups. However, 6.5 million of them do not attend school and 15.6 million either enter school one or two years behind the normal age for their school grade or repeat grades. 

This is the main finding of a report entitled “Finishing School. A Right for Children´s Development, A Joint Effort” presented today by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) through the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS).

In recent decades, the educational systems in Latin America and the Caribbean have expanded their reach to cover the vast majority of children and adolescents. Regional initiatives, such as the “Education Goals for 2021”, have aimed to improve quality and equity in education and counter poverty and inequality.

However, there are still many pockets of actual or potential exclusion: children who enter the educational system late, who repeatedly fail, who do not benefit from learning experiences that allow them to develop their capacities and who encounter discrimination.

This report identifies the barriers that hamper a sustained, timely and full education and outlines appropriate strategies for an approach to the issues. The methodological perspective adopted presents an innovative approach for the region because it looks at the barriers to education from a supply-perspective rather than the demand-side problems used to analyze the issue in the past.

Five dimensions of exclusion

Five dimensions of exclusion are identified within the framework of the report:

Dimension 1: boys and girls of preschool and primary school age not in preschool or primary school.

Dimension 2: boys and girls of primary age not in primary or secondary school, distinguishing between those who have never attended primary school, those who have started school late, or those who have participated for a restricted amount of time and who drop out without completing the whole level.

Dimension 3: boys, girls and adolescents of basic secondary school age not in primary or secondary school.

Dimension 4: boys and girls in primary school but at serious risk of dropping out.

Dimension 5: boys, girls and adolescents in basic secondary school, but in serious risk of dropping out.

This report stresses that boys, girls and adolescents with disabilities or living in rural areas or either indigenous and Afro-descendants are at greater risk of exclusion or grade repetition. The data analyzed showed that in some countries less than 50% of the secondary school-age population in rural areas is attending school. There is also a clear link between child labour and school attendance - students aged between 12 and 14 years who work showed lower rates of attendance than those who do not work. Furthermore, in some countries, Afro-descendant boys and girls find themselves facing late entry or educational failure more frequently.

Delayed schooling

Delayed schooling can be viewed as an indicator or warning factor for exclusion as the situation is generated and then accumulates to the point where students in some schools are studying with 1, 2, 3 and more years of grade repetition or delay between their school grade and the normal age of study.

This is doubly damaging as these children not only start primary school late but also ‘fill’ spaces that should be available to other younger children in their community.

The levels of delay detected in primary education indicate that many pupils are still attending primary education when they have reached secondary school age. The latest available information indicates that close to 22 percent of students in this age bracket do not complete primary schooling on time. As they work their way through primary education and on into basic secondary, education delay increases the probability of students dropping out of school.

A Joint Effort

The report reveals that most of those children who have dropped out of school early in the region have experienced several years of schooling in which they have accumulated various forms of educational failure. As a result, the report highlights that coverage targets cannot be achieved if this problem is not tackled, as this situation culminates in the early expulsion from school of the most vulnerable groups. Therefore, issues of coverage and quality must be approached in tandem. 

The concept of the ‘Joint Effort’ is a call to end blame attribution between sectors and instead to assume the collective and cooperative efforts needed in order to guarantee the right to education. National and sub-national government bodies, development agencies, teachers unions, the media, families, communities, universities and research centres must work together in order for the school system to fulfill its mission in the best possible way.

“Education is the key to confronting the deep inequities in our region, and therefore we must work from all sectors so that all children and adolescents can complete their schooling” said UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen. “Efforts made in the education sector must be coordinated with those in the social protection, health and nutrition sectors, as well as with families and communities. UNICEF actively works to make this form of coordination a reality.”

 “Improving educational quality for children and adolescents, equipping them with pertinent and relevant knowledge, giving them the possibility to develop with dignity and with a sense of belonging to their societies is an essential requirement of our educational system if we aspire to make completion of these levels of education a universal occurrence,” said Jorge Sequeira, UNESCO Regional Director of Education.

A global initiative

“Finishing School. A Right for Children´s Development, A Joint Effort” is part of the Global Initiative on Out-of School Children promoted by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics. Since its launch in early 2010, it has targeted efforts in 26 countries, performing national studies, a panorama of each of the regions, a global study and a world conference to mobilize resources for equity. In Latin America and the Caribbean, this process translated into the production of country level studies on exclusion from education in Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia, and into the development of this regional report using aggregated data for the other countries.

The report "Finishing School. A Right for Children´s Development, A Joint Effort" is available only in Spanish.

For more information, please contact:
UNICEF - Regional Office for the Latin America and the Caribbean
Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org, Tel.: + 507 301 7485, Mob.: + 507 64302505
Isabel Andrades, iandrades@unicef.org, Tel.: +507 301 7423, Mob.: +507 638 75645

Victoria Uranga, Tel.: +56 2 472 46 14

UNICEF has experience in the field in more than 190 countries and territories where it helps children survive and develop from early childhood to adolescence. UNICEF is the greatest supplier of vaccines to developing countries and it supports the health and nutrition of children, good quality water and sanitation supply, good quality basic education provision for boys and girls and the protection of boys and girls against violence, exploitation and AIDS. UNICEF is entirely funded by voluntary contributions from individuals, companies, foundations and governments. For more information on UNICEF and its work in Latin America and the Caribbean, see: www.unicef.org/lac

About UNESCO and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)
The UNESCO mission consists of contributing to the consolidation of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, science, culture, communication and information. Its strategies and activities build upon the concrete aims and objectives of the international community, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The UIS is the UNESCO statistics office and the UN depositary for internationally compatible statistics in the fields of education, science and technology, culture and communication.

For more information on UNESCO and the UIS see www.unesco.org and www.uis.unesco.org




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