Press release IDB-UNESCO: Gaps in education systems will worsen if education is not prioritized within the pandemic response plans

  • A new report issued this December 7 by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Regional Office of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC / UNESCO Santiago) warns about the unequal conditions of access to human, economic, and economic resources. infrastructure and educational equipment in the countries of the region, all aggravated by the pandemic.
  • These structural conditions affect the application of the recommendations that international organizations have issued for an adequate process of return to schools, which affects the right to education of millions of students in the region.

“The region has an urgent need to plan and define priority actions to guarantee the safety of school operations and educational attention to the most vulnerable populations.” Thus concludes the report of the IDB and UNESCO “Reopen schools in Latin America and the Caribbean: Keys, challenges and dilemmas to plan the safe return to face-to-face classes.” The report was released by both international organizations on Monday, December 7, 2020 in an online event .

The document is a diagnosis prepared by both institutions to contribute to the prioritization of education in national response plans to the health emergency and in future recovery strategies. “The countries have deployed various response and recovery plans in which it is necessary to incorporate education as a central element,” says the report, “not only to guarantee a response in the educational field, but to achieve an equitable, inclusive and sustainable recovery. ”.

The report points out that the challenge of developing an educational proposal that manages to integrate the educational experiences of 2020 – due to its inequality – and recover those who have not returned to school will be enormous. For this reason, the document is also a call for regional action so that all educational responses are based on the fundamental principles of inclusion, equity and non-discrimination. To do this, the report analyzes the possibilities, restrictions and needs that Latin American and Caribbean countries will face during the process of returning to face-to-face classes, considering the following dimensions: safe schools (school infrastructure, access to water and sanitation): human resources (directors and teachers); remote education (access to ICT and connectivity; financing of education;

In their conclusions, both organizations indicate that the responses that the countries have implemented to guarantee the continuity of learning reflect a remarkable capacity to react to an uncertain scenario , but that there are strong decisions that must be taken as soon as possible, because the longer it takes the return to face-to-face classes, the more exclusion will grow and the inequalities will increase.

Among these decisions, UNESCO and the IDB call for investment in improving the state of school infrastructure to offer basic sanitation and hygiene conditions. Also to careful planning of the demand and supply of teachers to return to classes in person, and emphasizes the urgency of improving the policies regarding the training, availability, assignment and working conditions of teachers .

Regarding information technologies (ICT) and the continuity of classes during the pandemic, the report specifies the inequity between students when technologically faced with educational options in a pandemic and the enormous challenge for pedagogical continuity, especially in rural areas. This period has also evidenced the disparities in the competences of teachers for the use of ICT , the development of which requires sustained policies that transcend urgency.

Regarding financing of education, the IDB and UNESCO affirm that the recovery of the education sector will require additional resources, as well as improving its distribution . The enormous inequalities for the face-to-face return to classes highlight the need to incorporate criteria of equity and prioritization of vulnerable populations.

It is also imperative to modernize and streamline the collection and analysis of information to build a more comprehensive view of educational systems that allows facing crises like this one. Currently, there are marked absences to have comparable data from all countries on key indicators for planning the return to face-to-face classes. In many cases, these gaps are a reflection of basic information that is not available at the national level either.

Sabine Riegle-Aubourg, head of the IDB’s Education Division (ai), affirms that this report is a warning voice and “a wake-up call about the imperative need to carefully plan education policies. The capacity of the countries to define priority actions that guarantee the safety of school operations and prioritize educational care for the most vulnerable populations will be key. And for this, to avoid a generational catastrophe, education financing must be protected.