Implementing the Education Agreements of the Santiago
Jeffrey M. Puryear – PREAL
OAS – 7 November 2000
I. I want to make three main points regarding
the education recommendations of the Santiago Summit.
- The education recommendations of the Miami and Santiago summit were
1994 Miami Summit set 3 goals:
- Provide for universal access to and completion of quality
primary education for 100 percent of the children by the year 2010.
- Provide access for at least 75 percent of young people to quality
secondary education with an increasing percentage of young people
who complete secondary education by 2010, and
- Assume responsibility for providing the general population with
opportunities for life-long learning.
To achieve these objectives, governments committed
themselves (in Brasilia right after the Santiago Summit) to 11
1. Implement targeted and inter-sectoral policies
and develop programs that focus on groups at a disadvantage.
2.Establish or strengthen systems to evaluate the
quality of education and give "special attention" to
standards for reading, writing, mathematics, and science.
3.Develop programs to improve and increase the
level of professionalism among teachers.
4. Strengthen education management and
decentralization and promote better forms of community and family
5. Strengthen preparation, education, and training
for the world of work.
6. Establish or improve educational strategies
relevant for multicultural societies.
7. Develop within and outside the schools
educational strategies that foster the development of values, with
special attention to the inclusion of democratic principles, human
rights, gender issues, peace, tolerance, and respect for the
environment and natural resources.
8. Promote access to and use of the most effective
information and communication technologies in education systems.
9. Make efforts to increase the availability of
10. Seek to use technology to link schools and
communities as a way of establishing ties in the Hemisphere.
11. Further scholarship and exchange programs for
students, researchers, teachers, and educational administrators.
The three summit goals established in Miami and
reaffirmed in Santiago plus the 11 recommended actions approved at the
go too far in trying to address the multitude
of issues related to education.
It is hard to imagine having the resources
necessary to make significant progress on so many topics.
Their sheer number makes it hard to keep track
of whether countries are meeting their commitments.
By spreading their efforts so thinly, the ministers
made the implementation process more difficult and less likely to bear
But at the same time, the summit goals and
recommended actions do not go far enough.
This problem has at least three dimensions:
First, few target the most important
The summit goals principally target enrollments
and say almost nothing about quality, equity, and efficiency,
which are by far the more serious problems in most countries.
Promoting 100-percent completion of primary school is of little
use if the education those children receive is of poor quality —
and if most of the children who receive poor quality education are
from poor families.
To be sure, the goals specify
"quality" primary and secondary education but
include no indication of how quality might be defined and
The 11 recommended actions approved in Brasilia are somewhat
better in this regard, mentioning evaluation, standards, and
However, their mention does not go very far.
They recommend establishing and
strengthening evaluation systems but fail to urge a common,
regional system that will enable cross-national comparisons.
They urge "special attention" to
education standards but fail to say that all countries should
And key changes — for example, in
government spending — are not mentioned.
Second, the summit goals and recommended
actions establish very few benchmarks, making progress toward
meeting them hard to assess.
Aside from primary and secondary enrollments,
they do not include measurable targets.
When the recommendation is to "provide
opportunities for life-long learning" or to "focus on
groups at a disadvantage" or to "increase the
professionalism among teachers," it is difficult to define
implementation and to determine who is and who is not making
Not all targets need to be quantifiable. The broad,
open-ended recommendations confer a collective blessing on general
directions, support the efforts of national leaders, and may help
rally international resources. But measurable targets can be very
useful and could have been established in a few of these areas.
Finally, the goals and recommended actions do
not take advantage of opportunities for genuine collective action
The summit, after all, is a collective
exercise, and countries can sometimes do things together that
they could not or would not do separately.
By establishing clear and measurable goals
and working together to meet them, summits can energize
governments to overcome national obstacles that they would not
otherwise take on.
This includes initiatives that can only be
carried out at the regional level,
such as establishing regionwide standards
in mathematics or a common, regional examination system to
measure and compare student achievement.
It also includes national initiatives,
such as reaching specified levels of student
achievement, spending targets, or equity measures, that might be
energized if backed by a region-wide agreement.
None of these were recommended.
It may be, of course, that governments are simply not
ready to deal with many of these issues collectively. Their absence from
the agenda makes it harder to mount a vigorous implementation process
and to attract funding for doing so.
We don’t know who developed these recommendations
(and of course, perhaps they presented very good recommendations to the
heads of state, and had them rejected) but the result is an unimpressive
set of recommendations.
2. The second point: Most LAC countries will not meet
the education goals set in Miami and Brasilia.
They will fall short of the summit goals of
universal primary enrollment and completion, and 75% secondary
enrollment by 2010.
Will countries meet these goals: A review of the
statistics being provided by each country, suggests that many will not.
Goal 1: Provide for universal access to and completion
of quality primary education for 100 percent of the children by the year
Current trends in primary enrollment rates suggest that
Latin America as a region will fall short.
To be sure, Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, and
Trinidad and Tobago have already reached the 100-percent net primary
enrollment target set for 2010 at the Miami and Santiago Summits, and
many other countries are within striking distance. Net primary
enrollment rates are already over 90 percent in most countries. Only in
Nicaragua and Guatemala are those figures less than 80 percent (see
Nonetheless, several countries still face significant
primary enrollment gaps.
Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Guatemala all have met net
enrollment rates that are below 85 percent, and none will reach 100
percent enrollment by the 2010 Summit deadline if current growth rates
Furthermore, recent projections suggest that those
countries whose rates are among the lowest today (El Salvador, Honduras,
Nicaragua, and Guatemala) will have the largest school-age populations
10 years from now. These countries, therefore, will have to continue
investing significant resources just to keep primary enrollment rates
However, enrollment rates are only part of the goal.
Countries have also committed to reaching 100-percent primary
completion rates by 2010.
Unfortunately, in half the countries for which data
is available, a quarter or more of students who enter primary school do
not even reach the fifth grade (see Table 1). In Guatemala and
Nicaragua, barely half do so.
In most countries, primary education consists of
between six and eight years. With such a high percentage failing to
reach even the fifth grade in so many countries, the region is unlikely
to achieve the summit objective of universal primary completion by 2010.
Goal 2. Provide access for at least 75 percent of
young people to quality secondary education with an increasing
percentage of young people who complete secondary education by 2010.
At the secondary level, gross enrollment rates drop off
sharply. Although secondary rates have risen over the last decade, their
present level — just over 56 percent — is far from the 75
percent target for 2010 set by the Miami and Santiago Summits (see Figure
Moreover, secondary enrollments in the region have
increased by only 6 percentage points in 10 years, compared to
increases of 20 percentage points for Eastern Asia and nearly 11
percentage points for Southern Asia. The countries of Eastern Asia, well
behind Latin America in 1985, had surpassed the region by 1995, with a
secondary enrollment rate of over 61 percent. Only sub-Saharan Africa
grew more slowly than Latin America during this period.
Assuming that secondary enrollments in Latin America
continue to grow at the same slow rate as they have over the past
decade, by 2010 the gross enrollment rate will only reach 66 percent,
well below the 75 percent summit goal. And since gross enrollments
include a large number of overage or repeating students, actual access
to secondary education (that is, net enrollments) will be much lower. A
recent projection by the World Bank based on net enrollments (Figure 3)
estimates that secondary enrollments will have to double between 1998
and 2010 to reach the summit goal.
Secondary enrollments, of course, vary widely by
country. Controlling for overage students, only three countries in
the hemisphere (Canada, the United States, and Cuba) had secondary
enrollments (net rates) in 1995 that met or exceeded the 75 percent goal
set at the Summit (Figure 2).
Cuba, at 82 percent, approaches rates of the more
Only six other countries (Trinidad and Tobago,
Jamaica, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Panama) had rates that exceeded 50
For 8 of the 20 countries reporting data, less than
one-third of secondary-age children were actually enrolled in secondary
schools. The region’s largest country, Brazil, has the lowest
percentage, with a rate of only 19 percent.
As with primary education, the summit goal for
secondary schooling includes not only access but increasing the number
of secondary school graduates in each country. Unfortunately, the
wording does not specify a specific target for secondary completion,
and, even if it did, data on secondary graduation rates over time is
scarce. Nonetheless, it is difficult to believe that with so few
students enrolled in secondary education, countries will see significant
gains in the number of secondary graduates any time soon.
The available statistics do not tell an encouraging
story. Barring an all-out crusade — involving substantial new
investments — the 75 percent net secondary enrollment target is not
going to be reached.
Goals 1 and 2: Quality education.
Goals 1 and 2 target not only higher enrollment and
completion rates, but also better quality education.
All available indicators, however, suggest that the
quality of education is poor.
Using diverse testing and scoring methods, most Latin
American countries report similarly troubling indicators of student
In Argentina, students could answer only 50 percent
of test questions correctly, based on minimum competency levels.7 The
Jamaican Ministry of Education and Culture reports that approximately 45
percent of children in grades 7-9 are reading at two levels or more
below grade level.8 In El Salvador, scores on national achievement tests
averaged 45 percent in mathematics and 48 percent for language.9
Similarly, exams in Brazil and Colombia show student achievement levels
to be much lower than target levels. And, discouragingly, students in
Costa Rica and in Mexico score lower as they advance through the
Likewise, the few times that Latin America has
participated in international tests, its performance has been poor.
Only two Latin American countries — Mexico and
Colombia — participated in the 1995 Third International Mathematics
and Science study (TIMSS), which is the world’s largest
international study of student achievement.
Mexico refused to make its test scores public, and
Colombia finished next-to-last in eighth grade mathematics among the
41 countries that participated.
To be sure, the summit goals neither define quality
of education nor suggest how improvements in quality should be
monitored. The available information suggests that quality is low and
provides no indication that improvement is underway.
Goal 3. Assume responsibility for providing the general
population with opportunities for life-long learning.
It is extremely difficult to assess progress
toward meeting this goal. Neither the heads of state nor the
coordinating group has established an operational definition or
quantitative targets. Relevant data are not generally available and
would need to be gathered on a country-by-country basis.
Overall, current trends in primary and
secondary enrollment rates suggest that Latin America will fall short
of the summit goals of universal primary enrollment and completion and
75 percent secondary enrollment by 2010.
The enrollment gap, according to a recent World
Bank projection, will total some 24 million students.
Achieving the Summit goals will require a significant
change in government policy and considerable financial investment —
especially by those countries with the lowest access figures.
Even so, many countries are unlikely to reach
secondary enrollment targets unless they first improve their low
primary completion rates. And there is no indication that the quality
of education is improving.
- The third point I want to mention: Most Latin American government
are not genuinely interested in working together to improve education
They are not willing to commit publicly and
collectively to doing the most important things.
Their priorities lie elsewhere.
Although many governments are independently
pursuing education reform, there is little indication that they have
given the work of the summit coordinating group high priority.
Ministers have not sought to use the
coordinating group as a resource or as a multi-national mechanism
for promoting national policy reform.
Governments, for the most part, have not
put significant funding into the work of the coordinating group,
waiting instead for international organizations to do so.
There is no sense of direct, high-level
interest regarding activities and results.
This suggests that governments do not assign
high priority to the group’s work and makes it unlikely that the
deliberations will have a significant impact on national policy.
All evidence suggests that, with respect to
education, the formal summit follow-up process has been of
marginal concern to the heads of state.
The result is an emphasis on appearing to
support education reform, but avoiding any commitment to collective
actions that really would lead to reform.
The value-added aspects of summits lie in their
capacity to chart the way forward, support the efforts of national
leaders, and set good goals.
We would like to offer two recommendations aimed at
strengthening the summit process and helping countries make significant
progress toward improving the education of their people:
- Governments should commit to establishing region-wide standards in
mathematics, science and language, and
- Governments should establish a region-wide testing system that can
measure progress toward achieving those standards, and compare
countries with each other.