Implementing the Education Agreements of
the Santiago Summit
Jeffrey M. Puryear – PREAL
OAS – 7 November 2000
I. I want to make three main points
regarding the education recommendations of the Santiago
- The education recommendations of the Miami and
Santiago summit were weak.
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 actions:
1. Implement targeted and inter-sectoral
policies and develop programs that focus on groups at a
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 involvement.
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 teaching materials.
10. Seek to use technology to link
schools and communities as a way of establishing ties in
11. Further scholarship and exchange
programs for students, researchers, teachers, and
The three summit goals established in
Miami and reaffirmed in Santiago plus the 11 recommended
actions approved at the Brasilia meeting
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
Their sheer number makes it hard
to keep track of whether countries are meeting their
By spreading their efforts so thinly,
the ministers made the implementation process more
difficult and less likely to bear fruit.
But at the same time, the summit goals
and recommended actions do not go far enough.
This problem has at least three
First, few target the most
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 measured.
The 11 recommended actions approved in
Brasilia are somewhat better in this regard,
mentioning evaluation, standards, and decentralization.
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
They urge "special
attention" to education standards but fail
to say that all countries should establish them.
And key changes — for
example, in government spending — are not
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 progress.
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 in
The summit, after all, is a
collective exercise, and countries can sometimes
do things together that they could not or would not
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
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
such as reaching specified levels
of student achievement, spending targets, or equity
measures, that might be energized if backed by a
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
2. The second point: Most LAC countries
will not meet the education goals set in Miami and
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 2010.
Current trends in primary enrollment
rates suggest that Latin America as a region will fall
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 Figure 1).
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 continue.
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 from declining.
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
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 2).
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 developed regions.
Only six other countries (Trinidad and
Tobago, Jamaica, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Panama) had
rates that exceeded 50 percent.
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
Goals 1 and 2: Quality education.
Goals 1 and 2 target not only higher
enrollment and completion rates, but also better quality
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 achievement.
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 system.10
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
Mexico refused to make its test
scores public, and Colombia finished next-to-last in
eighth grade mathematics among the 41 countries that
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
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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.