HEMISPHERIC MEETING OF MINISTERS OF EDUCATION IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE II SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
Mérida, Mexico, February 26-27,1998
Education is the determining factor to reach social, cultural, political and economic development. It is the key element that allows the exercise of civil rights at the same time it ensures optimal conditions of competitiveness and productivity that modern economies require.
At the end of this century the fulfillment of these objectives is being strengthened by historic evolution. Today, a strong movement leads us towards continental integration. With clarity and determination our governments have taken important steps to make the integration of the countries at the continent effective and harmonious.
The Miami summit has drawn the priority lines along which integration movement has developed in a sure and effective way. Follow up mechanisms, time frames and goals have been established.
Economic and commercial aspects have stood out in the midst of the succession of transformations that tend to shape a new integrated area in which future generations will live. However, at an important and deeper level, for the objectives of a just and equitable, social and economic development, a broader educational cooperation and articulation are highlighted as the goal.
We wish to underline the central character of education to reach similar levels of economic and social progress in the continent and as a guarantee of a genuine integration. People can become closer in this new area through links of mutual knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the cultural and ethnic diversity of our countries.
Education based on equity, quality, relevance and efficiency is a necessary condition so that a hemispheric zone of free trade and integration will offer a better quality of life for all the inhabitants of the hemisphere.
This concurrence between education and free trade should be linked to the establishment of democracy and sustainable development in its three economic, social and environmental streams, governed by ethics of development.
THE MINISTERS OF EDUCATION OF THE HEMISPHERE, GATHERED IN MEXICO, ARE PLEASED THAT EDUCATION IS THE DRIVING FORCE OF THE ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED AT THE SECOND SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS, AND WE ARE CONVINCED THAT:
The true wealth of the countries lies essentially in the qualities of their women and men. Therefore it is they who enhance the possibilities for sustainable development, with respect for the environment.
Education is the ideal means for men and women to learn to know, in an understanding and participatory way, about, working for, and living in peace throughout their lives and, thus, acquire the capacity to improve and raise their quality of life.
The accelerated scientific and technological development and increasing globalization of political, economic, social and cultural processes raise new challenges for education. Therefore, we must continuously raise the quality of education we provide to all.
Our countries, today, are not only geographically linked, but also integrate a community of aspirations that seeks to build a hemisphere in which respect for law and democracy is reinforced; fairer relations to facilitate the eradication of poverty and discrimination; continuous economic progress without environmental deterioration; as well as freer and more equitable exchange of goods and services.
Education is a strategic element to improve quality of life, facilitate the exercise of civil rights, guarantee the preservation of the environment, ensure conditions of competitiveness and productivity for the economy and foster a culture of living together in harmony among our nations, recognizing the pluricultural, multiethnic and multilinguistic character of our continent stemming from its great cultural heritage.
Education is the responsibility of educational institutions and, fundamentally, all of society, because education is also provided within the family, in the groups to which they belong, in their communities and through communications media.
Our community of aspirations requires a more intense cooperation between our countries to foster equity, quality and relevance in educational systems.
THEREFORE, THE MINISTERS OF EDUCATION OF THE HEMISPHERE, IN AGREEMENT WITH THE ACTION PLAN SUBMITTED TO THE CONSIDERATION OF THE HEADS OF STATE AND OF GOVERNMENT OF THE II SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS, PROPOSE TO:
Reduce, constantly, illiteracy of the population over 15 years of age.
Promote the extension of educational services prior to primary education.
Strengthen all levels and modalities of education, granting a priority to the basic level until it becomes universal. As a goal for the year 2010, 100 percent coverage of children should complete their primary education and at least 75 percent of youth should attend secondary education. Higher education and scientific and technological education should also be expanded. Training in and for work of adults and youth should also be encouraged, so that margination does not hinder neither the improvement of our democracies, nor economic productivity, nor put social stability at risk.
Promote increased and sustained investment in educational matters and ensure that it be sufficient at all times, to meet the established goals and purposes of this declaration. The importance of education makes it necessary to join the efforts of national and regional governments, of the communities, of individuals and of multilateral organizations. Countries of lesser economies and more adverse socioeconomic conditions shall deserve special attention to aid them in reinforcing educational systems to fully participate in regional cooperative projects.
Take care, on a priority basis, of the most vulnerable groups to ensure their equal access to educational opportunities and establish conditions to allow the optimal use of them so that the vicious cycle of poverty and ignorance is broken.
Improve the quality of education in a way that offers each person an ethical formation for democracy, stemming from a clear conception of human dignity and having as its goal the well being of all; it should guarantee an intelligent, responsible and critical performance that furnishes flexible skills when a person is faced with the technological transformations in the labor market and prepares individuals sufficiently to contribute to scientific and technological innovation in the hemisphere.
Make education adequate for the diverse characteristics of the different ethnic and cultural groups of our nations, making it more relevant to their needs and aspirations. Thus, education will contribute in reality to promote tolerance and respect for the different ways of living.
Promote a larger co-responsibility of society in education by promoting their more active participation.
Generate the conditions for making feasible the intense use of the new information and communication technologies to better increase the coverage of educational services, increase their quality and adequately respond to the needs of the different social groups through lifelong learning.
Establish during the coming years, a step by step process of incorporating computer skills and other distance technologies into the schools seeking the widespread use of computer labs. At least 25 percent of students should have access to computer networks and e-mail by the year 2005. By the year 2010 it is hoped that 50% of students have access to this technology.
Request and obtain the co-responsibility of mass communication means to strengthen the respect and development of universal values, that are essential for living side by side, such as the search for peace, truth, justice, tolerance and solidarity.
Use means of dialogue and cooperation offered by organizations such as OAS, in order to promote the fulfillment of objectives in matters of education as defined by the action plan. Support for educational programs such as those granted by UNESCO and UNICEF is also welcome, as well as those of other multilateral cooperation organizations operating in the region.
THUS, THE MINISTERS OF EDUCATION OF THE CONTINENT, ARE COMMITTED TO SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE THE RATES OF SCHOOL DROPOUT AND FAILURE BY THE YEAR 2010, TO EXTEND COVERAGE AND IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION IN THE HEMISPHERE. TO THIS END, WE SHALL PROMOTE THE FOLLOWING INITIATIVES:
To build and strengthen a hemispheric program of education, health and nutrition focused on boys and girls in vulnerable conditions.
To develop national or subnational programs, as appropriate, that ensure that no minor is left out of primary educational services, improving the condition of boys and girls in specially difficult circumstances, such as street children, working minors, migrants, disabled minors and indigenous children.
To establish curricular programs to ensure that all children who complete primary schooling, master reading and writing, comprehension of texts and basic calculations, and acquire the basis of scientific knowledge and do so under educational processes that seek the full development of human beings, awareness of responsibility, regard for justice and development of democratic values
To promote exchange programs and reciprocal cooperation among the countries of the hemisphere, by means of scholarships, technical assistance programs and exchange of students, teachers, researchers and education managers, among others.
To establish national or regional quality standards for education and strategies for evaluating the performance of different educational agents, in accordance with said standards.
To establish a system of common indicators that allows comparisons on a hemispheric level.
To ensure that, at the latest by the year 2000, all teachers have systematic and permanent opportunities for education, training and updating, as indispensable means for improving the quality of education. Virtual and real regional centers will be established for distance education, in order to train and update educational agents, using the existing infrastructure of the region, as well as the production of audio visual and information materials.
To stimulate the introduction of new information and communication technologies applied to educational processes.
To promote a hemispheric program, using all available means to strengthen the awareness of the population of the importance of studying and completing basic education as a responsibility of society and governments.
We urge the international financing organizations operating in the region, such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, that facing the next summit of presidents, to undertake a coordinated effort aimed at having additional projects of hemispheric cooperation to respond to the priorities herein stated, by committing specific funds to finance these initiatives.