The Year 2013 Beyond PISA

During 2013, the Latin American education has been more than results on the PISA tests. Although, it is true: these are so strong and place us in such a distant place winner’s podium hiding some facts that deserve greater regional coverage than they have had. The range of new features is extensive and comprises a range from new regulations on teaching work to massive supply of material resources.

In Mexico, for example, three ambitious standards were enacted: Professional Service Law Teachers, General Education Law and the National Institute for Educational Evaluation Law.

Similarly, regarding teachers, in Peru the Magisterial Reform Law was regulated. Moreover, in Guatemala it was possible to ensure that students who aspire to be teachers of primary education, may pursue their studies at the state university for free (this country was one of the few in Latin America that still retained the initial teacher education at the secondary level).

The curricular area was no stranger to change. In Costa Rica there are new curricula in Language, Mathematics and Early Childhood Education. And in Colombia, a law created the National System of School Coexistence and Training for Human Exercise, Sexual and Reproductive Rights and the Prevention and Mitigation of Violence.

At the same time, in the Dominican Republic the educational structure was modified. Now, the primary and secondary levels last six years each divided in two cycles of three years. Meanwhile, in Chile a law was approved that makes kindergarten mandatory (grades 5 to 6 years).

Also, in Chile, one of the three axes of structural reforms proposed by the president-elect has been the education. This shows, once again, that it is no longer just the decision of a Minister of Education to undertake certain reforms: it requires the active involvement of the highest level of the executive branch.

Brazil was not immune to this trend and its president has sought legislation assigning 75% of oil royalties to education (other cases of presidential leadership and commitment in recent years were in Mexico and, a little earlier, Ecuador).

In terms of resources, Uruguay and Argentina were also in the news. This year, Uruguay, gave the netbook million under the Plan Ceibal. Whereas Argentina, in the context of a school construction program that started ten years ago, the school number 1,600 was inaugurated. The more than ambitious aim back then was to reach 700 building.

These are not the only countries and actions of the year. Certainly, they are not enough to reverse, much less, the disappointing performance we had in PISA. However, despite the absence of a common pattern, nor a comprehensive or systemic reform, nor a presence in all the countries in the region, they standout for addressing some of the required changes. Furthermore, the fact that no other country has taken action in 2013 does not mean that some education systems that were not mentioned would not have embarked on similar challenges in recent periods.

So perhaps due to the optimism that often brings this time of year, and any against logical discouragement that the low learning achievements produced, we chose to believe that if they deepen, strengthen and consolidate these (and other) policy actions, in a few years, we can include the positive facts to review not only resources and processes, but also the results derived thereof.

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