The beginning of a new year always brings an opportunity to analyze what we have achieved so far and set our eyes on the future. In education, this could not be more true: 2016 ended with the publication of the results from the PISA 2015 assessments, a reminder of the urgency with which education systems in the region must accelerate the efforts to improve the quality of learning. Now, our agenda in 2017 starts with a look towards the future and a time to reflect and ask ourselves: what are the goals that guide the efforts of the region in education?
This question has been precisely at the center of an ambitious work agenda that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have set through global conversations around United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 4. The latter places education as an essential means to eradicate poverty and promote economic development, but also as an element crucial for preparing citizens capable of building a more just and equitable society.
In more practical terms, this agenda lays out a series of goals to be accomplished by the year 2030 around critical areas of work: improving planning and financing processes, strengthening of early childhood care and education programs, support for teachers and the acquisition of skills for lifelong learning and active participation in society.
Intertwined in their objectives, these goals have an emphasis on the need to plant in children and youth an awareness of the importance of concepts such as human rights, social justice, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity, respect for the environment and accountability and shared responsibility. All of these are essential to ensure that everyone can reach their highest potential.
In this context of rethinking the education of the future, the Ministers of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean – joined by a diversity of other actors committed to this agenda – meet this week in Buenos Aires as part of an event titled “E2030: Education and skills for the 21st century”. This important event provides an ideal setting to truly shape the efforts that the region can, and should, make to continue advancing toward the 2030 goals.
In 2017, Latin America and the Caribbean have a golden opportunity to take global leadership and advance in providing an education that goes beyond the cognitive skills students need to succeed in the 21st century. Stepping up to the challenge of educating for peace and tolerance in a region that demands these values becomes a priority if our societies are to truly develop. Hence, it is precisely through meetings like the ones going on in Buenos Aires that declarations, goals, and good will transcend written paper and become road maps which civil society can own and support.
Similarly, an event like this provides spaces to share best practices that come from across the region. We must identify and guarantee the continuity of public policies that strengthen the development of better teachers, assure quality in learning and bridge the gap between the education system and the labor market.
2030 might seem far, but it is closer than we think. Let us make of these goals our common objective and support countries in the region in their efforts to live up to their commitments. Future generations will thank us.