Q&A with the Director of UNESCO's Bureau for Education in Latin America & Caribbean


Meet Claudia Uribe Salazar, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC) based in Santiago de Chile, following her participation at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) 2019 she answered three questions on Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) and UNESCO’s role and expertise in the region.

How have the last four years been for education in the Latin America and the Caribbean region since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

Since the approval of the 2030 Agenda, we have convened two ministerial meetings, one in Buenos Aires in 2017 and the second in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2018. In these meetings, Ministers of education of Latin America and the Caribbean have defined their priorities for advancing education in the region, which are improving and rethinking quality education from a LAC perspective, furthering equity and inclusion, improving capacities and conditions of teachers and other education workers and expanding lifelong learning.

OREALC convenes and coordinates the Regional Steering Committee on SDG-Education 2030 and its working groups and defines work plans around the topics prioritized for the region.  We have held several meetings of the regional committee, as well as a meeting of partners and international organisations to discuss and better align agendas; the last one was in Panamá mid-April.

One of our main tasks is monitoring and reporting on progress, together with the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, we are working with ministries of Education in the definition and reporting of indicators associated with SDG4 goals that feed into the regional progress reports. We are currently  carrying out, with the Latin American Laboratory for Quality Education, the fourth regional student assessment study with the participation of all Spanish speaking countries (except Venezuela) and Brazil - measuring student achievement in math, language, science and socio emotional skills of third and sixth graders, accompanied by a survey for teachers, parents and students. This multi-country study, which also analyzes curriculum, promotes a region wide discussion on what students in the region are and should be learning. The results of this study will be ready in 2020.

We see the Latin American and Caribbean region making progress towards meeting many of the goals set by Education 2030. However, we also see big challenges ahead for the region derived from changing demographics and human mobility, climate change and disasters triggered by natural hazards, and economic and political instability, which require our redoubled efforts to reinforce mechanisms for countries to cooperate and work together.

What are some of the key levers and issues to promoting SDG4 in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Latin America is living through a major humanitarian crisis derived from the displacement and migration of thousands of people, which in the last 3 to 5 years involves most countries in the region as either origin, transit or destination. The most severe case being that of Venezuela.

The political, socio-economic and human rights situation in Venezuela has led millions to migrate to neighboring countries and elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to estimates by governments in the region, the number of Venezuelans who have left their country increased from 700,000 in 2015 to over 3.5 million in 2019.

We have drafted with partners a regional migration strategy on the right to education of migrants, asylum seekers and returnees as a complement to the major humanitarian response being provided by other agencies, civil society organizations and partners. The strategy proposes three main lines of action: support to member states with better data and planning in emergency contexts; support to ministries of education in developing curriculums and practices for enhancing inclusion and preventing xenophobia and recognition of qualifications, skills and prior knowledge.

What are the main challenges “to ensure inclusive and quality education and promote lifelong learning for all” in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Latin America and the Caribbean countries are currently living a period of strong political uncertainty and policy shifts. As a region, we are seeing the rise of new nationalisms both from left and right winged ideologies. The region is split into political blocks that are putting at risk intergovernmental mechanisms that in the past eased inter-country collaboration and multilateral aid.

This is particularly worrisome at a time when we are also living through natural and human caused disasters that pose significant risks to life, as we know it. The work of international agencies that can maintain neutrality in these uncertain times, such as UNESCO, keeps a door open for dialogue and cooperation among countries that have otherwise broken relations. In education, the regional coordination mechanism has managed to sit countries such as Venezuela and Colombia at the same table to discuss challenges and opportunities to address the current situation.


Read more Q&As with 

The Director of Division for Education 2030 Support and Coordination​ at UNESCO
The Director of the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning