BY SUSAN SEGAL
he Fall 2010 Americas Quarterly issue is dedicated
to what I believe is Latin America’s greatest challenge, and the key to unlocking our hemisphere’s
full potential: education.
Many of the essays featured in this issue focus on
success stories in Latin America regarding education reform. You will find firsthand accounts of what happens
when parents and teachers work together to give children consistent, quality education. You will also read
poignant examples of how governments around the
hemisphere are working with communities and teachers to meet the needs of such a diverse region.
Latin America has emerged from the global economic
crisis with vitality and global
recognition of the quality of its
economic management. There
is enormous optimism. Most
countries in the region are experiencing strong growth and
an expanding middle class that
is hungry for opportunities and
a better future.
So, what must be done in the
education sector to meet this demand and improve Latin America’s ability to compete with
other emerging regions?
First and foremost, Latin
America must value and respect the teaching profession.
To create first-class teachers
who provide quality education
to students, society and government must give them the tools.
This includes ongoing training, technology and wages
that reflect the importance of the profession.
Second, preschool education must be a priority. Right
now, four out of ten children are not enrolled in preschool in Latin America. This is a disturbing number,
given that early education serves as the foundation for
the child’s future learning experience. Some progress
has been made on this front. There are shining examples
where early childhood education has grown, namely in
Chile with Chile Crece Contigo and the Early Childhood
Educational Policy in Colombia. But these success stories should be the rule, not the exception.
Third, teachers need to be rewarded according to per-
formance measurements based
in a large part on the success
of their students. Tradition-
ally, Latin American unions
have pushed for a model that
rewards teachers based on se-
niority and has little or no re-
lationship to the performance
of their students. This costly
formula must change. Accord-
ing to UNESCO, the cost of re-
peating students in primary
and secondary grades due to
absent or poorly performing
teachers is over $11 billion a
year. Incentives for creative
and innovative teachers who
want to teach and engage chil-
dren in the learning process
must be implemented.
Fourth, while enrolling stu-
Susan Segal is the publisher of
Americas Quarterly and president
and CEO of the Americas Society
and Council of the Americas.