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On Friday, April 29, PREAL Co-director, Jeff Puryear, and President of the Inter-American Dialogue, Michael Shifter, hosted a public event at the Dialogue office in Washington entitled “Confronting Latin America’s Education Challenges.” The event featured Cecilia Vélez, former Minister of Education in Colombia and current visiting professor at Harvard University, and Sergio Bitar, former Minister of Education of Chile and visiting senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue.
The participants discussed their experiences in the Education Ministry, highlighting the difficulty of balancing immediate political pressures with long-term goals. Bitar said the job requires “a vision and persistence.” They also discussed the challenges facing the education systems of Latin American, agreeing on the importance of qualified, well-trained teachers.
Vélez said working to expand early childhood programs is essential to education success. She advocated for better access to these programs by the poorest families, the need to build bridges between high schools and universities and the importance of school-based strategies rather than broad over-arching policies. Bitar highlighted the need for a clear and focused education policy, remarking that “if you have more than three priorities, you have none.”