The Inter-American Dialogue’s Education Program aims to improve the quality of learning and skills development across Latin America. We do so by partnering with public and private organizations throughout the hemisphere to promote informed debate on education policy, identify and disseminate best practices, and monitor progress toward improvement. Our cutting-edge analysis of education policy and broad network of policymakers, education experts, business leaders, academics, and journalists have made it the strongest private voice on education in the region.

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How to increase productivity and competitiveness in a complex and changing environment? The new report of the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI), "Higher Education, Productivity and Competitiveness in Ibero-America," seeks to answer this question and offer some recommendations to resolve the existing gaps. We had the opportunity to talk with Mariano Jabonero, Secretary General of the OEI, about the new report and its implications for the Ibero-American region.

Despite significant growth in higher education participation rates in Ibero-America, productivity indicators in the region remain stagnant. To what can we attribute this situation? What are the most important factors to consider?

Beyond the challenges in competitiveness and productivity that Ibero-America faces, we must consider that the global labor market is in a process of continuous transformation due to several mega-trends. In this sense, to increase productivity and competitiveness, Ibero-America needs to complement investment in human capital with greater efforts in areas of innovation, research, and development.

As identified in the recent report of the OEI's Ibero-American Institute for Education and Productivity, "Higher Education, Competitiveness and Productivity in Ibero-America," one of the problems related to low productivity in Ibero-America is the high level of informality in the labor market, which in many countries covers around 50 percent of employees. This implies that if, through public policies, some of the informal employment could be transferred to the formal sector, there would be significant gains in aggregate productivity.

In this regard, one of the key factors for increasing competitiveness and productivity in the region should focus on finding the balance between adoption and development of technology and investment in human capital, through quality education and more pertinent technical and higher education training.

A major challenge mentioned in the report is the gap between supply and demand in certain university degrees. For example, in several Ibero-American countries, almost a third of university graduates have studied business administration and law, while less than five percent of students receive diplomas in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). What role do universities and/or companies have in addressing this imbalance? How can the careers of the future be made more attractive?

Improving student's skills and adapting them to the labor market is clearly in the strategic interest of universities, since this will allow the creation of capabilities that increase the productivity of people, especially taking into account the current technology and existing equipment and machinery.

To respond to the challenges posed by the gaps between supply and demand for skills, the incorporation of competencies in line with the new work environment must occur at all educational stages, including higher education. For positive results, this development should be a two-way process, since companies will also be able to inform universities of labor market demands, producing feedback, and contributing to the constant change of programs.

Various teaching models can help to meet the challenges of the future:

  • Online colleges make education available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

  • Cluster models linking the university with services and facilities from multiple institutions.

  • Liberal arts colleges that personalize the university experience and offer intellectual capacity development over technical or vocational skills.

  • Partnership models linking colleges with external organizations to secure funding and improve employment opportunities for graduates.

  • Experimental institutions that provide different learning experiences outside the classroom, such as internships, projects, and challenges.

As we are advocating from the OEI, all of these recommendations consider higher education as a key public policy to improve productivity, rather than purely an academic issue.

We are all living through historic times with the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic and educational impacts it has produced, which will surely continue even after the immediate health crisis is resolved. At the same time, it seems that there is a real opportunity for us not to return to the “normal” of before. What opportunities exist to rethink higher education and productivity in Ibero-America? What sectors or skills are even more essential in this new reality?

The impact of Covid-19 is a clear example of a phenomenon that will involve a reinvention process for many workers, and the workers who have a greater ability to move from the hardest-hit sectors to new activities will be the ones who can make the most effective transition across the labor market. This situation highlights the benefits of possessing cross-cutting skills that are reusable and not limited to a particular profession.

In this sense, the pandemic presents a massive challenge, which is why there must be a commitment to an increase in quality education, complemented by greater public-private collaborations to create the conditions for increased productivity and competitiveness, and by taking advantage of new technologies.

Various research studies, such as the one presented by the OEI Institute, show that Ibero-America is not adequately prepared for the digital revolution because it lacks professionals with advanced digital knowledge and skills. This once again highlights the importance of cross-cutting skills, which unlike disciplinary knowledge, are not specifically related to a job, a task, a sector, an occupation, or an academic discipline, but can be used in different situations and work scenarios.

It will probably be very difficult to solve the productivity problem without addressing the issue of inequality, both in higher education participation rates and in the jobs graduates obtain and the salaries they earn. What can be done not only to close the gap in access to higher education but also to guarantee relevant education and the acquisition of cross-cutting skills for students, especially those from vulnerable sectors?

Despite the fact that higher education indicators in the region have shown a positive trend, the focus should be placed on the relevance of study programs and the ability of institutions to respond to the challenges of skill training required by the labor market. As I already mentioned, to increase productivity and competitiveness, Ibero-America needs to complement investment in human capital with greater efforts in the areas of innovation, research, and development.

The gap between the supply and demand of skills requires greater coordination between universities and companies, but the public sector also plays a fundamental role since it can provide incentives, information, and resources to facilitate this coordination. Because of this, it becomes essential to add skills in line with the demands of the labor market and work environments at all stages of education, including higher education.

A key recommendation of the report is to strengthen the communication between tertiary education institutions, governments, and the private sector for "the alignment of objectives and the design, implementation and evaluation of higher education policy" (p. 51). Some encouraging examples of this type of coordination are provided, such as Chile's Council of Mining Competencies. Why have these initiatives been successful and not others? Are there certain contextual characteristics that facilitate collaboration? What lessons can be drawn from these experiences?

Multilateral and national institutions in the region are increasingly aware of the challenge that aligning skills represents. Because of this, they have promoted initiatives that delve into research on professional skill sets and the labor market. These organizations are devoting resources exclusively to studying and generating proposals on this topic.

Created in 2012 as an initiative of the Chilean Mining Council, the Mining Skills Council of Chile is a specialized group that aims to "as an industry, provide information, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, that allows the training offered to technicians and professionals to be adapted to the demands of the mining labor market". Specifically, the Mining Skills Council of Chile carried out a sector-wide approach through a model of cross-cutting skills for the mining industry 4.0, with the participation of companies across the country. The main mining companies, trade associations, state institutions, and suppliers have collaborated in this process, an important aspect to take into account when seeking greater replicability of this kind of initiatives in the future.


Higher Education, Productivity and Competitiveness in Ibero-America

Dual Education in Latin America: Challenges and Opportunities

Covid-19 in the Americas: The Dialogue’s Coronavirus Updates

[post_title] => Higher Education, Productivity and Competitiveness in Ibero-America - An Interview with Mariano Jabonero [post_excerpt] => How to increase productivity and competitiveness in a complex and changing environment? Mariano Jabonero, Secretary General of the OEI, presents the findings of their latest report "Higher Education, Productivity and Competitiveness in Ibero-America" and answers our questions. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => higher-education-productivity-and-competitiveness-mariano-jabonero [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-10-28 12:52:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-10-28 12:52:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 101400 [post_author] => 66 [post_date] => 2020-10-14 19:28:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-14 19:28:14 [post_content] =>

Ensuring the quality of early education is critical for laying the foundation for the learning and development of all children in the region. The Regional Agenda for Integrated Early Childhood Development prioritizes the goal of achieving quality in early education. The second agreement of this Agenda calls on all countries to “strengthen efforts to achieve high-quality, relevant, timely, and comprehensive services targeted to reaching children in early childhood in the environments in which their lives unfold” and identifies the need to establish "quality assurance systems for governmental and non-governmental services for this population based on the expected holistic development of children.”

With the participation of Ministry and early education agencies representatives, experts and members of civil society and cooperation organizations, the Regional Forum on Quality in Early Education met virtually from May to July 2020 to agree upon common strategies and recommendations for attaining the objective of quality in early childhood education, as called for in the Regional Agenda.

Eight recommendations emerged from an intense process of dialogue and analysis of the experiences of the different countries in the region and the best available evidence. These recommendations are targeted not only to governments but also to the diverse actors involved at the national, local and regional levels in the creation and implementation of policies and programs for child development.

The Forum called on all the countries of the region to make sure there is a permanent participatory space with joint responsibility for setting and implementing an Agenda for Quality Early Childhood Education. This Agenda should consider a broad and relevant vision for quality in young children’s education, taking stock of the relationship between learning and holistic development, with emphasis on both structural and process quality.

In order to create such a vision for quality, countries can build upon a series of non-negotiables of Early Childhood Education (ECE) identified during the Forum. These non-negotiables include recognizing early childhood as a life stage with its own identity; guaranteeing relationships of care, love and protection in the educational space; and recognizing the critical role of learning through play to promote children’s holistic development.

Making this vision a reality will require the development of quality assurance systems, including a governance structure or an intersectoral collective body entrusted with quality assurance whose principal functions include designing quality standards for the provision of services that make it possible to guarantee equal learning opportunities that promote the holistic development of all children.

Quality assurance also demands that countries in the region develop mechanisms to institutionalize the measurement of the quality of early childhood education services. They need to develop a competency framework for those who work with children in early childhood, promoting a continuous and flexible system for training – both pre-service and in-service – and for certification of competencies that strengthens performance.

The Forum also considered it necessary to strengthen the systems and mechanisms for intersectoral work in each sector to promote and strengthen their shared responsibility for child development. Countries also need to generate and promote processes of social, cultural, and political mobilization in the various countries aimed at recognizing and dignifying the role of educators and caregivers who work with young children.

Finally, the Forum called on international organizations, governments in the region, academics, and civil society members to create a space for regional coordination and dialogue to help share knowledge and adopt frames of reference that inform public policies in the countries with the aim of ensuring quality services and reducing inequalities in early childhood.

We are excited about the progress made so far and for the journey ahead. Our organizations are committed to supporting this regional space, as well as the coalitions in favor of quality in early childhood education in each of the countries of the region.

ONLINE EVENT: Towards Quality Early Childhood Education – Results of the Regional Forum

On Wednesday, October 7, 2020 the Dialogue convened a webinar alongside the LEGO Foundation and Centro de Estudios Primera Infancia (CEPI) to present the Declaration of the Regional Forum: Towards Quality Early Childhood Education. This virtual panel featured Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, Sarah Bouchie, vicepresident-head of Global Programs at LEGO Foundation, Ana María Nieto, early childhood specialist at LEGO Foundation, Jaime Saavedra, global director of education at the World Bank and Ariel Fiszbein, director of the education program at Inter-American Dialogue. 

Watch the recording of the webinar HERE:  

[embed width="768" height="432"][/embed]


Presentation by Jaime Saavedra, Global Director of Education, World Bank 

Presentation by Ariel Fiszbein and Ana María Nieto on the elements of Declaration

Declaration of the Regional Forum: Towards Quality Early Childhood Education

Second Regional Agenda Agreement 

[post_title] => Towards the Implementation of Quality Services in Latin America and the Caribbean [post_excerpt] => In this blog, we present the core elements necessary to implement the Declaration of the Regional Forum: Towards Quality Early Childhood Education in the region. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => implementation-quality-services [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-10-14 19:28:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-10-14 19:28:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97761 [post_author] => 66 [post_date] => 2020-07-07 18:31:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-07-07 18:31:54 [post_content] =>

In early March, Latin America was forced to close public spaces due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most countries shut down borders and asked their inhabitants to work from home, prompting a wave of remote work. Additionally, schools had to close their doors and begin the transition to distance learning. This situation revealed greater connectivity deficiencies than expected in many countries in the region. The challenge of staying connected during a pandemic disproportionately affects populations with limited financial resources and those in remote areas.

Since then, there has been a great effort by both the public and private sectors to alleviate the obstacles presented by distance learning and remote work. Telecommunications companies have played a key role in expanding access to connectivity and digital educational resources. New initiatives to address these challenges have been implemented throughout Latin America. Some telephone companies have improved the quality of their services at no additional cost to their customers and others have formed partnerships with the region's ministries of education to launch platforms that do not require a stable internet connection. Below, we present some of the responses implemented by telecommunication companies in the region to address connectivity problems in order to support all household needs whether they be educational or work-related.

Several telecommunications companies have strategically adapted their services to reduce costs or offer access to educational resources. Many, including Claro, Movistar, AT&T, DirecTV, Tigo y Antel, have sought to adapt their services to the needs generated by the crisis. In Colombia, both the public and private sectors have continually strived to provide a network of educational services that are accessible even to students with limited resources. In this particular case, certain educational platforms such as Colombia Aprende can be accessed without internet connection. Alongside these efforts, at the outset of the pandemic, Claro foresaw a spike in the use of its services that in turn would slow down connectivity. Therefore, the company announced that its prepaid and postpaid customers would have access to more data and minutes in all available packages automatically and for free. Although these services were only proposed for a limited time, as the pandemic continues to develop, they have continued to remain in place. For example, with respect to home services, Claro has increased the speed of internet connection by 50 percent to facilitate work and academic activities.

Today, Claro continues to offer high-speed services thanks to its investments in higher frequency bands such as the 2.5 GHz band, to increase the speed and downloadability of its mobile internet at no additional cost. Strengthening telecommunications and connectivity services has been crucial in enabling different users to participate in simultaneous video calls from the same home, particularly in the case of caregivers who must telework while their children attend online classes.

Another company that has stood out for its services during the pandemic is Movistar. In Chile, the company increased fiber-optic speed and home services up to 100 percent, reducing consumption restrictions to support telework and school work dynamics. Movistar also changed their data policy on social networks like Whatsapp and Twitter, so that students and teachers who do not have access to alternative communication platforms can interact without depleting their mobile data plan. This is extremely beneficial since recent surveys show that teachers in the region use social media networks like WhatsApp as a primary means of communication with their students. Many governments in the region also use WhatsApp to distribute educational guides and resources to teachers.

While many companies are focusing their efforts on increasing coverage or broad band speed, other companies like Movistar, A&T, DirecTV, and Tigo have expanded their educational services as well. Movistar has launched free learning platforms such as STEMbyme, ProFuturo, and #ConectaEmpleo. AT&T has offered access to the platform Escuela Plus alongside DirecTV which also has expanded their educational channel selections for cable plans that originally did not have access to Disney, National Geographic, Discovery, Torneos y Takeoff Media. DirecTV’s initiative has been implemented in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru y Uruguay. In addition, the company Tigo has focused its efforts on training teachers on the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) so that they can better utilize the platforms available to them through the initiative Conéctate Segur@.

In Uruguay where there was already a high connectivity rate, the state-owned company Antel developed a massive outreach strategy to respond to the needs during the pandemic. The company first gave away a five-gigabyte bonus at the beginning of the shutdown so that people could "access the distance learning programs that are being implemented." Its various initiatives include the Plan Universal Hogares and the Ibirapitá Plan with 50 gigabytes each. Antel also has gone a step further and is providing 40 gigabytes per month free of charge during the months of May, June, and July to all teachers affiliated with the ANEP teacher plan in order to support the development of teleducation. Apart from ensuring that Uruguayans are connected to the internet, Antel, along with the Bank of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay (BROU), facilitated the delivery of emergency food baskets through their mobile application. In the first week of operation, more than 30,000 beneficiaries were able to receive food and other critical resources from the Ministry of Social Development. Thanks to the collaboration between Antel and the Ministry of Social Development, it was possible to manage these services completely remotely.

Collaborations between ministries and telephone companies have been crucial to closing the connectivity gap during the pandemic. Like the collaboration between Antel and the Ministry of Social Development, telecommunications companies across the region have expanded their work to facilitate the services governments want to provide. In Argentina, for example, the Ministry of Education, along with the president of the National Communications Agency (ENACOM), announced that the three mobile phone companies Movistar, Claro and Personal will allow free access to the educational platforms and virtual classrooms at more than 57 national universities. This agreement allows for the democratization of access to resources and classes that in-person students have previously not had access to at home. In addition to releasing data from these websites, the distance learning platform, Seguimos Educando, was launched to access a free collection of virtual educational materials and resources organized by subject and grade.

The Chilean platform AprendoEnLínea, which provides educational resources for all grades, offers free access thanks to mobile phone companies, Entel, Claro, GTD, Movistar, and VTR, grouped into the Mobile Telephone Association (ATELMO). Similarly in the Dominican Republic, Claro signed an agreement with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology (MESCYT), the Dominican Association of Universities (ADOU) and the Dominican Association of University Rectors (ADRU) to offer fixed and mobile internet plans at special prices to more than 600,000 students and 30,000 teachers from 51 universities. This initiative accompanies efforts already in place in the Dominican Republic, where there are more than 1,000 free WiFi hotspots distributed throughout the country.

Public and private sector joint initiatives in Latin America demonstrate the importance and impact of collaborations between the two sectors to achieve quality virtual education. Technology can be a transformative tool that expands the opportunities for all children in the region, but only if it is accompanied by universal access to electricity and the internet. Many of the measures implemented to confront this crisis are temporary, but it is important that telecommunications companies continue to provide additional supportive services until educational establishments reopen in person; otherwise, continuity of education will be impaired. As connectivity remains a limiting factor for vulnerable students, governments and businesses have a duty to work collaboratively to remove this barrier. A family should not have to choose between prioritizing their children's online education and teleworking. Just like a teacher should be able to access the resources they need to teach without having to pay a burdensome fee. The pandemic has accelerated innovation in online education, but to further promote the progress of these tools in the future it is imperative to enhance public-private partnerships to close the connectivity gap.



Covid-19 in the Americas: The Dialogue’s Coronavirus Updates

How to protect education outcomes in the face of the Covid-19 crisis?

What About the Students?: The Educational Response to Covid-19

[post_title] => Connectivity Challenges during Covid-19: Telecommunication Strategies [post_excerpt] => This blog details some of the responses implemented by telecommunication companies in the region to address connectivity problems in order to ensure students can continue their online education. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => connectivity-challenges [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-07-17 12:35:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-07-17 12:35:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
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