The meeting will bring together the region’s education ministers at ECLAC’s headquarters in Santiago and will have an impact on 33 countries with approximately 125 million students, who 6.9 million teachers serve. The event aims to advance in the definition of public policies aimed at the reactivation, recovery, and transformation of education as accelerators of the education goals of the 2030 Agenda.

On 25 and 26 January 2024, the extraordinary meeting of Ministers of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean, “Education Ministerial: Santiago 2024”, will be held in Santiago de Chile, with the final objective of proposing an agenda of concrete actions from a political and technical perspective, to overcome the post-pandemic education crisis.

The event is convened by UNESCO and the Chilean Ministry of Education and co-organised by the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAF), the World Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and UNICEF. The event will address and exchange experiences of public policies to advance in the reactivation, recovery and transformation of education as accelerators of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), and the financing of education as an enabling condition.

The meeting is part of the follow-up to the United Nations Education Transformation Summit, which established efforts to overcome the education crisis resulting from COVID-19 and reimagine the education systems of the future. The Summit also renewed the global commitment to education as a public good by mobilising action, ambition and solidarity in search of solutions within the framework of existing commitments.

The Ministers of Education of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay, among others, have already confirmed their attendance at the event, and will participate in the activities, discussions and bilateral meetings that will be coordinated in advance.

Educational debts

This meeting of education ministers, to which financial authorities and experts have also been invited, is taking place in a context in which, according to international evidence, we are experiencing the greatest education crisis in the last 100 years. The impact of the pandemic has been particularly severe in Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the most unequal regions in the world, affecting more than 170 million students across the region, who have lost, on average, 1.5 years of schooling.

At the same time, the data reveal the historical debts of education systems to guarantee inclusive, equitable and quality education for all students: there are 4.3 million children of primary and lower secondary school age who remain out of school, which constitutes a core of exclusion that has not been remedied despite the efforts of the different countries in the region.

Claudia Uribe, Director of UNESCO’s Regional Office in Santiago, points out that “efforts must be redoubled so that educational recovery and transformation are at the centre of the political and social agenda. This requires actionable and well-targeted plans that are accompanied by sufficient resources. Nothing less than the future of a generation depends on it”.

Minister Nicolás Cataldo also pointed out that “at the meeting we will exchange experiences of education policies and their financing in order to make progress in the reactivation, recovery and transformation of education, and thus face the enormous challenges facing our region after the impact of emergencies and prolonged crises such as the pandemic. The ultimate goal is that as States we manage to find formulas to implement actions that allow us to eliminate the gaps and guarantee quality education”.

This meeting is particularly relevant because it will have an impact on 33 ministries of education that serve the needs of approximately 125 million students and 6.9 million teachers. The meeting will also allow progress to be made in defining public policies aimed at fundamental learning. This is especially important considering that, according to the latest PISA 2022 test results, three out of four students in the region do not reach the minimum competencies in Mathematics and more than half do not have basic skills in Reading and Science.

Chile, the host country of this ministerial, will lead with Brazil the High Level Steering Committee of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) for the 2024-2025 biennium.