Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research

Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research

Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research Dante J Salto, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY, USA;...

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Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research Dante J Salto, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY, USA; and Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina Ó 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This article is a revision of the previous edition article by D. Post, volume 12, pp. 8395–8399, Ó 2001, Elsevier Ltd.

Abstract The reality of educational systems and research in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) depicts a complex, heterogeneous panorama that includes great disparities across the region and within each country. LAC education greatly differentiates by support from government measured by investment in education, coverage through enrollments, and quality through regional and international tests. When considered these indicators, LAC locates in the mid tier of developing regions in the world. Educational research follows similar patterns. Research quality varies greatly but there are notable improvements, as well as increased production. A handful of countries dominate the scene in production of research in education.

Introduction to Latin American Educational Systems LAC Educational Systems: Between Complexity and Heterogeneity Educational systems in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have a longstanding tradition going back to the formation of their nation-states. Education became a default feature of nation-states in LAC, incorporated in their constitutions after independence. In this phase, most educational institutions were public and conceived of as part of the civil service, teachers and principals being public servants and curricular content being determined top-down hierarchically (Schwartzman and Cox, 2010). Although it is possible to refer to common features of LAC educational systems, the reality depicts a complex, heterogeneous panorama that includes great disparities within the region and within each country measured against most social, economic, and development indicators, including educational measures. LAC education greatly differentiates in support from government measured by the share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to education, coverage through enrollments, and quality through regional and international tests. LAC countries were instrumental in the early development of their educational systems, in giving a priority to primary education in order to educate citizens of the newly formed nation-states. In this sense, in the beginning of the twentieth century, countries such as Argentina increased enrollment rates in primary education to reach a threshold close to universalization of that level. Today, primary education is legally compulsory in all LAC countries. A once elite-oriented secondary education is facing a transformation and various countries are extending compulsory education at least to the lower secondary education level as well. Some countries are advancing in policies toward including preprimary and upper secondary school as compulsory too (SITEAL, 2010). Higher education (university and nonuniversity levels) has already achieved thresholds of massification (defined as enrolling 15% of the age cohort) in most countries and universalization (defined as enrolling 50% of the age cohort) in a few of the countries. Still the region faces challenges related to retention, illiteracy, and overall quality in its educational systems. Despite the overall regional trends and certain shared features, LAC is a region characterized by enormous differences among countries in terms of educational development.


UNESCO’s Education for All (EFA) Development Index (EDI) provides a portrait of the status of basic education in that region encompassing four indicators: (1) primary education net enrollment ratio, (2) adult literacy, (3) gender parity and equality, and (4) quality of education calculated as survival rate. In 2007, only six LAC countries ranked ‘high’ in this global index: Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela. Fourteen LAC countries ranked in the middle, and one LAC country, Nicaragua, fell into the lowest category of the index. The fact that most LAC countries have only reached a medium level in the EDI composite means that they have not met minimum benchmarks, showing poor levels in adult literacy and quality indicators (e.g., Guatemala) and low retention rates in countries such as Brazil, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Guatemala (UNESCO, 2010). Another measure of assessment is the allocation of public budget to education. UNESCO and its EFA partners have consistently advocated an increase in the allocation of funding as measured by the share of GDP (4–6%) allotted to education (UNESCO, 2006). Most regions worldwide allocate above 4% of their GDP to education. Only high income countries reach averages close to 6%, including all European Union countries, the United States, and Canada. On average, LAC countries spend 4.75% – just above developing countries in other regions such as Middle East and North Africa (4.69%), East Asia and Pacific (4.44%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (4.33%). South Asian countries lag behind, allocating only 2.85%. This measure also shows great heterogeneity within LAC region. By 2009, 12 countries invested at least 4% of their GDP in education, with countries such as Cuba, Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Argentina investing at least 6% of their GDP. Those countries along with Brazil and Mexico have increased their investments by at least 1.5 points in a decade. However, eight other countries languish with public expenditure in education lower than 4%, with specific cases, such as the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Uruguay, and Peru, falling below 3% (World Bank, 2009).

Trends and Persistent Issues in LAC Educational Systems As described earlier, educational systems in LAC region have made progress in certain educational indicators while many issues remain poorly handled and others arise as more complex challenges.

International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Volume 7

Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research

Illiteracy is one of the prevalent issues that educational systems face in the developing world. With 91% adult literacy rates, LAC stands as one of the regions with higher literacy rates than other developing regions, mostly due to proactive policies adopted to reduce the number of illiterates in that region. Only the East Asian and the Pacific region reach 94%, while the Arab States (75%), Sub-Saharan Africa (63%), and South and West Asia (63%) regions lag behind (UNESCO, 2012). Within LAC, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) data on literacy, show that illiteracy is still a prevalent problem in some countries while in others it is reaching eradication thresholds. By 2010, the countries with the highest illiteracy rates in the LAC region were Haiti (48.7%), Guatemala (75.2%), Nicaragua (78%), El Salvador (84.5%), and Honduras (84.8%). Moreover, in countries where literacy rates are low, women are disproportionately underrepresented. For instance, in Guatemala, 70.3% of women are literates compared to 80.6% of men (CEPAL, 2012). The Latin American Information System on Educational Trends (SITEAL) reports that in certain countries, differences between urban and rural settings and among regions, are strikingly high when considering illiteracy rates. At the other end of the continuum, 11 countries including Cuba, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Venezuela show comparatively high literacy rates (SITEAL, 2010). According to UNESCO and the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), literacy rates above 95% correspond to eradication of illiteracy. However, it is crucial to highlight that literacy rates are calculated through conventional mechanisms that only reveal extreme cases of illiteracy, and do not include those cases where written and oral language are minimal; thus illiteracy numbers could be higher than those showed in reported databases. Most regions in the developing world have made sustained progress to incorporating most of their populations in primary education. Net enrollment rates by region show that LAC reached in 2010 95% coverage, similar to East Asia and the Pacific (96%), Central Asia (94%), and South and West Asia (93%) and above Arab States (88%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (77%). However, the regions that already achieved by 1999 percentages over 90%, have not made drastic improvements. Coverage growth in a decade (1999–2010) was only 1% for the LAC region, while there was growth of 18% in South and West Asia and 16% Sub-Saharan Africa during the same decade. This situation may indicate the existence of a glass ceiling in this indicator. Universalization of primary education is one of the earliest achievements of LAC countries. By 2010 net enrollment rates represented a regional average of 95%. Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Cuba, and Panama led with net enrollment rates above 98%. On the other hand, countries such as the Dominican Republic and Paraguay enrolled between 82 and 91% of their potential primary education student population (CEPAL, 2012). In 2011, primary education gross enrollment rates in LAC represented 112.5%, indicating the prevalent efficacy problems (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2012). Since most countries have already reached universality of primary education, issues of quality and efficacy become predominant. Most LAC countries suffer badly from issues related to timely entry, age heterogeneity, and academic achievement. Repetition, the main cause of age heterogeneity,


affected mostly primary education. However, progress has been made in most of these areas in the last decades, and the main issues are now found in secondary education (Wolff et al., 2002). Secondary education is increasingly perceived as the new starting point in educational systems. Overall, LAC region enrollment rates in that level reach 73.5%, being below developing countries in Europe and Central Asia (82.5%) and ahead of East Asia and Pacific (72%), Middle East and North Africa (68%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (26%) (Latest data available 2007) (World Bank, 2010). Within LAC, most countries extend compulsory education to, at least, the lower secondary level. This aim represents a challenge for a level of the educational systems that was conceived to educate the elites of LAC countries and prepare them to continue studies in higher education institutions. In 2010 net enrollments rates for secondary education in LAC countries averaged 73.5%, ranging from the lower end with enrollments between 45 to 63% in countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic to the upper-end with net enrollments between 84 to 86% in countries led by Cuba, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina (CEPAL, 2012). By 2010, gross enrollment rates in LAC countries represented, in average, 90% – a difference revealing efficacy issues. Efficacy issues in secondary education translate into inequality in secondary level completion rates. This disproportionately affects populations in the lower end of the socioeconomic scale: students who do not enter the secondary education level and those leaving secondary education before obtaining the degree. In countries such as Guatemala, Colombia, and Honduras completion rates are highly unequal when considered by quintiles. In contrast, countries such as Chile and to a lesser extent Peru and Argentina, show higher completion rates and lesser inequalities in secondary education. Overall, in LAC the ratio of high-SES (socio-economic status) students graduating from the secondary level is three times higher than the number of low-SES students completing that educational level (CINDA, 2011). Current trends in secondary education enrollments may signal the existence of a ceiling that impedes universalization of that level. It is expected that limitations on the growth of enrollment rates in LAC countries will affect more seriously those who benefited the most from the universalization of primary education: indigenous populations, African descendants, low-SES adolescents, and people living in rural areas (López, 2013). LAC region has been involved in a series of educational reforms starting in the 1980s to adapt the systems to new realities. Educational reforms in primary and secondary education have ushered in several changes. One of them relates to changes in the structure of educational systems based on the incorporation of more years of compulsory schooling and taking into account psychological principles on developmental stages. A second type of change relates to curricular reforms that tend to transition from a discipline-based curriculum to an area/ integrated-type of curriculum. A third innovation has impacted the management and governance of educational institutions through increasing decentralization and autonomy, outcome assessment, and resources allotted on a competitive basis (Tedesco and López, 2004).


Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research

Trends and issues found in the other levels of education are largely echoed when it comes to higher education. In comparison to other regions, LAC positions itself in a similar standing as in primary and secondary education enrollments. Developing countries in Europe and Central Asia lead the scene enrolling 56% of their age grade group, followed by LAC (41%), Middle East and North Africa (30%), and East Asia and Pacific (26%). South Asia (15%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (7%) locate at the bottom of the continuum. As in most educational indicators, the gap between developed and developing nations is striking. High income OECD-member countries, in average, enroll 75% of the age grade group in higher education. Within LAC, as of 2010, with more than 6.5 million students enrolled in higher education, Brazil has easily the largest higher education system, followed by almost 3 million students in Mexico and 2.5 million in Argentina (PROPHE, forthcoming). In the age grade group enrolled in institutions of higher education (18–24 years), five higher education systems in the LAC region enroll at least 50% of the age grade group, thus reaching the universality threshold set by Trow’s typology (1973): Cuba (95%), Venezuela (78%), Argentina (75%), Chile (66%), and Uruguay (63%). Most of the other LAC higher education systems enroll between 15% and 50% of the age grade group, including the two largest higher education systems in the region, Mexico (28%) and Brazil (26%) (World Bank, 2010). Most of the issues faced by LAC higher education systems relate to their foundations. Systems were originally designed to train the political elite. In general, the establishment of universities in the colonial period followed a model that privileged the training of professionals, focusing the functions of the institutions on teaching activities rather than research. The roots of the emphasis on professions can be traced back to the Napoleonic (French) model. That model based institutional efforts toward the development of professional fields of study at the undergraduate level, such as law and medicine. Thus, research was rarely a preeminent activity in the early days of universities in LAC (Brunner, 1990). To a greater or lesser extent, massification and universalization brought issues related to effectiveness, quality, autonomy, and efficiency to the forefront (Castro and Levy, 2000). LAC higher education systems are attempting to increase the number of minority and low-SES students accessing and completing higher education. However, they still face structural issues such as low graduation rates. Higher education systems in LAC are highly ineffective, graduating a small proportion of those entering the level, and also inefficient since those graduating may spend as twice as much time, than the time scheduled to finish their studies. To tackle quality issues, reforms have focused on the establishment of quality assurance processes through accreditation agencies. Today, most countries in LAC have implemented some type of accreditation system, for institutions and programs.

From Quantity to Quality: Educational Assessments in LAC Although educational coverage indicators are still used as a proxy to measure educational systems’ progress, increasingly international organizations and governments are utilizing indicators of quality. During the 1980s and 1990s, most LAC countries developed their technical capabilities and established

or improved their systems designed for measuring and assessing student academic performance mostly through two different modalities: indigenous creation of tests for highly specific purposes, such as those utilized to regulate admission to higher education or those created with support provided by international financial agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the World Bank (Ferrer, 2006). The status of educational assessments in LAC tends to vary significantly by country. Countries such as Chile and Colombia have long experience in administering tests with a high degree of legitimacy and continuity, while other systems in place in countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru have been subjected to political changes, making data more difficult to be publicly accessed, with abrupt changes in technical staff (Ferrer, 2006). LAC countries are increasingly participating in regional and international educational tests, such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), and the Regional and Comparative Regional Study (ERCE). Around 20 countries have administered at least one comparative international assessment (Ferrer, 2006). One of the main proxies to assess the comparative quality level of educational systems worldwide is the PISA assessment designed and administered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). More than half of the participating countries are highly developed ones. Various Latin American countries such as Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Panama, and Peru have participated in different years in the administration of the international test, which measures competences developed by 15 year-old students in reading, mathematics, and science. As expected by the large number of OECD-member/developed countries included in the test, LAC countries performed below the OECD average in every competency measure, ranking in the bottom third section out of 65 developed and developing countries. Measurements also show major performance differences within countries, indicating striking gaps between those students in different quintiles of the population (OECD, 2010). Besides the international assessments described earlier, different regions in the world have developed their own assessment regimes. In LAC, ERCE is a comparative assessment of primary education students in their third and sixth grades that tests their knowledge in mathematics, language (reading and writing), and natural sciences. The different stages of ERCE tests have been designed by the Latin American Laboratory for Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE), an initiative that promotes regional tests and is coordinated by the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America Latina and the Caribbean (OREALC-UNESCO) branch in Chile. Implemented for the first time in 1997, the test is the oldest initiative of this nature in the LAC region. The SERCE test or Second ERCE administered in 2006 shows relevant differences in the performance of students in different LAC countries. Cuba is the single country reaching mean scores significantly higher than the regional average in mathematics (3rd and 6th grades), reading (3rd grade), and natural sciences (6th grade). A second group of countries with identical and higher scores than the regional average are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uruguay. Finally, a third group exhibits mean

Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research

scores lower than the regional average: Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and the Dominican Republic (LLECE, 2008). Although LAC countries have been increasingly willing to participate in regional and international educational assessments, information exchange between assessment entities and system users remains weak. Connections are also missing between test results and policies/decisions and this is related to the limited involvement of the major educational stakeholders (policymakers, teachers, principals, parents, etc.) in devising the tests, designing the reports, and defining strategies for dissemination (Ferrer, 2006).

Educational Research in and About LAC Investment in R&D in the Region and Educational Research Indicators Educational research in LAC is part of a broader context of development and investment in Research and Development (R&D) patterns worldwide. When compared to other regions, LAC expenditure in R&D in 2010 locates in the fourth place with 3% of the worldwide expenditures in that sector, behind Asia (34.1%), North America (United States and Canada) (33.1%), and Europe (26.9%) and just ahead of Oceania (2%), and Africa (0.8%) (RICYT, 2012). These patterns reflect structural limitations to research productivity in the LAC region that may impact on educational research, which is part of it. As described in the previous section, LAC is a region characterized by a great internal heterogeneity that makes difficult to generalize on the status of educational research in the region. Data shows that three LAC countries dominate the R&D scene, investing more than 90% of the R&D resources. By 2010, Brazil led the list with 63.3% of the total investment in R&D in the region, followed by Mexico (19.2%), and Argentina (9.7%). The other LAC countries count just for the remaining 7.8% (RICYT, 2012). These shares can be seen in educational research productivity, where Brazil and Mexico are the key players in the area. One of the most evident differences between countries within the LAC region relates to research productivity measured through human resources and bibliometric indices. The consolidation of the R&D systems as well as Science and Technology (S&T) statistics systems are appropriate proxies. R&D systems include number of university graduates as percentage of population and the number of publications in international databases. The application of R&D measurements generates three categories when applied to LAC countries (Arber et al., 2008): (1) A first group of countries with consolidated R&D and S&T statistics systems includes Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile; (2) A second group with consolidated R&D and less developed S&T statistical systems includes Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela; finally, a third group with R&D and S&T systems in early developmental stages embraces Nicaragua, Peru, El Salvador, Paraguay, Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and Honduras. To a certain extent, S&T statistic systems reflect the overall availability and collection of educational data in LAC countries. Quality and availability of educational data has broad implications and may impact educational research. Some


countries in that region are advancing their data generation, collection, and publication mechanisms, and one of the most relevant cases is Brazil. The Microdados a web-based, public, and free-access secondary database reported by the Institute of Educational Statistics (INEP) in Brazil makes available disaggregated educational data on primary, secondary, and higher education indicators, educational assessments, and research conducted by INEP from 1995 onward. Raw and nonidentifiable data is made available in databases ready to be inputted in quantitative analysis software. This represents a step forward in LAC countries, where the traditional and still predominant method to show data on educational systems consists of reports which show already processed data. Developments on data availability in LAC have usually been promoted by international funding agencies through their loan systems, to develop capacity through training of technical staff and the establishment of entire subunits within educational bureaus at the national and state/provincial levels. As described, educational research follows patterns similar to those already existing in R&D indicators overall. A handful of countries dominate the scene on production of research in education. A useful although not comprehensive proxy to assess educational research productivity refers to the availability of peerreviewed academic journals. In recent decades, there have been a series of initiatives to generate digital catalogs of peer-reviewed journals available in LAC such as Latindex and Scielo. The UNAM-based Latindex is conceived as the largest LAC journal index system and compiles almost 5000 scientific journals in that region of which almost 1200 correspond to education journals. Brazil leads the number of educational journals indexed by Latindex with a total of 377 journals, followed by Mexico (167), Chile (144), Venezuela (47), and Colombia (47). Latindex fixes common standards in international journal publications, only including those that meet minimum criteria, so the real number of journals in each country may double or triple those in indexed databases. Still, there is a pattern toward the incorporation of greater number of journals to be included in indexes since they raise their legitimacy and visibility. All the journals indexed in Latindex as well as Scielo and other regional databases are published either in Spanish or Portuguese; thus limiting visibility outside the region. Journals have usually been published only in hardcopy versions limiting the accessibility and dissemination of LAC educational research. This situation is progressively changing, and journals that were available only in hardcopy are turning to digital versions. This trend shows a turn from local communities of researchers to more cosmopolitan research communities, at least at a regional level.

Research Traditions in Education Tracing back, beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, educational research in LAC countries was greatly influenced by the human capital theory. The main assumption surrounding educational research was the idea that educational systems would act as the main drivers of change in overall society. For instance, secondary education was portrayed as an agency for economic development and most official documents accepted the existence of a relationship between increasing the number of secondary graduates and economic progress (Watson, 1967).


Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research

Not only research but also policy making developed in this stream considered education as a major institution to shape overall development. This shared paradigm on educational research and policy was coupled with studies on the universalization of compulsory education and the struggles to turn a once elite secondary level into a mass/universal level. Coupled with human capital theory, Durkheim and its structural-functionalist approach in sociology influenced educational researchers and their understanding that quality of education could be assimilated to enrollment rates, and the possibilities of fulfilling the functions of educational systems. In education this era was characterized as ‘pedagogical optimism.’ In other words, both society and researchers deposited trust in the transformative effects of education and its role in promoting development. Within the first tradition, educational research was in its first stage, characterized by a more descriptive and normative approach corresponding to an underdevelopment of the social sciences and of their research methodologies. Researchers outside the region were producing sound research about LAC but its impact in the region was minimal at that time (Watson, 1967). Mostly starting in the 1970s and 1980s, critical theories in education began to criticize the idea that education could be a predominant way to change society, allowing for social and economic mobility. Based on sociological literature such as that produced by Bourdieu and Passeron (1977), and Baudelot and Establet (1971), researchers fell in what is known as the ‘pedagogical pessimism.’ In other words, researchers focused on what seemed to be reproductive functions of education rather than transformative ones. According to these theoretical developments, educational systems would be responsible for maintaining social inequalities in societies, and even legitimize them rather than promote upward mobility and social change. Moreover, according to Marxist approaches to education, schools were seen as agencies of the dominant (capitalist) ideology that served the interest of the ruling class. The 1980s and 1990s came accompanied with the restoration of democratic governments in LAC and most countries began to discuss possible ways to overhaul their educational systems. In this period, international funding agencies such as the World Bank and IADB, acted as the main funding agencies for those reforms across Latin America, promoting the dissemination of ideas that had the focus on the decentralization and privatization of educational systems. The development of these trends pushed the research agenda toward the study of educational systems in LAC in terms of policy, governance, structure, curriculum, and teacher professionalization. These developments were understood as part of a neoliberal agenda in a scenario guided by the Washington Consensus. The 1990s reforms brought new developments to educational systems in LAC from primary to higher education, such as decentralization, new teaching and research conditions (e.g., merit-pay systems), new curriculum developments, overall quality assurance processes, and governance systems. During this period, research began to analyze the so-called NPM-based (New Public Management-based) reforms aimed to generate more efficiency and promote quality in the public sector through practices already consolidated in the private sector. This movement toward policies oriented by deregulation, regulation, and liberalization of education systems takes place

in a broader context of discussion on public and private educational services, and its incorporation in the WTO’s (World Trade Organization) GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) as a tradable commodity. These policies have been usually labeled as neoliberal policies and researchers have adopted a critical stance against the introduction of market-based policies in the educational sector. Research focusing on policy analysis from different social sciences (political science, sociology, anthropology, and economics) has dominated educational research in LAC countries in the last decades. Research results published in academic journals in between 1993 and 2001 show the dynamic change in educational research theoretical and epistemological paradigms described earlier. In the last decades researchers studying educational policy have predominantly used three main epistemological approaches: neo-Marxism, poststructuralism, and pluralism. A small number of published articles in LAC journals utilize structural-functionalist approaches (Tello and Mainardes, 2012). First, the neo-Marxist perspective allowed for relative autonomy and individual agency on the relationship between schools and capitalist relations of production that Marxist theory already claimed more recently, studies on educational policy in Latin America have followed Dale’s (2000) neo-Marxist approach. Second, educational studies in Europe and the United States (Ball, 1994; Popkewitz and Fendler, 1999) triggered the adoption of poststructuralist perspectives in Latin America, based on the idea that actors occupy a central role in the understanding of policies and that power flows among multiple and different actors. Finally, the pluralist approach focuses on the understanding of diverse interpretations about an educational policy issue (Tello and Mainardes, 2012). All of these perspectives reject the possibility of understanding education as an objective reality, in clear opposition to positivist approaches. Another characteristic of educational research in LAC countries is its focus on local developments directed toward a local community of researchers. Only in recent decades, and through the expansion of societies on comparative and international studies, researchers are showing more interest in generating comparative research at regional and international level. Comparative education societies in Argentina (2001), Brazil (1983), Cuba (1989), Mexico (2003), and the recently created in Uruguay (2009) promote the production and dissemination of comparative research through the organization of conferences and the publication of specialized peer-reviewed journals. Latin American studies centers and associations are active in most developed countries. The US-based Latin American Studies Association (LASA) is one of the main Latin American studies association worldwide and the largest in the United States with over 8000 members. Their annual conference papers reflect, to a certain extent, the visibility of educational research in Latin American studies in the United States. The largest comparative educational society, the United States-based Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) also attracts scholars who study educational systems in LAC countries. The assessment of educational articles in Latinamericanist journals may signal that educational researchers are not the mainstream of Latinamericanist studies and that educational scholars may choose other publication outlets, usually

Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research

discipline-based journals. For instance, although not a Latinamericanist journal, the US-based Educational Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA) journal publishes educational policy papers in English, Spanish, and Portuguese reaching academics in the United States and the LAC region, thus generating a hybrid between American scholars studying LAC educational issues and their counterparts from the scholarly community in LAC.

Educational Research by Level Research on primary and secondary education is mainstream with scholars in LAC, although it is hardly a distinctive feature of the region, since most educational research is oriented to the study of those educational levels worldwide. National associations of researchers in education are increasing in number but are still a rarity in the region. Crucial exceptions are the Brazilian National Association of Educational Research (ANPED) and the Mexican Council on Educational Research (COMIE), dating back to 1976 and 1993, respectively. Countries such as Argentina have not developed yet an overarching research community in education through a generalized affiliating association/ society. Instead, they have developed discipline-based associations. For instance, in Argentina societies are established on the bases of specific topics and issues or in the study of education from specific social sciences, e.g., SAHE, the Argentine society for the study of the history of education. As described in the previous section, educational issues in LAC transitioned from enrollment rates in primary and secondary education to what nowadays is predominantly a concern related to quality and its relationship to equity, stratification, and social mobility. Studies are increasingly centering the analysis of education in LAC countries on how students are performing and the implications that different levels of quality within countries affect educational systems and generate concerns on social equity (Schwartzman and Cox, 2010). Nonformal education related to education of (illiterate) adults as well as educational issues in rural areas has usually been overlooked by traditional research. The UNESCO center for the study of adult education, CREFAL, has been instrumental in the development of research through specific funding and training of doctoral students and researchers in issues on nonformal education. Founded in 1950, the center produces reports and disseminates research with a focus on the research-action perspective. Research on higher education is still in a developing stage in LAC, mostly when compared to theoretical and methodological developments in Europe and the United States. Most publications produced in that region have a strong normative, propositional, and ideological content although that situation is changing over time due to new developments and more researchers trained for research in this specific level of education (Krotsch, 2001). Research on higher education began to change its focus and ways of approaching issues starting from the 1980s in concomitance with the growth of public and private universities and their competition for students, professors, and ultimately for prestige. Public policies oriented to report information on higher education systems; international organizations and foundations in charge of financing educational research; and the emergence of graduate level and the issues linked to management and teaching derived from a new sublevel (Krotsch, 2001).


Three different traditions have permeated the study of higher education in LAC. Durkheim’s functionalist perspective, mostly utilized in the study of the higher education systems in the region following similar analysis to those carried out by Durkheim on the historical development of higher education in Europe in the medieval times. Bourdieu’s analysis of fields in order to uncover their principles of social regulations and reproduction. Finally, and most importantly the sociological studies of educational systems in comparative perspective elaborated by Clark (Krotsch, 2001). The developments from the latter are still the most widely utilized frameworks for the analysis of higher education systems in LAC, based on the idea of a coordination triangle between the state, the market, and the academic oligarchy. The single most proactive research community in developing research on higher education issues in LAC is Mexican encompassing the UNAM’s Center for the Study of Higher Education (CESU) now called Institute for the Study of University and Education (IISUE) one of the most longstanding and prestigious research centers producing research in that level. UNAM also created the Higher Education Researchers Network (RISEU), a network of Latin American higher education scholars that promotes the dissemination of research in that specific level. The North American country also counts with specific higher education research centers in the Montemorelos University (UM), the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN). The Ibero-American University (UI), a private Jesuit university also created its own and well known research center on higher education. Brazil has consolidated various centers on the study of higher education recently. The longstanding Higher Education Research Center (NUPES) now called Public Policy Research Center (NUPP) at University of Sao Paulo, and many others in the public and the private sector (Observatorio Universitario) play a critical role in the production of knowledge specific for this level of education. In Chile, the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO) and a group of centers specializing in the study of higher education such as the Development University Center (CINDA) and the Corporation of University Promotion (CPU) not only produce research targeted to scholars and also policy makers. In recent years, CINDA has been at the forefront of regional comparisons of higher education systems in the LAC region. The Regional Center for Higher Education in Latin American and the Caribbean (CRESALC) later renamed as the International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC) is another relevant institution in the promotion of the study of higher education in LAC. An UNESCO institution in Venezuela, CRESALC was first established in 1978 with the aim of contributing to the cooperation and improvement of higher education systems in the region. Now, IESALC serves as a hub to promote the development of national reports on higher education systems, as well as comparative studies, and in certain cases, the compilation of statistics. International funding agencies also played a key role in the dissemination of knowledge on higher education systems in LAC. In its own review of higher education policies to promote educational reform, the World Bank edited reports on LAC higher education systems: Higher Education: The Lessons of Experience published in 1994 and Higher Education in


Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Systems and Research

DevelopingCountries: Peril and Promise edited in 2000. The IADB also published the report Myth, Reality, and Reform: Higher Education Policy in Latin America by two Latin American experts in higher education. To a greater or lesser extent, these reports called for an overhaul of the higher education systems, based on the conviction that institutions of higher education in that region were highly ineffective and inefficient, and necessarily required organizational and structural change and diversification. These reports brought research concerns into the educational agenda, mostly from the United States, that were absent or overlooked by researchers in the region and generated controversies. Those reports emphasized certain discussions on autonomy, financing, and evaluation, from a perspective of equality of opportunity that did not fit the still predominant LAC approach of a highly state subsidized higher education system with highly autonomous institutions. Policy recommendations emanating from international funding agencies’ reports, specifically those produced by the World Bank, generated widely divergent reactions from two sectors in the higher education research community. One view considered the reports as part of a neoliberal agenda in educational reform overall that tended to highlight alternative approaches to higher education finance, autonomy, and governance. Another sector of researchers were promoting comparative studies of higher education systems and assessing the limitations of the ‘Latin American model’ of autonomy and governance. Heterogeneity and unimpressive quality signal the current status of LAC educational systems and educational research. Enormous disparities exist with a few countries consistently outperforming on different educational indicators, the majority with mediocre performances. When compared to other regions in the world, this highly heterogeneous situation leads LAC to remain located below Central Europe and East Asia and above South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

See also: Comparative Research in Education: Iea Studies; Cross-National Comparisons in Education: Findings from Pisa; Data Bases and Statistical Systems: Education, Statistical Systems; Education (Primary and Secondary Schools) and Gender; Education and Economic Growth; Education in South Asia; Education in Sub-Saharan Africa; Education in the Middle East and North Africa; Educational Planning Worldwide; Educational Research, The Field of; Educational Systems: North America; Equity and Education; Gender and Education; Higher Education Research; International Organisations and Education; Literacy Education; Social Inequality and Schooling; Social Studies Education; Socioeconomic Status and Academic Achievement.

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