Some 21.1 million school-age children in Latin America are either not in school or are at risk of dropping out, according to a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) report released at the end of August.
UNICEF and UNESCO’s joint report, entitled Finishing School. A Right for Children´s Development, A Joint Effort, reveals that 18 percent of the 117 million school-age children in Latin America, including those in preschool, are not in school or are at serious risk of dropping out. An additional 22.8 million, or 19.5 percent, of Latin American children are at “moderate risk” of dropping out of school. Altogether, over 37 percent of the region’s children are at some risk of not receiving a formal education.
Children in Latin America face socioeconomic, racial, cultural, and physical barriers that prevent them from attending school, exacerbating inequality in the region. The UN study found that a child’s likelihood of attending school in Latin America is reduced if the child is poor, female, Indigenous or Black, disabled, living in a rural area, or required to perform child labor.
Delayed schooling, which occurs as children fall further behind grade level, also increases a child’s risk of dropping out. The study found that close to 22 percent of secondary school-age children in Latin America do not complete primary school on time, leading to further delays as older students continue to fill primary school spaces that younger students should be occupying . Children whose parents do not have a high level of education are 10 times more likely to fall behind than their peers.
The quality and coverage of schooling must be improved from all sectors to provide for all children’s right to a basic education. According to the report, inefficient teaching, poor student evaluation processes, and deeply entrenched prejudices can all be improved through enhanced teacher training , whether in classroom management or cultural sensitivity, and increased community involvement.
“Efforts made in the education sector must be coordinated with those in the social protection, health and nutrition sectors, as well as with families and communities,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen.
“Judgment of parents and children who have gone to school late or dropped out and considering them ‘guilty’ of not exercising the right to education for their children simply masks the injustices they have faced over extended periods of time,” the study reports.