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Evaluating Educational Conditions for Populations of Indigenous and African Descent in Ibero-America

- Classroom in a school at Tilcara in Argentina


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Evaluating Educational Conditions for Populations of Indigenous and African Descent in Ibero-America

In an era of global education targets, the importance of regional initiatives in addressing specific contextual issues should not be overlooked. A case in point is the Ibero-American region’s efforts to evaluate educational access and quality for populations of indigenous and African descent.

Since 2010, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in the Americas have followed a regional set of education goals, the Metas Educativas 2021. In 2015, the region’s annual report focused for the first time on the topic of educational access and quality for populations of indigenous and African descent, with reference to the second goal of the Metas Educativas: “Achieve educational equality and overcome all forms of discrimination in education.”

The resulting report Miradas Sobre la Educación en Iberoamérica 2015 not only helps education authorities within the region identify equity issues, it also serves as an example of how other countries around the world could focus educational evaluations on the needs and aspirations of specific populations. Of particular interest is a study from Mexico featured in the report, in which education planners consulted with 49 indigenous communities in order to include their perspectives in the design of a new national policy for educational evaluation (see Box 1 below for a summary of the guiding principles used in Mexico’s consultative methodology).

Understanding history and identity: Chapter 1 of the Miradas 2015 report argues that the educational experiences of populations of indigenous and African descent—and indeed of any special population—cannot be understood without first discussing the historical factors that have shaped their cultural identity and their social, economic, and educational realities.

Demographic analysis: Chapter 2 uses census data and household survey data to identify the size of populations of indigenous and African descent, as well as explore issues such as rural and urban location, the numbers speaking different mother tongue languages, and the average rates of literacy and schooling among their adult members. This data is intended to help authorities better estimate the requirements for offering a quality education to these distinct populations, as well as to aid in prioritizing resources towards the groups with the lowest levels of adult educational achievement.

Variations in structure and conditions: Chapter 3 discusses the different legal and institutional arrangements in place for offering bilingual, intercultural, and mainstream education to populations of indigenous and African descent in 12 countries. The chapter also analyzes the condition of schools serving these populations with regards to infrastructure, the characteristics of teachers, the curriculum and teaching aids, the rate of internet access, and the availability of special educational services or modalities specifically designed for these populations, such as bilingual intercultural education programs.

Educational access and attainment: Chapter 4 presents the current situation with regards to the regional goal of achieving educational equality, noting immediately that the available data is not sufficient for monitoring this goal and that different countries collect a patchwork of relevant information via an array of different instruments. Due to these data limitations, the chapter analyses only educational access and completion, without addressing issues such as educational achievement and learning outcomes.

The right of indigenous populations to shape the education they receive: The final substantive chapter of the report discusses a particular effort in Mexico to involve indigenous communities in the planning of educational policy. Bringing the report full circle, this initiative demonstrates the careful thought that should be put into involving specific sub-national populations not only in an analysis of the current performance of their educational system, but also in deciding how that system should be monitored and evaluated into the future (see Box 1).

Box 1: Guiding principles used in Mexico’s consultative methodology with 49 indigenous communities
Primary cross-cutting principles:
a)    Consult with the indigenous population before the design of a given policy and not only to validate a policy that has already been formulated.
b)    Ensure that whole communities, not just individuals or representatives, are involved in consultations.
c)    Actively promote the participation of groups that are not always present in the community assemblies, especially women, children and adolescents.

Other methodological characteristics:
•    Community assemblies were provided with complete information about the consultations and asked for their prior consent to participate in the study.
•    Participation in the consultation was encouraged through one or more facilitators designated by community authorities through their own decision-making mechanisms.
•    The community assembly determined the particular procedures for implementing the consultation, the dates, the type of event for dialogue and community reflection, and the specific discussion groups to be formed.
•    The consultation was held in the primary language used by the community.
•    Sufficient time was allocated for the completion of the consultative process (minimum 6 months).
•    Community facilitators were provided with technical, financial, and material support to conduct the consultations.
•    Generative questions were designed with the communities, grouped in three broad dimensions: 1) How does the community value the education that it is currently receiving?, 2) How would the community ideally like this education to be?, and 3) How does the community propose to evaluate this education?
•    Participants were not constrained to a sequential questionnaire but rather were encouraged to engage in group discussion around these issues of school-based education and evaluation.

Principles of data analysis:
Indigenous researchers were involved in the analysis of the qualitative data generated through these consultations, to verify classifications and coding and minimize misinterpretations.

To access the full reports, see:
OEI (2015). Miradas sobre la Educación en Iberoamérica 2015: Educación de los pueblos y comunidades indígenas (originarios) y afrodescendientes. Madrid: Organización de Estados Iberoaméricanos para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (OEI).
INEE (2015). Resultados de la consulta previa, libre e informada a pueblos y comunidades indígenas sobre la evaluación educativa: Informe orientado a la política educativa. México: Instituto Nacional para la Evaluación de la Educación.