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The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) is no longer in operation. This website documents FOCAL's activities and accomplishments throughout its existence. Thank you for your interest in the work of FOCAL.
Colombian Green Party presidential candidate Antanas Mockus wants to bring education reform as a key item of his campaign. With the election runoff slated for June 20, he has told his supporters that “the history of Colombia will be written with pens, and not with blood” and promised a 15 per cent investment in education from the income of Colombian petroleum company Ecopetrol. He has said that Colombia has allocated enormous amounts of resources to war, and so for once it is going to allocate an extraordinary amount of resources to peace. “And not just peace in general,” he added, “but for education.” The presidential hopeful is in a runoff with Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, President Álvaro Uribe’s designated successor. In the first voting round, Santos received 47 per cent of the vote while Mockus pulled in 22 per cent. Pollsters had initially expected Mockus to take in more of the vote. Although he said that his party didn’t do well compared to what the polls expected, he added that just making the runoff is a huge victory. Mockus, a former head of the Universidad Nacional and former math professor, was previously elected twice as mayor of Bogotá. He has said that his administrations were “enlightened by academic concepts.” This is the second time he is running for president, after an unsuccessful attempt in 1998.
Latin America has taken a jump start in bridging the digital divide in the past years by improving access to technology and the Internet for school children. Several countries in the region such as Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, and more recently Brazil, have implemented programs to deliver free laptops in elementary schools. This initiative began in Uruguay in 2007 with Plan Ceibal (Education Connect) that aimed to provide one laptop for every student in the country as well as offer training for teachers on how to use them. The goal was to reduce the gap between those that can access the digital world with the knowledge and opportunities it brings and those who could not. Plan Ceibal succeeded in providing more that 362,000 computers since its inception and its success spread the idea throughout the region. Thus far in 2010, Argentina, Brazil and Peru have begun similar programs and made major investment and acquisitions of laptops to improve access to technology. In Peru, 590,000 laptops have been delivered to elementary school children, especially in poor rural areas. In Argentina, the government recently delivered the first 250,000 laptops for students of technical high schools, and the mayor of Buenos Aires announced his city will order 190,000 more for elementary school children. For its part, Brazil announced in April that it would buy 1.5 million laptops for elementary schools.
The 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that many poor countries are not set to meet their Education for All (EFA) 2015 targets for education. The document says this reality is a product of a lack of education funding, due to the global economic crisis. One practice the report suggests is the creation of an international recovery plan that would involve an emergency pledging conference targeted for later in the year. The document highlighted that Chile has some of the deepest and most persistent education inequalities in Latin America. It also states that in Guatemala, the average years of schooling range from 6.7 for Spanish speakers to 1.8 for speakers of Q’eqchi’. The report, released in February 2010, keeps track of the progression of goals set in Dakar 10 years ago. The six goals of EFA include expanding early childhood care and education, providing free and compulsory primary education for all, promoting learning and life skills for youth and adults, increasing adult literacy, achieving gender party and equality in education, and overall improving the quality of education in all aspects.
The Inter-American Development Bank has pledged to reform Haiti’s education. IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno vowed to provide up to US$250 million and help raise the estimated US$2 billion needed to implement a new education plan. Haitian President René Préval gave the IDB the mandate to develop a five-year education plan and help the country’s National Education Commission and Ministry of Education reform Haiti’s educational system. The plan is aimed at expanding tuition-free education services in a country where poorer families face significant barriers in access to education since the majority of schools are private. Under the IDB plan, schools will remain privately owned, but will be publicly funded. A central fund would be created to pay for salaries of teachers and administrators of schools that would participate in the program. The plan will also aim at improving facilities, training teachers and reforming the educational curriculum. The IDB encourages other multilateral organizations and private donors to support Haiti’s educational reform in order to raise the funds necessary to implement the plan. This education reform is likely to be among the first programs presented for funding to the World Bank-managed Haiti Multi-Donor Trust Fund and the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission.
A study released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in April 2010 found that aboriginal women with higher education earned superior incomes than their non-aboriginal counterparts. Aboriginal women with university degrees earned substantially more than non-aboriginals: those with bachelor’s degrees earned $2,471 more annually than non-aboriginals while those with master’s degrees earned $4,521 more. These figures suggest that income inequality among women with university degrees has been reduced. However, there persists a significant income inequality between the general population of aboriginals and other Canadians. Indeed, according to this study, in 2006 aboriginals earned only 70 cents for every dollar earned by non-aboriginals.