|General Overview of North America|
|General Overview of Latin America & the Caribbean|
North America - Education Highlights
Pre-primary enrollment is fairly high in North America: 67.6% in Canada, 90.8% in Greenland, and 57% in the United States. Primary level enrollment is very high compared to other regions. Secondary level education is compulsory in the United States and Canada; however, there are worrying national trends at this level in Greenland. The quality of education to prepare children for the changing world is a priority concern in all countries.
Inequity is apparent throughout the region. The education systems throughout North America are challenged to meet the needs of children from disadvantaged groups, such as indigenous, African-American, Latino-American, and immigrants, and to shrink the achievement gap between more dominant socioeconomic groups. Greenland is working on making education more relevant to the culture and identity of the predominantly indigenous, Inuit children of Greenland. In Canada, an estimated 40% of aboriginal Canadians have not completed secondary school. In the United States, closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged minority groups and their more advantaged peers continues to be of great concern and a major driver of education policy.
Education challenges to the region include education reform at the federal and local levels, addressing the achievement gap, and measures of accountability at all levels. A big part of the education reform movement in the United States and Canada is the issue of school choice and the role of independent, publicly funded schools, also known as charter schools. In 2002, Greenland passed a law requiring education to be relevant to the lives of its students. Although controversial, the United States passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 in an effort to close achievement gaps and to understand which disadvantaged groups and sub-groups were underperforming. Currently, the Race to the Top initiative is attempting to improve the quality and equity of education service in the United States. Finally, the Head Start program, which originated in North America, has been globally recognized as a model program that promotes school readiness for children ages birth to 5 from low-income families.
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Latin America & the Caribbean - Education Highlights
Access to education in Latin America and the Caribbean is quite good at the primary level, with an average net enrollment rate of 95.3% (ranging from 99.3% in Cuba to 85% in Paraguay). Despite generally strong access rates, children with special needs still face barriers. Recent regional agreements have been forged to collect information about this issue and begin to address it. In addition, the region continues to struggle with offering quality education, particularly in meeting the needs of marginalized and disadvantaged groups, such as indigenous children. Although the gap is narrowing, indigenous people continue to have fewer years of education; this has been attributed to the lack of relevance education has to their lives (i.e., bilingual and bicultural education programs).
Latin America and the Caribbean is a region of uniquely stark disparities with concerns about high rates of violence. The youth murder rate is a particularly serious issue. In general, schools struggle to create peaceful environments for students. Central America is considered one of the most violent sub-regions in the world, specifically for male youth; the prevalence of maras (gangs) causes severe problems for schools.
Countries in the region have been globally recognized for innovative education models, such as Colombia’s Escuela Nueva and Cuba’s Educa a tu Hijo. Escuela Nueva has proven to improve the quality of education for rural children while promoting values of democracy and peaceful coexistence. Replicated across the region, Educa a tu Hijo is a community-based, early child development program that promotes school readiness for all children. Mobile learning technology initiatives are currently being pursued across the Latin America and Caribbean region as a promising means for improving teacher training.
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