Education Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean have issued a 13-point document, the Havana Declaration, in which they committed their countries to universal and quality education which respects indigenous cultures.
The Havana declaration also approved a `Regional Education project for Latin America and the Caribbean 2002 -2017' and the `Follow-up model of the Regional Education project of Latin America and the Caribbean 2002 -2017'.
Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, who was elected a vice president of the ministers of education meeting, was the chairman of the ministerial sub-committee which considered the regional project.
The project resulted from analysis and debates on the reports and proposals submitted at the meeting held in Havana late last year.
The introduction to the declaration states that despite intense efforts made in the past 20 years aimed at improving the quality of education in the region, recent data shows that there are important aspects that have yet to be addressed, as well as shortcomings that have an adverse impact on education.
The declaration is said to be in keeping with the World Forum held in Dakar in 2000, which established six goals for education for all. The ministers have agreed that their governments would work in collaboration with civil society to define the policies, strategies and lines of action that will be required to meet the adopted goals.
In the Havana Declaration, the ministers declared their commitment to quality and equitable education for all to be consistently supported by Latin American and Caribbean States without the risk of abandonment or delay caused by changes in government in the respective countries.
To achieve this, they committed themselves to create and carry forward effective mechanisms to reach agreement and consensus between different social actors, subsequent and periodic assessment and accountability to make possible continuation of the project through its full term.
The ministers declared that the proposals set forth by the Regional Education Project for Latin America and the mechanisms and priority action of the follow-up model of the project are basic priorities and commitments for the countries of the region. These should be adopted by governments as legislative measures and national education agreements that guarantee their sustainability and maintenance through changes of governments.
Commitments were also made to improve education in the region by the addition of available human skills and material resources; granting of priority to literacy training; comprehensive early childhood care and education; and education directed to serving adolescents and young people - middle education or its equivalent in different cases were also addressed in the declaration.
The ministers also declared that educators in the region should recognise and respect diversity and increasingly reinforce the values of native language, culture, history, literature and national identity.
They declared that it was necessary to provide for comprehensive development of indigenous populations in keeping with social harmony and linguistic, multi-ethnic and cultural pluralism, in accordance with the traditions of each nation.
The ministers declared that such sought-after changes in education require a new kind of school; one that could be transformed into the most important cultural centre in the community, one that is open and interacts with the community, fostering the active participation of families in school management, which combine work with different non-formal education modalities.
The ministers felt that it was essential that schools be more flexible, with a high response capability and be prepared to organise and carry out its own educational projects, responding to the needs and diversity of the community that they serve.