WASHINGTON, USA -- The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, on Tuesday highlighted the importance of improving the access to and above all the quality of education in the Americas, on opening the 48th Lecture of the Americas, the central focus of which was “Education and Development in the Americas,” and whose keynote speaker was José Narro Robles, president of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
In his opening address, Insulza cited the Inter-American Charter of the OAS, which establishes that education plays a determining role in strengthening democratic institutions, promoting human development and “encouraging a better understanding between the peoples” of the Americas. He emphasized the advances that have been made in education in the region, but also identified challenges such as access to education in rural areas, for indigenous peoples and for low income families.
“That’s why we cannot lose sight of the fact that education must be within the reach of everyone – particularly vulnerable groups – which are those who suffer the most from poverty and inequality,” he said.
Insulza highlighted the efforts of the OAS in education, among them citing the organization’s work in collaboration with ministers of education in the region, the program First Infancy, which aims to improve the education among children 0 to 6 years old, and the Program of Academic Scholarships, which has granted more than 21,000 higher education scholarships.
“Our organization,” he added, “believes in an education aimed at being a decisive factor not only for the economic growth of member states but for the social development of the population of the Americas in general.”
Narro, in his speech, underlined the central role of education for development.
“Education is definitely necessary for development in all its senses,” he said, “for democratic progress, for the good use of science, technology and innovation, for achieving greater levels of social wellbeing and economic growth, to level economic and social inequalities, to widen opportunities for young people, to lift the cultural conditions to invigorate civic values that strengthen societal renovations, and to grant social mobility to the people.”
The Mexican academic recognized that the region is relatively young, which he considered a “demographic boom.” That potential comparative advantage, he added, will only become reality if that great number of young people has access to a quality education. He discussed the riches of Latin America in terms of natural resources, but also of the concentration of resources in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, which together represent 84% of the GDP of Latin America and 74% of its population.
Looking toward the future, the president of Mexico’s largest university said, “we must think big,” which implies focusing not only on improving access to education, but also on the training of educators and the quality of higher education, a “powerful instrument” in combating inequality and promoting development.
For his part, the chair of the Permanent Council and permanent representative of Honduras to the OAS, Leónidas Rosa Bautista, recalled that in the recent Sixth Summit of the Americas, the leaders of the region reaffirmed that “equal access to a quality education is essential and constitutes an effective tool for reducing inequalities and creating conditions for the development and well-being of the population of the Americas.”
Created by the Permanent Council of the OAS in September 2004, the Lecture of the Americas aims to promote democratic principles and values in the countries of the hemisphere, through conferences given by recognized personalities on important hemispheric issues, such as democracy, human rights, social development, hemispheric security and international relations.