Planning Education, Building the Future: A Regional Perspective from Latin America and the Caribbean


The IIEP-UNESCO regional team pictured in Buenos Aires in May 2023. 

The UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) Office for Latin America and the Caribbean was established in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in June 1998. Therefore, 2023 marks not only the 60th anniversary of the global Institute, but also a quarter century of a dedicated presence in the region.

Although IIEP had already been developing projects in Latin American and Caribbean countries before 1998, the creation of a regional office was a way to recognize the importance of the region in the global context, as well as to provide local and contextualized responses to the needs of ministries of education. Through this office, IIEP was able to fulfill the dual objective of bringing international educational experiences to the countries of the region, and of disseminating Latin American experiences globally, with a special focus on South-South cooperation.

Currently, IIEP-UNESCO’s Office in Buenos Aires is responsible for fulfilling the Institute's mandate in UNESCO's 36 Member States in the region. Its work focuses on the current issues and needs of the education sector and its vocation is to support governments in the region to achieve their education goals in the context of the Education 2030 Agenda.

Juan Carlos Tedesco, first Director of IIEP-UNESCO Buenos Aires

After having held several senior positions at UNESCO, Juan Carlos Tedesco took over the direction of IIEP-UNESCO’s Regional Office in Buenos Aires at the time of its creation. In his words, the Institute's mission was summarized as follows:

The central focus of the Institute's activity is the training of people responsible for the administration and management of education systems. However, we know that it is very difficult to train in educational management without research and without being involved in the implementation of action strategies. Research is fundamental because our traditional diagnoses have been overtaken by the new problems caused by the profound social, economic, and cultural changes that society is experiencing and by the new phenomena associated with the very processes of educational change.”

Juan Carlos Tedesco, 2002.

Fostering quality, inclusive, and equitable education

Today, Latin America and the Caribbean remains the region with the greatest socio-economic inequalities globally, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these inequalities, particularly for the most vulnerable groups. The long interruption of face-to-face schooling in most countries in the region had a negative impact on education systems, exacerbating a learning crisis that already existed before 2020.

Simultaneously, the pandemic brought with it an awareness of new potential crises and systemic threats, which could disrupt education and carry huge repercussions in terms of increased poverty and inequality.

In this context, IIEP Buenos Aires focuses its efforts on the most important and urgent issue in the region: how to ensure inclusive, equitable, and quality education. While this objective is an intrinsic part of UNESCO's mandate, the Office is committed to addressing the issue of educational inclusion as a central and transversal axis in the support provided to countries to prevent and address all forms of exclusion, marginalization, and inequality in access and completion of educational trajectories, as well as in learning outcomes.

In this sense, it proposes a strategic situational approach to ministries of education in the region, which conceives the planning and implementation of education policies as dynamic processes, always adjusted to the real contexts and conditions of countries and their education systems.

25 years’ training for educational management

The Regional Training Programme in Educational Policy Planning and Management (known as "RTP" in English or “PRF” in Spanish) has been offered every year since the creation of the Office.

Since 1998, more than 600 participants from 23 countries, including 19 Latin American countries and 4 Portuguese-speaking African countries, have graduated.

Throughout this time, the PRF has evolved: not only has its name changed (it was originally called "Regional Course on Educational Policy Planning and Formulation"), but also its format. Its modality was originally face-to-face but is now fully online. A policy of offering scholarships to each of the Latin American Member States was also introduced in 2018. Both measures have resulted in the full representation of the region and a very rich exchange of experiences among participants.

The “PRF” caters to high-level, decision-makers responsible for the design, implementation and/or evaluation of education plans, policies, and programmes. It equips these officials with the skills and tools necessary to build and manage education systems that ensure inclusive, equitable, and quality education for all.

The ‘PRF’ is a training space that fosters critical reflection on practice and incorporates the view of reality with a focus on our region, with the goal of strengthening education as a right. Year after year, since its creation, the ‘PRF’ has been consolidated as a space that promotes enrichment and facilitates a continuous update on theoretical and practical aspects of planning and management, and as a meeting and networking space that promotes South-South cooperation between government teams.”

Mariana Clucellas, Training Coordinator, IIEP-UNESCO Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

A regional observatory for the dissemination of educational trends

In December 2002, the "Sistema de Información de Tendencias Educativas en América Latina" (System on Educational Trends in Latin America), better known as “SITEAL”, was launched. This platform is an online regional observatory that systematizes and disseminates policy and regulatory documents, research, and statistics useful for analyzing and monitoring the educational situation in the region.

SITEAL promotes evidence-based decision-making to contribute to ensuring the right to education for all, around seven policy axes: inclusion and equity, basic education, gender, teachers, technical and vocational education and training, digital policies, and education financing. In this way, SITEAL fosters a better understanding of the functioning of education systems, the actions taken by States in this area, and the level of fulfillment of the right to education.

Recently, the SITEAL platform was redesigned to offer a more intuitive and agile navigation, according to the needs of IIEP's main audience: the technical teams of ministries of education.

SITEAL is a unique platform in Latin America with more than 20 years of experience in supporting ministries of education in decision-making. In a very user-friendly way and combining statistics, regulations, and research, it provides up-to-date information on education and allows users to find country-specific data as well as to learn about the main trends in education policy in the region."

Alejandra Cardini, Knowledge Management and Mobilization Coordinator, IIEP-UNESCO Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

A unique space for dialogue on education policy in the region

Since its creation, IIEP Buenos Aires has held an annual International Seminar on Education, bringing together professionals from the education community. Since 2017, in the framework of an update and redesign of the Office's offer, this space became the Regional Forum on Education Policy, a space for dialogue, consultation, and reflection on public policies in education and effective strategies for their implementation aimed at authorities from ministries of education in Latin America and the Caribbean, representatives of civil society and experts from international organizations and academia.

The objective of the Forum is to focus each year on strategies for the fulfillment of a strategic aspect of the Education 2030 Agenda and to create a network of officials from ministries of education in the region, through dynamic consultation and exchange of experiences.

Issues addressed in recent years:

  • Equity and inclusion approach in education systems
  • Challenges of secondary education
  • Education policy-making in times of crisis
  • Inclusion and education in post-pandemic times
  • Use of information systems in education policy planning and management
  • Addressing the learning crisis

The theme of the 2023 edition of the Regional Forum will be Digital policies to transform education in Latin America and the Caribbean.

IIEP at the forefront: Online training since before the pandemic

In 2015, IIEP Buenos Aires began offering a new line of training in virtual mode. The methodology of these courses included discussion forums, practical exercises, case studies, literature analysis, participation in collaborative networks, and written productions, among other activities. And it introduced the novelty of assigning tutors in charge of monitoring the participants' work, which resulted in an increase in completion rates.

Since then, all the Office’s regular training programmes have moved to an online modality to facilitate the participation of technical staff from ministries of education in all countries of the region. Since 2022, courses have been offered through a single site: the Global Campus, where courses are also offered at the IIEP offices in Paris and Dakar.

A community of practice that aims to foster horizontal cooperation and knowledge sharing

In 2019, IIEP Buenos Aires launched the Network of Latin American Education Policy Specialists, also known as "la RED".

The RED is the first virtual community of practice that brings together professionals from ministries of education involved in the design, implementation, and analysis of education policies in the region. In this space, IIEP seeks to foster dialogue and the exchange of good practices and lessons learned among the countries of the region.

Currently, the RED brings together more than 2,000 specialists and is a dynamic space that promotes events, discussion rooms, bilateral roundtables, and other interactive formats.

Looking to the future: An institute contributing to the advancement of education in the region

Through the implementation of multiple projects aimed at fulfilling the Institute's mission –strengthening the capacities of countries to plan and manage their education systems – IIEP Buenos Aires has established itself as a regional benchmark for the training of persons responsible for educational management in the countries of the region, as well as an important centre for the production and dissemination of knowledge on educational planning and management.

Today, amid celebrating 25 years in the region and 60 years globally, IIEP’s Office for Latin America and the Caribbean is in a process of growth with an eye on the future, to consolidate its position as a leading institution in capacity development of ministerial teams and in the creation and dissemination of knowledge, providing flexible solutions, with a practical approach and adapted to local contexts and the specific needs of the region. Our commitment is to continue supporting countries to build resilient education systems, capable of resisting potential crises but also – and above all – capable of guaranteeing the right to education.

Educational planning is fundamental to understanding, imagining, and transforming education. Understanding, to know the current state of our education systems and the challenges they face; imagining, to design the future we want and to set concrete goals. And finally, transforming, to implement lasting strategies to make the changes that our education systems need for the inclusion of all people a reality. This is the path that IIEP-UNESCO Buenos Aires has been working on, together with the ministries of education of the region, for 25 years.”

Pablo Cevallos Estarellas, Head of the IIEP-UNESCO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean