Education International
Education International

EI reaffirms commitment to indigenous peoples’ rights

published 16 November 2010 updated 16 November 2010

The Latin America Regional Meeting on Public Education and Native Peoples has concluded with EI commitment to quality bilingual inter-cultural public education and respect for existing cultural diversity.

The meeting, organised in La Paz, Bolivia, from 8-9 November, was attended by representatives of education trade unions from across Latin America, and featured key note contributions from EI General Secretary, Fred Van Leeuwen, who expressed his full support for the work of affiliated unions: “EI will be behind you, backing you up and supporting your work, but it is you who have to do the work and contribute towards strengthening quality public education for the indigenous peoples.”

EI’s coordinator for equality and human rights, Rebeca Sevilla, reiterated the need for countries to sign necessary agreements and amend discriminatory laws in order to move forward democratic educational processes.

She stressed that teachers’ unions are “key players for the educational community and for society in general,” and went on to emphasises that “indigenous education must be included on the trade union agenda, while exchanges and dialogue also need to be established.” She concluded by stating that, “the inclusion and participation of indigenous teachers make for stronger trade unions.”

The EI-affiliated education trade union organisations taking part in the meeting, from the continent’s countries with the largest indigenous populations, committed themselves to redoubling their efforts to secure the full incorporation of bilingual inter-cultural education, respect for native cultures and the promotion of cultural diversity.

After a country-by-country analysis of the situation facing native peoples and education, participants deliberated on the contents of an alternative education policy and how to generate inclusion processes in state-run schools, while reinforcing bilingual inter-cultural education.

In the country reports, the experience of public education within indigenous communities was not very positive, except in Bolivia, whose education system has increasingly incorporated elements of respect for cultural diversity.

In Bolivia, the political landscape following the election of the country’s first indigenous leader, President Evo Morales, has allowed advances to be made in public education policies. Despite this, the country’s Ministry of Education has recognised that many more changes are required, especially in the implementation of new education policies. This is a task towards which teachers’ unions can make a vital contribution, observed the ministerial representative.