On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, this blog outlines successful policies in Latin America that have helped redistribute funds to help bring about equity in education, and benefit its indigenous populations.
To achieve Education for All, it is necessary not only to increase domestic resources for education but also to redistribute these resources equitably so that a fair share reaches marginalized groups. More often, however, resources are skewed towards the most privileged.
To shift education spending in favour of the marginalized, some governments have introduced compensatory funding formula, which allocate more resources to locales, communities or schools that are in need of greater support, such as indigenous populations. This can help overcome educational deprivation and socio-economic inequality.
Brazil weighs its national spending in order to tackle widespread education inequality between states; inequality that affects its indigenous populations the most. In the poorer northern Amazonian states, for instance, income is less than half the level in the richer southern states, so tax revenue and spending per pupil are significantly lower.
To address this imbalance and prioritise the needs of marginalized indigenous groups, the government introduced in the mid-1990s the Fund for Primary Education Administration and Development for the Enhancement of Teacher Status (FUNDEF). This school funding reform guaranteed a certain minimum spending level per pupil. Schools in rural areas were generally favoured over urban schools, with greater weight given to those attended by marginalized indigenous groups.
Recognising state disparities in the quality of teachers between poorer and richer states, 60% of Brazil’s new fund was earmarked for teacher salaries. This is very much in line with the findings in the EFA GMR 2013/4, which showed that the uneven allocation of trained teachers can widen equity gaps in learning. By 2002, the new funds had enabled almost all teachers to acquire minimum required training, and ensure an influx of fully qualified teachers to schools serving students from marginalized groups. In fact the teaching workforce in Brazil increased by around one-fifth in the years since 1997.
And more significantly, average school attendance of the poorest 20% in Brazil rose from four years in the mid-1990s to eight years by 2006. Between 1997 and 2002, average enrolment increased by 61% in the North-East region and 32% in the North region.
There are economic benefits to prioritizing equitable education
In Latin America and the Caribbean, educational attainment is on the rise: on average, adults had spent 3.6 years at school in 1965 which increased to 7.5 years in 2005. The Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/4 estimated that this contributed to two-thirds of the average annual growth rate in GDP per capita in the region between 2005 and 2010.
However, not all countries in the region kept pace. In Guatemala, for example, completed years of schooling among adults in 2005 was just 3.6 years. The Report calculated that, if Guatemala had matched the regional average, it could have more than doubled its average annual growth rate between 2005 and 2010, from 1.7% to 3.6%, equivalent to an additional US$500 per person. A major reason for Guatemala’s poor performance is that members of indigenous groups have historically received half as many years of schooling as non-indigenous groups.
On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, let’s jog the memories of those forgetting to include them in their education policies and reform plans. The benefits that come with redressing historical inequities by improving the provision and quality of education for children from indigenous groups accrue not just for the child, but for the whole of society.