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May 16, 2023

Latin America launch for the Democratic Education Needs Imagination report

On September 22, 2022, in partnership with Protection Approaches, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) and its Warren Educational Policies Program (WEPP) and Latin American Program (LAP) celebrated the Latin America regional launch of the “Democratic Education Needs Imagination” (DENI) report. Dr. Clara Ramírez Barat, Director of AIPG’s WEPP, hosted the event, and Romina Kasman (UNESCO, Costa Rica) served as moderator. The conversation featured a discussion between educational experts from Latin America, including Giovanna Modé (CLADE, Brazil), Cristina Gómez Giusto (Ministry of Education, Argentina), Patricia Ames (Pontificia Universidad de Peru, Peru), and Olga Lúcia Zárate Mantilla (Ministry of Education, Colombia).

‘Democratic Education Needs Imagination’ is a project based on the belief that education is fundamental to addressing and preventing the rise of identity-based violence, mass atrocities, and democratic backsliding. The DENI report builds upon an online conference in which 25 education experts from around the world examined and analyzed research from professionals, policymakers, and practitioners in the education field worldwide. The final report also recommends best practices in democratic teaching, learning, planning, and policy, based on the expertise of diverse local contexts. The event focused on Latin America's social, political, and economic challenges, such as inequality, violence, racism, gender violence, and economic disparity, problems that affect democracy and, therefore, educational policies. In addition, an important issue discussed was the rates of inequality and economic exclusion experienced by the continent's societies, as well as their impact on the region's educational systems. Giovana Modé explained that "students from families with higher household incomes are five times more likely to complete their studies than those with lower household incomes." Similarly, another major problem of the educational system in Latin America is the lack of comprehensive educational policies adapted to the population's needs, including the lack of decent working conditions for teachers and the lack of state funding. During the presentation, the panelists examined how the digital divide of the COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges in education, affecting millions of students due to a lack of inclusive policies and digital democratization. The launch event also discussed racism and gender inequality in school environments, which predominantly affect women and indigenous and Afro-Latino communities. Given the challenges present in Latin America, the DENI report is an opportunity to rethink education in a more inclusive, dynamic, and participatory way, creating spaces with a sense of community and developing projects that also target issues like democracy, culture, ecology, etc. With this in mind, the Auschwitz Institute, through its WEPP and LAP programs, will make the report's results and recommendations available to the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention members during the upcoming meeting in October to disseminate the project in the region.

Dr. Clara Ramirez Barat, Director of the WEPP, shared the importance of reflecting on and facing the challenges in the region and creating more democratic societies through education:

Latin America has shared problems at the institutional political level, such as high levels of corruption, institutional weaknesses manifested in shared historical trends, authoritarianism, polarization, and growing skepticism towards democratic institutions. It is vital to identify which factors are the most important to address and promote political and civic education. Latin America is home to people with very different backgrounds and lifestyles, and diversity in the region is accordingly vast and complex. Daily life in the region is marked (for many people) by various types of symbolic and real violence that have repercussions on social coexistence. In this context, it is important to consider how education can and should understand these diversities and turn them into strengths.

Sheri P. Rosenberg

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