Confronting the Education Crisis: How to Rebuild Latin America's Human Capital

Fernando Reimers and Claudia Costin discussed lessons learned for education in Latin America during the Covid pandemic.


  • Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of the Practice of International Education; Director of the Global Education Innovation Initiative and of the International Education Policy Master’s Program, Harvard University
  • Claudia Costin, Founder and Director, Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education Policies (CEIPE); Professor, Getulio Vargas Foundation
  • Cecilia Tornaghi, Managing Editor, Americas Quarterly; Senior Director, Policy, Americas Society/Council of the Americas (moderator)

"We will be able to make the best out of this crisis." That was how Fernando Reimers of Harvard University concluded a conversation hosted by Americas Society/Council of the Americas to launch Americas Quarterly new issue on education in Latin America. The coronavirus pandemic may have shuttered schools for more than 260 days across the region, but it also introduced a new technological potential for student agency and civil society involvement in improving education.

Reimers said that for all the damage that has been done, the pandemic offers a chance for a renaissance in Latin American education, much as a pandemic ushered Florence out of the Middle Ages. Access to technological tools for teachers and students in the region can extend learning opportunities, he explained, though limitations still exist in Internet connectivity, computer access, and digital skills. Thus, "what should be a priority in the future is to build blended systems," Reimers said. He recommended UNESCO's most recent report on education as a resource for all representatives from all sectors to learn how they can be involved in improving education.

Claudia Costin of CEIPE talked about Latin America's learning crisis and how civil society's involvement in education can be an answer to overcoming the region's social inequities, many of which were exacerbated by the pandemic. The solutions, she explained, transcend education as governments need to make equity part of their agenda. Many tools have been popularized during the pandemic to involve parents, address gaps in learning, personalize education, and build independent thinking, she explained. "If we teach students they have to be active citizens, building communities together, you can change mindsets," Costin concluded.