Central America and the Caribbean
The countries of this region of Latin America have certain characteristics in common: all are part of the Caribbean Basin; there is a shared European heritage (predominantly Hispanic) with ethnic and cultural contributions from pre-Colombian, African and Asian communities; educational achievement is not reaching the levels needed to meet development goals; there are often conditions of poverty that are among the highest in the Americas (Fig. 1.1).
The situation with respect to the teaching and learning of mathematics in Central America and the Caribbean should be considered in a larger context. One image of its reality is provided by international comparative testing.
Fig. 1.1 Central America and the Caribbean. Source Free vector map of Middle America political with shaded relief. http://www.onestopmap.com
The achievement in Latin America on PISA, the international assessment from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (that is given to 15 year-old students) is systematically among the lowest of participating countries. The following table shows the 15 countries with the lowest scores on the 2012 PISA mathematics test. More than half of them are from Latin America (Table 1.1).
The average scores for countries participating from Latin America was approximately 397, almost 100 points lower than the OECD average and 215 points lower than Shanghai. Fully 63 % of Latin American youth scored under Level 2, which is considered to be the level necessary to function adequately in the modern world in which we are living (and that is 40 % more than was the OECD average). Less than 1 % scored at the highest two levels. Even if you do not accept all of the criteria and methodology used by PISA, these results show very weak achievement in school mathematics which presents these countries with the need to design very serious actions to improve education. Also, within the region there are significant differences, for examples there is a 55-point difference between the highest (Chile) and the lowest (Peru).
There has also been an effort on the part of UNESCO’s Latin American Laboratory on the Evaluation of the Quality of Education to measure achievement in the third and sixth grades in schools in the region. Their two latest studies have been the “Second Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study” (SERCE) in 2006
Table 1.1 The 15 countries with the lowest achievement levels on PISA 2012
aLatin America. Many nations in this region did not participate, including the Dominican Republic and Venezuela Source OECD (2014)
and the Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study” (TERCE) in 2013. Some results follow (Table 1.2).
These data show that the countries of the Caribbean Basin that have participated in these tests (without including Mexico) have consistently scored below the rest of Latin America. Latin America as a region on international comparative tests has had low achievement levels with respect to the rest of the world, but Central America and the Caribbean is even weaker. On three of the tests the difference between Chile (with the highest scores) and the Dominican Republic (with the lowest scores) is more than 130 points.
The purpose of CANP 2 was to study the conditions related to mathematics education in Central America and the Caribbean, and search for elements to promote development. And the objective of this book is to offer to the international mathematics education community for the first time an academic summary of some dimensions of the development of the teaching and learning of mathematics in this specific region.
Why are only Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in this book? Although other countries in the region were invited to participate, for various academic and socioeconomic situations they chose not to. This work should
Table 1.2 Results from SERCE and TERCE (UNESCO) in Latin America: 2006, 2013
aCountries from Central America and the Caribbean Venezuela did not participate in these studies Source OREALC-UNESCO (2014)
Table 1.3 Area and population of Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela
be seen as a first approximation. Without a doubt, it will be important to replicate this study in other countries in Central America and the Antilles.
It is important to note that the four countries in this study are particularly diverse geographically and demographically. Below are data on surface area and population that should help to situate the reader (Table 1.3).
Colombia is the largest with the greatest population, followed by Venezuela. The Dominican Republic has an area similar to Costa Rica, but twice the population.
Colombia has an area 20 times that of the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, and a population 10 times that of Costa Rica. Colombia and Venezuela share a long border. Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic share no borders with the rest of these countries, but the latter does share an island with Haiti. All these countries were a part of the Spanish Empire, although with diverse levels of importance. Costa Rica was the most “peripheral”. All four experienced distinct processes of independence from Spain. They have all had distinct relationships with the main power in the Americas, the United States. For example, the Dominican Republic was occupied various times by the United States while Costa Rica has always enjoyed a close relationship with the country to the north. Politically, all are representative democracies, but historically they have lived quite different conditions. Their levels of economic, social and educational development are distinct which indicates the need for care in analysing these realities.