Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Language and Education

pp 724-737

Literacies in Latin America

  • Judy KalmanAffiliated withGraduate School of Education, University of PennsylvaniaDepartment de Investigaciones Educativas–Cinvestav, Center for Advanced Study and Research


Latin America is a heterogeneous region with deep cultural, social, economic and linguistic differences. International agencies such as UNESCO, World Bank, and the Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL) refer to the region as Latin America and the Caribbean in order to include not only the land mass stretching from Mexico to Argentina but also the small English, Spanish, and French‐speaking islands as well. Disparities in class, race, language, and ethnicity shape literacy in Latin America. In 2000, 20% of the region's income was earned by 5% of the population and 46% of all families were identified as living below the poverty line. Countries such as Brazil, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti still have illiteracy rates above 10% and this figure tends to increase among indigenous peoples. As a region, Latin America has high educational gender equality. Male and female enrollment is nearly equal and the difference between gende ...

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