Latin America exhibits one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world and by
international standards, middling levels of educational inequality. The historic roots of both
inequalities are deep and the contemporary economic, social and political institutions and forces
that sustain them are durable and powerful. Yet improved participation by the disadvantaged in
quality education is nowadays considered critical not only on ethical grounds for citizenship and
social integration, but in terms of lost potential for economic competitiveness. (ECLACUNESCO,
1992, World Bank, 2005). This double-edged justification for reforms which aim to
build more equitable educational institutions and processes , has, in the last decade and a half,
transformed the political economy of educational change in the region. Across the different
countries’ political spectra, education is seen as holding a strategic key for change and growth,
and as a direct result, the 1990-2006 period has seen the greatest activism in education in the
history of the region. Most governments have considerably increased their expenditure in the
sector; carried forward institutional and curricular reforms; and developed programs which
make disadvantaged territories or groups a priority, with improvements in quality and equity as
driving goals and criteria. The policies impact not only coverage, which was the main focus of
state actions in education throughout the twentieth century, but also institutional and curricular