Policies to Promote Social Inclusion and Equality in Higher Education Institutions in Latin America

Conference Paper to be presented by Martha Zapata Galindo

Martha Zapata Galindo is a Lecturer and Researcher at the Institute for Latin American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her research interests include social inclusion and higher education, intersectionality and feminist theory, social movements, women’s and feminist movements, democratization and intellectual processes in Latin America and the circulation of knowledge.

Social inclusion, equality, and diversity programs have not always been a priority in universities in Latin America. Recent analysis of the current situation and trends in higher education show various types of inequalities. Those that stand out in the social and urban areas are inequalities of gender, ethnicity and race, and income. The various strategies for social inclusion and equality that were developed in recent years, regionally and on a local level and with the support of public policies and actions, have resulted in substantial changes in university enrollment and the composition of its various populations. Among the many measures introduced to combat social exclusion in the higher education institutions of Latin America, along with projects for gender mainstreaming and scholarship programs for low-income groups in different higher education institutions of Latin American countries (Argentina Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay), the most noteworthy have been models that promote the inclusion of Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples, as have been implemented in Brazil, Colombia and Peru, to name a few. Despite the heterogeneity that characterizes Latin America, the range of coverage in higher education and college enrollment itself varies significantly between the different countries.  There is precise data about certain groups of recipients, for example the process of the feminization of the student enrollment in higher education in virtually all Latin American countries. However, regarding ethnic diversity – the strong presence of indigenous and Afro-descendants in many Latin American countries who have been historically marginalized in accessing education – and special-needs populations and different types of disabilities, we cannot count on the existence of reliable, comparable and up-to-date data.

In my contribution, I want to question the way diversity studies and experts in social-inclusion policy-making have conceptualized diversity, ignoring the multidimensionality of inequalities and social differences. This has led to a revision of the category of diversity, which is taken as the basis of processes of exclusion, to be rethought in terms of the recognition of difference, the acknowledgment of situated knowledge, and the acceptance of intersectionality. This paper proposes a change of perspective in studies and research to approach the problems of social inclusion and equality in higher education institutions. I will discuss the results of a research project on social inclusion and equality that proposes a methodology to analyze data on access to universities in Latin America from an intersectional perspective, including several markers of difference such as gender, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, to reflect on the need for crossing markers of difference to generate new policy proposals of social inclusion, equality, and diversity.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *