Language Teachers in Latin America: Eyewitnesses of Invisible Layers of Inequality

Loreto Aliaga-Salas 

July 2020 

I have interviewed more than 10 teachers across the countries of Latin America, two of which are included in CLER’s Language Teachers’ Lives in Global LockdownIn these stories, teachers navigate their personal and professional lives. At home, they attempt to balance childcare, house chores, with synchronous teaching. At a professional level, they feel it has been a shot in the dark.  

The OECD reports that in Latin America inequality is 65% higher than in high-income countries, 36% higher than in East Asian countries, and 18% higher than in sub-Saharan Africa (OECD, 2016). Three Latin American countries currently stand on the bottom three least equal countries in the world (OEDC, 2020). In the global pandemic, teachers have become eyewitnesses of their students’ daily lives and realities, which has shed light on invisible layers of inequality. For example, one teacher worries about her students who live in overcrowded conditions, while others are concerned about situations of domestic violence and abuse.  

In these accounts, teachers show that their priority in lockdown is not language teaching and learning but their students’ (and their own) well-being. For example, one teacher speaks about socioemotional support for them, and this resonates with narratives across Latin America. Teachers have demonstrated to be resilient, creative and resourceful to face the unprecedented challenges that the global lockdown has imposed on themThey are eager to go back to the classroom, seeing their students and lifting their spiritsIf there is a silver lining in this global crisis, it is the emergence of a caring and supportive global community of (language) teacherswithin and beyond their communities, by sharing experiences, resources, and overall support, and most importantly, transcending all imagined boundaries. 

OECD. (2016). OECD and Latin America and the Caribbean – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.oecd.org/latin-america/latin-america-tackle-twin-challenges-of-inequality-and-low-productivity-to-raise-living-standards.htm 

OECD. (2020). Income inequality (indicator). doi: 10.1787/459aa7f1-en. Retrieved on 10 July 2020. 

 To see all narratives in Language Teachers’ Lives in Global Lockdown, please click here. 

To read Loreto’s edited collection on language teachers’ development, click here.