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As economies in Latin America continue to growth and develop, accountants (and the accountancy profession) continue to be essential in supporting businesses of all sizes and sectors. Doing so—and keeping pace with development, increased globalization, and near-constant technological developments—requires accountants’ competencies be continually fostered through high-quality training and education.

Adopting and implementing the International Education Standards (IES) requirements—the global benchmarks for accountancy education and competencies—is one of the most significant steps that can be taken to ensure high-quality training and education. It is also a significant challenge for many Latin American professional accountancy organizations. Among other challenges Latin American PAOs face are low stakeholder awareness of the IES’ importance and not having the legal authority to enact all the requirements.

However, not adopting the IES requirements is a reputational risk for the entire Latin America region as the necessary knowledge, skills, and professional values and ethics may not be adequately covered in current professional educational opportunities.

Overcoming these challenges was the focus of a workshop held in August during the Inter-American Accounting Conference in Lima, Peru. More than 50 representatives from 17 different countries shared the successes and challenges, which provided insight into how PAOs can drive change.

Accrediting Universities

Eduardo Avalos, the president of the Consejo de Acreditación en Ciencias Administrativas, Contables y Afines (CACECA), shared his experiences developing an accreditation process in Latin America for high-quality professional accountancy programs using the IES requirements. One of the main challenges Eduardo noted, which applies to the entire region, is the diverse range of accountancy program names. In Latin America, there are more than 60 different university program names, with varying curricula within each program. This makes standardization and setting minimum benchmark requirements both difficult but increasingly important.

In this light, the Instituto Mexicano de Contadores Públicos (IMCP) (the national PAO in Mexico) created a voluntary certification system in collaboration with the national education regulator. Through the system, universities can choose to have their curriculum certified as IES-aligned. Students and aspiring accountants who want to become IMCP members are now able to determine which universities offer an accountancy education in line with international standards and meets the IMCP membership requirements. Aspiring candidates are able, at the outset of their program of study, to ensure they receive the necessary and adequate skills and training to begin their accountancy career.

Competency Exams

Maria Clara Cavalcante Bugarim, general comptroller in Alagoas, Brazil and an IFAC Board technical advisor, shared details on IES implementation in Brazil. In a first for the region, Brazil requires a uniform competency examination for all public accountants. However, this success was not without its challenges and the leadership of the Conselho Federal de Contabilidade faced many delays before its achievement and successful implementation. The CFC is now currently working on developing a strategy increase the approval rating of the exam.

Bouncing Back

Some PAOs, such as Costa Rica, still face uphill battles without the support of their national regulators. For example, although the Colegio de Contadores Públicos de Costa Rica adopted continuing professional development requirements and a competency exam, actual implementation of the requirements was blocked by the courts.

Despite these hurdles, the message from the workshop was clear: regional leaders are continuing to pursue IES adoption and implementation and engage with stakeholders to strategically highlight the importance of developing professionals’ competencies and skills.

IAESB Perspective

International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB) Member Blanca Tapia also shared the IAESB perspectives on priorities and upcoming projects, such as new technology initiatives and professional skepticisms that will impact professional accountants.

IFAC recognizes that well-educated accountants, equipped with the proper skills and acting with integrity, are key to Latin America’s economic development and will continue to collaborate with PAOs in the region and beyond to enhance their advocacy role with regulators and other stakeholders. One approach PAOs may consider is how they can utilize the IES benchmarking tool of the Centre for Financial Reporting Reform (CFRR) to strategically illustrate where enhancements in accountancy educational programs are most needed.

Do you believe your PAO has a success story to overcoming legal or stakeholder challenges to implement an IES requirement? Please post in the comments below or contact the author to share your journey further!

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Manuel Arias
Manuel Arias

Principal, IFAC

Manuel Arias is a Principal at IFAC, where he works on membership engagement and strengthening data gathering to provide insights to better decision making. Manuel has direct responsibility for Latin America, North America, and some European member organizations as part of the IFAC Member Compliance Program. He was previously the Inter-institutional Relations and Strategy Deputy Director at the INCP—Colombian PAO and was previously employed in the Colombian Red Cross. Manuel has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Universidad de Los Andes—Colombia and a degree in Economics from the Universidad Nacional—Colombia.