Education, Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Curt Carnemark / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Education leads to entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship leads to innovation.”

This statement was made by the Honorable Julissa Reynoso, US ambassador to Uruguay, at the event “Education, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation in the Americas,” held at the Woodrow Wilson Center on March 13, 2014.

Yet with the recent release of the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), countries throughout Latin America have come face-to-face with the harsh reality that students are not receiving the quality education needed to compete in an increasingly globalized world.

Organized by the Dialogue in partnership with the Wilson Center and the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Chief of Missions, the event convened Reynoso; The Honorable Lisa Kubiske, ambassador to Honduras; The Honorable Phyllis M. Powers, ambassador to Nicaragua; and The Honorable James H. Thessin, ambassador to Paraguay to discuss how education reform can help make Latin America’s economies become more competitive. Cynthia J. Arnson, director of the Woodrow Wilson’s Latin America Program provided opening remarks, and Ariel Fiszbein, Director of the Dialogue’s Education Program, moderated the discussion.

The ambassadors identified fundamental challenges in each of the countries in which they serve that are of particular concern for education policy: poverty in Honduras and Paraguay, a lack of English language training for youth in Nicaragua, and the approximate 40% of students not meeting PISA standards in Uruguay. Panelists expressed however, that both national and U.S. based initiatives are being implemented in their respective countries to address these issues and ultimately improve education systems. Such initiatives include One Laptop per Child in Uruguay, and 100,000 Strong in Honduras.

In order to promote entrepreneurship and innovation, panelists agreed that countries must create greater opportunities for both the brightest and poorest students, including expanding education opportunities for afro-Latino communities in the region. That begins with investing in primary and secondary education to lower dropout rates, increasing opportunities for university students to study in the U.S. via stronger relationships with U.S. universities, and providing teachers with the skills and resources they need to teach effectively while creating accountability and incentives. According to The Honorable James H. Thessin, financing and critical thinking skills are needed for innovation; youth need a strong foundation in order to progress in society and have hope.

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