How Much Are Latin American Children Learning?

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In recent years, debates on education policy have been shifting their focus from educational quantity—getting more children in school and ensuring they stay longer—to educational quality—the learning that children acquire while at school.This change is welcome. Evidence suggests that low-quality schooling confers few benefits, and that quality education (as measured by standardized tests) has a greater impact on individual earnings and economic growth, in addition to having a positive impact on society.

International tests are beginning to provide valuable information about the quality of education in Latin America. In mid-2008, UNESCO’s Laboratory for Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE) published the results of the Second Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (SERCE), which evaluated the skills of third and sixth graders in math, reading and science in 16 Latin American countries. This test is the most recent and comprehensive study of the quality of education in the region.

In the document that follows, we highlight key findings of the SERCE study, with the goal of fostering an informed dialogue on student learning in the region. It presents a series of user-friendly tables and graphs that summarize the SERCE results and help policy-makers, parents, teachers and leaders in business and civil society to understand their implications. We hope this document helps further the conversation on student learning in the region.

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