What Will It Take to Improve Latin America’s Schools?

In parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, students are learning little in their classes, the World Bank said in a recent report. A classroom in Guatemala is pictured above. // File Photo: Guatemalan Government.

School attendance in the developing world is on the rise, but in many cases, students are learning little in their classes, the World Bank said in a Sept. 26 report. For example, at the current rate of progress in Brazil, it will take 75 years before the country’s 15-year-olds have the same math skills as their peers in the average OECD country, while it will take 260 years for them to match the reading skills of students in developed countries, the report said. To what extent are students in Latin American and Caribbean countries lagging behind? Why have some developing countries such as China and Vietnam been able to counter the trend? What does the skills gap in Latin American and Caribbean countries mean for the region’s economies and for businesses operating there?

Alberto Bustamante, director of education for Microsoft Latin America: “According to the OECD, some Latin America and Caribbean countries are achieving academic performance improvements, but not fast enough to catch up to OECD countries’ average performance. In addition to this lag, the gap in the region is also widening for future skills-ready employees. During the last World Economic Forum, much was presented and discussed on the fourth industrial revolution and the disruption it is bringing to industries and consequently to employment and to the types of skills that will be in demand. Clearly, the education systems in Latin America and Caribbean need to accelerate their impact on traditional skills. At the same time, they also need to address the development of other critical ‘soft’ skills like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and computational thinking. The region will need professionals who are life-long learners and are better able to…”

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