THE REALITIES OF EDUCATION IN LATIN AMERICA
Without a high-level education, Latin American children will continue to lack the skills necessary for entering the workforce and participating in the increasingly competitive global economy.
- 50 million people in Latin America cannot read or write.
- Latin Americans receive an average of six years of schooling, compared to nine-and-a-half years in the OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.
- Nearly one-third of children in primary school in Latin America repeat a grade. The additional cost to the region's education systems has been estimated at $4 billion per year.
- Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru rank behind Uganda, Zambia, Botswana and Burundi in the quality of their math and science education.
- In Mexico, only 13% of adults receive a high school diploma versus 87% of American adults.
- Over 50% of Mexican and Brazilian 15-year old youth are functionally illiterate and thus unable to compete in today's economy.
CONTRIBUTORS TO LATIN AMERICA'S EDUCATION CRISIS
1. HIGH DROP-OUT RATE THROUGHOUT LATIN AMERICA
The heart of the problem is the drop-out rate -- children living in poverty are not staying in school.
- 92% of Latin American children begin primary school, but only 32% continue on to secondary school (the U.S. equivalant of middle/high school). Even fewer ultimately graduate.
- Approximately 40 million children and adolescents in Latin America drop out of school to live or work on the streets each year.
- It is estimated that 95% of children have access to school in Brazil, but only 59% of them finish the eighth grade.
- It is well established that school dropouts have worse outcomes, including in terms of mental health status, than do those youth who stay in school.
2. INEQUALITY IN LATIN AMERICA
Unequal societies are less efficient at converting growth into poverty reduction. In Latin America, the education gap mirrors the income gap between rich and poor.
- Levels of inequality in Latin America are the highest in the world -- at least one in three households and two in five people live below the poverty line.
- 220 million Latin Americans (about 44% of the region's population) live on less than $2 per day. Over half of them are children.
- In Brazil, children in the bottom income quartile complete an average of four years of school versus over ten years completed by children in the top income quartile.
3. LATIN AMERICA'S EDUCATION SPENDING
Despite increases in past years, spending on elementary education is still relatively low throughout the region.
- Per capita spending on primary education in Latin America still averages only 15% of U.S. levels.
- Latin American universities, which serve less than 10% of the population, receive a disproportionate share of education dollars compared to primary education. (In Brazil, public universities have only 2% of all pupils, but receive 25% of all federal education funds.
4. LIMITED ACCESS TO PRESCHOOL
Most families living in poverty lack the resources to pay for preschool education, so children are behind from the very beginning.
5. LOW TEACHER QUALITY
The level of instruction at many of the poorest schools throughout the region is extremely low. The majority of applicants to teaching programs have the lowest academic scores among those seeking higher education.
6. LACK OF RESOURCES
Poor nutrition and limited cognitive stimulation at home thwarts development and the learning process. In addition, the home environment and community often hinder a child's education because of the prevalance of abuse, gangs, child labor, drugs and other social problems.
ASIA VS. LATIN AMERICA
One critical factor in Asia's success has been its universal, increasingly high-quality education systems, particularly at the primary and secondary levels.
In 1970, the average Latin American and Asian adult had about four years of education. Today, the average Latin American has just over five years of education while the average Asian has almost ten.
Forty years ago, the levels of economic development were nearly the same in Asia and Latin America. Since the growth of Asia's economy has far surpassed that of Latin America. Asia's high-quality education systems have given Asians the advanced skills necessary to work in technologically sophisticated industries.
Sources for the above statistics: ECLAC, USAID, OECD, OXFAM, Pan American Health Organization, World Bank, United Nations, Hoover Institution
WHERE FOUNDATION GRANTS ARE GOING
At Worldfund, we're fighting to make sure students in Latin America do not continue to suffer from the under-funding of education. Your contribution helps make a difference.