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, 2017 report. For example, at the current rate of progress in Latin America, it will take 75 years before the region’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. What does the skills gap in Latin American countries mean for the region’s economies and for businesses operating there?
At GRG Education we don't recall a time in the recent history of Latin American educational systems when the stakes were higher, but also where the possibilities of breaking through endless cycles of institutional underperformance and low learning outcomes were also so promising. The World Bank’s solid data, exemplary case studies and actionable recommendations should encourage policymakers across the region to act accordingly or risk their societies being left behind.
The report confirms what the PISA results show every so often: the regional systems are failing their main constituents, the learners. It is imperative to focus on improving student outcomes. The question is, how? The distinction between schooling and learning deserves reflection. What is the use of universal schooling if learners can’t end up with the literacy, numeracy and skills to succeed and live fulfilling lives in an increasingly competitive world? Most education systems in the region are outdated legacies from a bygone industrial era. Formulated to respond to the need to ‘educate’ the masses, these systems have been falling short for decades. The time seems right for bolder approaches to testing innovative models, and perhaps, for selectively adopting best practices form other national contexts (for example, South Korea and China). Policymakers and key stakeholders have the opportunity for reshaping the future of education in the region by aiming at increasing learners’ and families’ preparedness for schooling, focusing decisively on measuring learning outcomes, enhancing teachers’ readiness and motivation, and improving the systems’ equity and efficiency.