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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Public expenditure on education does not have optimal results
Latinamerica Press
9/14/2017
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Only a third of children in third and fourth grade in the region meet the minimum benchmark for math proficiency.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) published on Aug. 30 its 2017 flagship study titled “Learning Better: Public Policy for Skills Development”, that gives a critical look at government efforts to improve skills acquisition from birth to adulthood.

According to Santiago Levy, IADB Vice-President for Sectors and Knowledge, “a person who has had access to good stimulation in the early years, good quality schools, university and employment in a formal firm has a big leg up on life. Governments can do a much better job at improving the lives of those that have had none of those advantages. It is a big challenge but with a big pay-off in terms of growth and equity if we get it right.”

Despite the Latin America and the Caribbean countries spend an average of 5.1 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on education and technical training, almost the same percentage as more developed nations, the results fall well short. The students are more than a one year behind than expected, based on the region’s level of economic development.

“Only 30 percent of children in third and fourth grade in Latin America and the Caribbean meet the minimum benchmark for math proficiency, compared to 66 percent for nations with similar levels of development and 93 percent in developed nations,” the IADB said.

The IADB highlighted that the “skills development in the region is not only low when compared to the rest of the world, but unequal within countries. In the early years, children from low income families are exposed to fewer words and more negative feedback than their wealthier peers. Parenting programs have been shown to help the most in closing this gap and they tend to be cheap: gaps in cognitive skills can be cut in half at a cost of about US$600 per child-year.

“Reducing class size from 25 to 20 students can boost yearly learning by 15 percent, and extending the school day from 4 to 7 hours by 10 percent, but both programs are expensive, increasing spending by about 20 and 60 percent, respectively.”, the study stated. “On the other hand, programs that provide lesson plans to teachers and motivate students directly are both effective in promoting skills development and cheap.”

Diana Hincapié, one of the authors of the study, said that “in education, the goal should not be to spend just to spend, but that spending has good results.” —Latinamerica Press.


LATIN AMERICA/THE CARIBBEAN

Government expenditure in education*
 

Country
Percentage of GDP
Costa Rica
7.6
Venezuela
7.5
Bolivia
6.5
Jamaica
6.3
Belize
6.2
Brazil
6.1
Honduras
5.9
Argentina
5.3
Mexico
5.3
Paraguay
5.2
Colombia
4.9
Ecuador
4.8
Chile
4.6
Nicaragua
4.5
Uruguay
4.5
El Salvador
3.8
Peru
3.7
Panama
3.3
Guatemala
2.8
Dominican Rep.
2.6
*The year closest to 2014 was chosen for each country from the information available to 2009 to 2014.
Source: IADB

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