The World Bank reports that low teacher effectiveness causes children attending public schools in Latin America and the Caribbean to miss the equivalent of one school day every week. Public education in Latin America is plagued by teacher absenteeism, low pay and poor school leadership; all contribute to this troubling inefficiency.

Latin America has enjoyed significant growth in recent years, paving the way for the reduction of poverty and inequality, yet in order for the region’s economic engine to continue running efficiently, its youth must have access to educational resources.

The recent World Bank study, “Great Teachers: How to Raise Student Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean,” draws on data from over 14,000 classrooms in seven countries in the region. It seeks to determine how teachers, who make up 20 percent of Latin America’s labor force, can improve their performance given the significant role they play in regional economic development.

Barbara Burns, the author of the report, states that “virtually all countries in the region appear trapped in a low-level equilibrium of low standards for entry into teaching, relatively low and undifferentiated salaries, weak instruction in the classroom and poor educational outcomes … moving to a high-level equilibrium will be difficult but it is an effort that the region can’t afford to postpone.”

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, a standardized assessment of students on a global scale, reveals that Latin American and Caribbean children fall short in the middle-income category, yet researchers estimate that if Mexico raised its PISA performance to the level attained by the average German student, the country’s gross domestic product could jump two percentage points.

The World Bank publication determines that public schools in Latin America need better and younger teachers. Teacher salaries in the region are consistently lower than salaries in other professional fields, meaning motivation can be lacking. Additionally, data from university entrance exams show that although students pursuing education degrees receive high levels of formal education, they have been found to possess weaker cognitive skills.

The good news is that teacher quality has become a major development focus of Latin American countries in recent years, while researchers and academics are communicating just how essential education is to continued economic development and poverty reduction.

Kayla Strickland

Sources: Kansas City infoZine, Plano Informativo
Photo: Plano Informativo