The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has urged Latin American governments to look for better methods of nurturing talent, stressing that many skills development programs are failing.
Despite the fact that nations in the region are spending more than 5% of their GDP on education and skills development programs — the same percentage as more developed nations — the results fall well short of their peers.
“The average Latin American and Caribbean student is more than one year behind what is expected based on the region’s level of economic development,” the bank noted in a new study. “A shift towards ‘evidence-based policies’ is only the way out.”
Latin America spends about US$80 billion a year on primary education, but reportedly there are only 13 rigorous evaluations in place to see if the programs work.
The report also finds that most of the government programs in the region do not provide incentives for young people to stay in school, nor do they help businesses foster a learning environment in the workplace.
“Only 30% of children in third and fourth grade meet the minimum benchmark for math proficiency, compared to 66% for nations with similar levels of development and 93% in developed nations.”
The bank suggests that “reducing class size from 25 to 20 students can boost yearly learning by 15%, and extending the school day from 4 to 7 hours by 10%, but both programs are expensive, increasing spending by about 20 and 60%, respectively”.
Hiring teachers competitively and providing incentives to improve pedagogical practices also offer promising results, said the bank, arguing that programs that provide lesson plans to teachers and motivate students directly are both effective and cheap.
The IDB has also launched a website for policy makers to assess the success of their programs, as well as a means to identify better alternatives.