ECLAC, whose survey conducted last month found nearly 20 percent of adolescents in Latin America are not attending school, has urged governments to act quickly to revive their educational systems.
Across the region, the UN agency says, practically all 11-year-olds study but by the age of 17 half of them leave the system and just one in every three finishes high school without repeating.
A large number of children from African and indigenous families drop out early, and nearly a quarter of youths do not attend school at all, the survey, conducted jointly by ECLAC and UNICEF, found.
The problem is most acute among poor families and in rural areas. “Just one of every five adolescents from the poorest quintile finishes high school, while four out of five students in the richest quintile graduate,” the report noted.
Male teenagers tend to enter the labor market prematurely (almost a fifth of them drop out due to a lack of interest in the educational system). Female adolescents also leave school because they lack interest and sometimes they drop out to take on unpaid housekeeping and caretaking jobs.
In a statement, ECLAC has also urged governments promote quality high school education that gives real opportunities to students to develop their talent and potential.
“Adolescents are and will be protagonists in the major social and economic transformations expected in the region over the coming decades, and to do so they need to be able to fully exercise their rights without any kind of discrimination,” said Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s executive secretary.
“Sexist practices in everyday schooling must be eliminated, which means addressing the curriculum and teachers’ work in the classroom. In addition, equal conditions are required in the labor market to ensure that both men and women can access it without facing any kind of discrimination,” the report noted.
Poor education systems have long been a stumbling block for Latin American countries to generate skilled labor and fuel economic growth.