The thematic chapter takes a close look at one sector critical for development in Latin America, taking into account the strategic challenges and opportunities the region will have in the future. This year’s Outlook focuses on education, skills and innovation as key inputs for more inclusive growth in the region.

Education is key for inclusive growth

Education is not only essential to stimulate growth, but also as a mechanism for social integration and equity. Pre-primary education and a focus on quality schooling during the entire educational trajectory are recommended.Despite recent progress, persistent gaps remain in quality and coverage. In Latin America, 35% of children of pre-primary school age are not enrolled, double that of OECD countries, and despite the fact that pre-primary education improves performance in highschool by almost a year of schooling. For secondary education, the difference between the performance of students from Latin America and those from OECD countries is equivalent to more than two years of schooling, according to the PISA 2012 tests. In tertiary education, the coverage is still well below the OECD average.

The main educational challenges are to improve quality and reduce inequalities. Achieving both objectives simultaneously is possible.

A key educational challenge is to overcome inequalities arising from socio-economic, gender, or territorial aspects; all higher than those observed in OECD countries. According to the PISA 2012 results, the socioeconomic status of secondary-level students explains almost 30% of the variation in their performance. The lowest 20% students by income show a two-year educational delay compared to the wealthiest ones. In addition, the performance of girls is equivalent to five months less schooling than for boys. Finally, students in rural areas have a lag of more than a year of schooling compared to those in urban areas.

Policy makers need to provide more and smarter investments for early education where important soft-skills developments take place which will be of critical importance in the labour market. Policies are also needed to strengthen investment in educational resources to reduce socio-economic inequalities while simultaneously addressing challenges related to equity and quality. Classroom practices should be adapted to ensure better performance outcomes without necessarily requiring to a high financial investment.

Download Infographics: "School-to-work life cycle in Latin America" and "Inequalities in education in Latin America