Two years ago, 23-year-old Pedro Flores became a technician specializing in renewable energy—all thanks to a degree from a technical institute in Maule, located in one of Chile’s poorest regions. After completing his degree in just two years, Flores became the only person in his family to obtain an advanced degree. Today, he lives in Santiago and works for a private solar energy multinational corporation, where he earns a competitive salary that is only slightly below the average for entry-level professionals in his field, most of whom spent over five years in university.
On her daily walk down the muddy road that connects her home with school, Beatriz would sing a cumbia and dream of becoming a professional dancer. However, she would soon find out that her aspirations were short lived. At the age of 14, Beatriz got pregnant and never went back to school. In the six years following her pregnancy, she struggled with an unstable and low-paid job, cleaning rich houses in Guatemala City. By the age of 20, without minimum skills and a secure job, Beatriz had little control over her life and a murky picture of her future loomed.
En su caminata diaria por el camino lleno de lodo que conecta su casa con la escuela, Beatriz canta una cumbia y sueña con ser una bailarina profesional. Sin embargo, pronto descubrirá que sus aspiraciones durarán poco. A los 14 años, Beatriz quedará embarazada y nunca más volverá a la escuela. En los seis años posteriores a su embarazo, tendrá que lidiar con un trabajo inestable y mal pagado, limpiando casas de personas ricas en la ciudad de Guatemala. A los 20 años, sin contar con las habilidades mínimas y un trabajo seguro, Beatriz tendrá poco control de su vida y su futuro no será muy halagüeño.
In conjunction with the Ibero-American Summit this month, Pamela Cox, Vice President for Latin American and Caribbean, emphasizes the urgent need to focus on education quality in a recent op-ed that appeared in major news outlets across the region:
If education were simply a matter of attending classes, Latin America and the Caribbean would have already done its homework. Most regional countries have made enormous progress towards achieving universal access to basic education. There is also clear progress at the secondary and tertiary levels.
But more than access, the key goal of education is learning. Making sure that children and youngsters perform according to the requirements of the day is a necessary condition for the advancement of society. In that respect, the region still has some unfinished business.