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.
Over the past few decades, cheap and low-skilled labor has provided many countries — including much of East Asia — with a competitive advantage. However, with economies increasingly turning to automation, cheap labor and low skills will no longer guarantee economic growth or even jobs.
The inefficiency and inequity caused by age differences in testing is not news. On the contrary, it is a well-documented fact. The proposed solution to this problem is to age-adjust test scores. But the truth is, we are nowhere near to implementing such a solution.
Every sector is reforming to meet the changing demands of the global economy. Except one. Education remains a predominantly public service. This is fine except that it means that this is also mainly publicly-provided, publicly-financed, and regulated. No public service agency is expected to do as much as we expect of education. How are education systems around the world faring?
Intensive “bootcamp” training programs that develop coding and other computer science skills and directly connect students with jobs are becoming increasingly popular. In the U.S, there are already over 90 bootcamps—and they are taking root in Latin America too, helping to close the region’s skills and gender gaps.
When I joined the Mexican ministry of education in 2008, one of the first challenges I had was to identify effective policies to reduce dropout rates in upper secondary (grades 10, 11 and 12). Eight years, two randomized control trials, numerous workshops, and several diagnostics later, I still don’t have a precise answer.
With Ciro Avitabile
If I could plot the number of bad decisions I’ve made throughout my life against my age there would certainly be a large hump between 15 and 18. Among the many bad decisions I made during adolescence—and believe me there were many- leaving school never even crossed my mind. To stay in high school, I not only had to be present but needed to put in a minimum effort not to fail more than a certain number of subjects which would jeopardize my right to enroll the following year.
Con la colaboración de Ciro Avitabile
Si pudiera graficar la cantidad de decisiones desacertadas que he tomado durante mi vida en función de la edad que tenía al momento de tomarlas, no cabe duda de que observaría una gran concentración de malas decisiones entre los 15 y los 18 años. Entre las numerosas decisiones desacertadas que tomé en la adolescencia —y, créanme, fueron muchas— jamás me pasó por la mente abandonar mis estudios. Para poder seguir en el bachillerato, no solo tenía que asistir a clases, sino que debía poner un esfuerzo mínimo para no reprobar más de una cierta cantidad de materias y arriesgar mi derecho a matricularme el año siguiente.