From the article on El País:
Enfrentamos retos formidables. La población mundial aumentará en más de 2 mil millones de personas hacia 2050 y debemos ser capaces de garantizar mejores condiciones de vida para más personas, particularmente en los países en vías de desarrollo. Es urgente proporcionar educación adecuada para que las nuevas generaciones puedan integrarse a mercados en vertiginosa transformación. Además, la automatización y los cambios tecnológicos pueden dificultar aún más el encontrar trabajo para aquellos trabajadores poco calificados.
An English translation of the article appears below:
Mexico City, 27 May 2017 – We face formidable challenges. The world’s population will increase by more than 2 billion people towards 2050 and we must be capable of guaranteeing better life conditions for more people, especially in developing countries. It’s urgent to provide appropriate education so that the new generations will be able to integrate to markets undergoing rapid transformations. Further, automation and technological changes may render even more difficult finding work for low-skilled workers.
However, at the global level, resources allocated to education are insufficient: there are countries in Latin America and Africa that are investing less than 3% of its GDP on public education, when the average of high-income countries is around 5%. Even when there is will to invest in education, such investments have often been poorly directed and inefficient. This is because education policies have failed to clearly identify what are the desired results and take the adequate steps to reach them. For instance, there has often been a premium placed on expanding educational coverage over learning as such.
Particularly, in Latin America, of the 111 million children and adolescents of school age in our region, 14 million were out of school according to 2014 data. Further, there are children and young people who, even if they do attend school, are not learning to read properly or to do basic mathematics severely limiting their opportunities.
Yet we must acknowledge the effort we are making alongside real progress our region has secured in recent decades. According to UNESCO, as of 2014 we in Latin America were investing on average about 5% of GDP on education, an increase from 4% in 2000 – on par with industrialized countries as a whole. Further, today, 8 out of 10 children in Latin America and the Caribbean have access to preschool education and most children are enrolled in primary school.
In several countries in the region, there are public policies that can serve as examples to countries across the developing world. A case study from Brazil – one of the countries with important achievements in terms of education in Latin America – reveals that low-income girls who participated in community preschool programs were two times more likely to reach fifth grade and three times more likely to reach eighth grade than their peers who did not attend preschool. In Mexico, investments in low-cost higher education have created educational opportunities for young people, increasing school retention; in parallel, they have resulted in greater availability of engineers and technicians, sparking competitiveness of the auto industry and others. Moreover, with the social program Opportunities, we were able to close the gender gaps in primary, secondary and upper secondary education. More recently, we must highlight the laudable effort of the different political forces in Mexico to improve the quality of education.
If we want to ensure that all of our children have their right to an education fulfilled, now is the moment to put the foot on the accelerator. Latin America could be the one signaling the road ahead. Our countries – alongside the wider international community – have committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of an “Inclusive and quality education for all,” promoted by the United Nations, by 2030. If Latin American countries join a collaborative effort toward achieving inclusive and quality education for all, we would be directly contributing to making progress on all other SDGs in our region, as well as at the global level.
A recent report by the Education Commission, in which I have the honor to serve as a Commissioner, shows us that we have a great opportunity ahead of us: if all countries manage to accelerate their rates of educational progress – in terms of coverage and of children acquiring basic skills, from preschool through primary and secondary school – heading towards the same levels achieved by the 25% of countries that are improving the fastest, we would then reach the point where all children in developing countries would have access to a quality education by 2030.
To this end, the Commission has outlined a plan to gradually increase annual education spending in all low- and middle-income countries from $1.2 trillion today to $3 trillion by 2030. To begin, governments in developing countries must commit to expanding their financial commitment to education and reforming their systems so that the spending on education is more efficient and effective. Such reforms will promote educational policies focused on obtaining the right results, promoting inclusion of the most disadvantaged groups and innovating to improve educational quality.
In exchange, the Commission proposes a pledge to trigger support from the international community directed to those who make the commitments mentioned above. Concretely, this would be achieved through a breakthrough proposal: an International Finance Facility for Education – which would be borne out of an alliance among the World Bank, regional development banks and donors. This platform would not only seek to coordinate and harmonize action by the multilateral banks, but also has as its objective to attract private capital to further incentivize the participation of the development banks.
The evidence is on our side: investing in education means investing in better opportunities to improve people’s quality of life. Educating a child is the surest pathway to reducing infant mortality. In the developing world, reducing by half the fossil fuel subsidy – and investing half of those savings in education – would result in a net benefit of $3 billion for the 20% poorest people in each country. Further, creativity and innovation can spur sustainable solutions to local problems such as expanding access to energy and to drinking water. Education is one of the primary tools to mold citizens who are committed to their countries’ civic institutions and to the democratic values that underpin life in a society.
And if this wasn’t enough, there is additional evidence of the economic benefits of better investment in education. The Commission’s analysis signals that, in developing countries, every dollar invested in one additional year of schooling generates $10 in benefits. Expanding coverage and improving education quality helps to slow down migratory pressure and activates economic growth.
For these reasons, the members of the Commission ask the G20 – with Argentina, Mexico and Brazil as key members – to sign up for this plan. At this moment when leaders prepare for their meeting in Hamburg, Germany, we ask that Latin American countries take with them the best practices of our regions, along with the steadfast commitment to improving our own educational standards, access, quality and learning.
Putting this Commission plan in motion will bring us closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and it would illustrate all that can be achieved through international cooperation, in response to the voices that, irresponsibly, call for isolationism.