20 de Julio de 2018
Portal Educativo de las Américas
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La Educación
Número: (126-128) I,III
Año: 1997

What Today’s Data Tell Us

Is it fair to say that Latin America is characterized today by a system of mass education at the intermediate and higher levels, while its primary education system lags far behind those of Europe from the quantitative point of view? The figures do not seem to support such a conclusion, and indeed, viewed in global and cross-sectional terms, the conclusion has probably never been valid.

At around the mid-point of this century, the region as a whole was behind in all three levels of education, despite the remarkable growth of optional education [i.e. beyond the compulsory level] in several individual countries. The overall data neutralize those exceptional instances, along with other differences. This does not mean that the earlier observation was incorrect, but it would take a more systematic effort than has been made to date in order to compare things that are not, strictly speaking, comparable: the situation in Latin America at the beginning of the worldwide expansion of education that occurred around 1950 or shortly before, against the situation of the countries that were pioneers in industrialization roughly a half century before that time.

Returning to a cross-sectional, simultaneous comparison of countries and regions, Latin America at the present time occupies an intermediate position, in terms of its educational development as measured by school enrolment rates and other statistical indicators — as indeed we might expect from its social and economic situation.