8 Most Educated Countries in Central and South America

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Which are the most educated countries in Central and South America? Let’s find out.

Education generally depends on the economical state of a country, especially on GDP spendings on education. On that matter, Central and South America are not the best places to start. Among the most developed countries in Latin America, we find Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, while on the other side of the spectrum it seems that among the least developed countries in Latin America Haiti has a leading position. Apparently, it’s the poorest Latin American country. But Haiti is also among the developing countries in South America and the Caribbean, together with Barbados, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Argentina, and others. Since there are many efforts both within the countries themselves as well as from the outside aids and initiatives, there are some newly industrialized countries in Latin America such as Brazil or Mexico.

Which of these countries will we see on the list of the most educated countries in Central and South America? Before going through those let’s start our introduction here first with a brief glance at the history of education in Latin America.

First public education of Latin America started in Uruguay by 1820s, followed by Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Cuba. The period of late 19th and beginning of 20th century was seen as a period of establishing public education but also the awareness of the importance of education of all citizens in general. In 1948 the Organization of American States (OAS) pronounced a statement that primary education should be free, compulsory and universal (following the statement of UNESCO brought up earlier the same year).

Most Educated Countries in Central and South America

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Even though these statements were made clear, and primary education did become free and available to everyone, the new problem arose in the fifties – low expenditure per student and low efficiency of the educational system. Bit more investment was put in secondary and tertiary education (though being less developed than primary) but there were low entrance levels. Realising the problems, governments of countries of Latin America started reforming the educational systems through many ways having three main problems to be solved: overcoming discrimination and social inequality, schooling improvement and changing of criteria for school rating.

Together with on-going changes, there were numerous researches done on the education system in Latin America, with a goal of enhancement and standardization of education. In this period new objectives were set: the introduction of 8-year primary education, illiteracy reduction, and achievement of higher efficiency and quality of the educational system in general in the whole of Latin America. From 1974 onwards countries of Latin America have been going through reforms of the educational system. The primary efforts were oriented towards enabling and providing the majority of the population with the access of public schooling, and primary education nowadays is, of course, compulsory (though age groups of compulsory education vary from country to country, being in the range between 5 and 17 years).

The situation of the education system in Central and South America today is still progressing and struggling. Over 90% of the population is literate, and the majority of children are provided with primary and secondary education, having as well tertiary education well developed. But the issues of education problems in Latin America such as quality and a proper investment in education remain. The poor quality of education can nicely be seen from the fact that Latin America is as much as 2.5 years of schooling behind the OCED average. That has much to do with the quality of schools in Latin America since students score very low on many subjects such as maths for example.

Among some of the countries with the worst education in Latin America (concerning primary education) are the Dominican Republic and Paraguay scoring around 2 out of 7 on quality of education (and Paraguay also being one of the poorest Latin American countries). On the contrary, you can check out the other side of the medal in 11 Smartest Countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

So, while thinking which would be the criteria to rank the most educated countries in Central and South America we have taken in mind the higher education in Latin America. So, we have decided to do that on account of percentage of the population with tertiary education (as we have also done for the 15 Most Educated Countries in Europe in 2018). The data for this was acquired from UNESCO’s The State of Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Towards a Quality Education for All – 2015.The indicator we have taken in mind for making our list of the most educated countries in Central and South America was the number of students in higher education per 100,000 inhabitants (since there were no tables available, approximations to the closest hundred were made).

Also, we should have in mind one more thing. Figures represented here only show the statistics for tertiary education for the universities in the countries of Central and South America, and in today’s time with many opportunities of mobility and opening new possibilities of studying abroad, the number of people with higher education is probably higher. But, on the other hand, chances for mobility can sometimes result in brain drain, which is especially to be expected from the economically unstable countries, but that is an important topic for itself.

So, let’s see now which the most educated countries in Central and South America are:

8. Ecuador

No. of high education students per 100,000 people: 3900

Since 2006 there has been a significant increase of GDP spending on education which has reflected on the quality of education in Ecuador making it among the topmost educated countries in Central and South America. Concerning tertiary education, around 80% of universities are public, and university enrollment rate is around 14%.

Most Educated Countries in Central and South America

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