Visit any hotel in Colombia, and you will hear a diversity of languages. Chinese, Arabic and English are being spoken almost as much as Spanish. That's because investors from all over the world are looking to expand their businesses in this fast-growing Latin American country.
Hispanic CREO Super Bowl Ad Features Teen with Heartfelt Plea to Protect Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program --Scholarship program under attack by the teachers union, school boards and others benefits nearly 70-thousand low-income, mostly minority students this school year
Apart from the human tragedies that make up such statistics, high levels of violence create a major barrier to economic development. Insecurity hobbles the creation of social and human capital, weakening efforts to improve education and health, while also threatening much-needed investment. U.N. figures show that the cumulative impact of violence worldwide is as much as 11 percent of global GDP; in Latin America, homicide alone is estimated to shave off over 4 percent of GDP.
Latin America’s imprisoned population is at the center of this crisis. The World Prison Population List, a project of the International Centre for Prison Studies, tracks incarceration around the world. Its most recent report finds that out of the world’s 10 million prisoners, 1.3 million belong to Latin America—a rate of 229 inmates per 100,000 people, far higher than the world average of 144. And over the past two decades, the Latin America’s incarceration rates have ballooned by 120 percent as the drug wars have intensified.
The spike in the prison population has created a policy conundrum for nearly every country: how to improve the “employability” of inmates in order to allow them to reenter the labor force? This challenge, in turn, raises a number of questions about which programs are most effective in bringing inmates back to society, and what role formal and informal education programs can play.
What is clear is that the potential benefits—to both society and the state budget—of successfully reintegrating inmates are huge. The RAND Corporation, in a major 2013 study, found that every dollar spent on prison educational programs saved between $4 and $5 by reducing recidivism rates. In particular, the suite of educational practices known as technical and vocational training lead to a 43 percent lower chance that inmates would return to prison.
The potential of prison education is particularly promising in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Chile, where more than 40 percent of inmates are recidivists. Prison experts point out that the current approach is to give inmates little more than a “bus ticket and some pocket change” upon release, when what is needed is a comprehensive reintegration process.
As the RAND researchers found, increasing offenders’ education level is perhaps the single most effective way to boost their chances for positive re-entry into society. Especially given that many, if not most, inmates had failed to finish even basic elementary school before their incarceration, finding jobs without some sort of augmentation of their skills unsurprisingly proves difficult. RAND finds that “the odds of obtaining employment post-release among inmates who participated in correctional education programs were 13 percent higher than the odds for those who did not.”
There have also been interesting findings on the potential for education technologies, including web-based e-learning, to expand classroom access to both inmates and those recently released from prison. In terms of comparative effectiveness, e-learning may be equivalent to more traditional methods: “learning gains in both reading and in math among inmates exposed to computer assisted instruction were similar to learning gains made by inmates taught through traditional (face-to-face) instruction methods,” argues RAND.
If that is the case, then e-learning options have a major advantage—the way in which they reduce the stigmatization faced by inmates in the outside world. That stigma is one of the main obstacles for ex-offenders in pursuing coursework in a traditional classroom setting. However, by allowing former inmates to continue their education with a level of anonymity, retention rates—and thus graduation rates—are higher.
Thus, educational re-entry programs based on e-learning may well be an effective, and very cost-effective, tool for reducing recidivism and thereby reducing the spike in violent crime that has shaken Latin America. As the RAND report points out, “the direct costs of reincarceration were far greater than the direct costs of providing correctional education.”
Spending money smarter will be key if Latin America is to overcome its dramatic human capital shortfall—one that has only been exacerbated by the recent wave of criminality. The region is currently in a negative feedback loop where more crime leads to increased incarceration and worse educational and employment opportunities. To reverse that trend, policymakers and education providers should be working together to find ways to prevent crime through innovative educational programs
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On February 10th, the Foundation for Florida's Future will host Keeping the Promise: A Florida Education Summit. The half-day event is convening top Florida policymakers and education stakeholders for a conversation about accountability and choice, two of the most important factors for unlocking student potential.
Attendees will hear from leading policymakers, researchers, innovators and educators about where we've been, where we are and where we can go when it comes to testing and accountability in our schools. They'll also learn about groundbreaking national research on the changing demographics in Florida, our state's outlook and what that means for education and the economy. We'll end with a myth-busting discussion on one of the most talked-about and misunderstood topics today: educational choice.
Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
The Alumni Center
1030 West Tennessee Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32306
Registration is now open!
This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. For event details and to register, visit http://keepingthepromise.eventbrite.com.
School choice supporters to ring in National School Choice Week 2015 with Official Kickoff at Florida Theatre, January 23, 2015.
US Sen. John McCain, Joe Trippi, Rev. HK Matthews, Superstar Athlete
Desmond Howard to headline first of 11,000+ events nationwide
JACKSONVILLE – The largest celebration of school choice in US history will officially start on Friday, January 23, 2015 at a special event in Jacksonville, Florida.
National School Choice Week 2015 will kick off at the Florida Theatre at 12:30 pm on January 23. The event is the first event of an unprecedented 11,082 independently planned and independently funded special events taking place across all 50 states during the Week, which runs until January 31, 2015.
The goal of the Week is to shine a positive spotlight on effective education options for children, and to raise awareness of the importance of, and benefits of, school choice in a variety of forms.
More than 1,900 students, parents, and teachers will attend the Official Kickoff celebration, which will be nationally televised – on tape delay – on two cable television networks. The event’s speakers include:
US Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a longtime school choice supporter, who will be touring the NFL-YET Academy, a public charter school in Phoenix, and addressing a National School Choice Week event at the school.
Rev. HK Matthews, a noted civil rights pioneer who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Montgomery and Selma, and was arrested 35 times for peaceful protests to demand integration during the US civil rights movement.
Joe Trippi, Democratic strategist and FOX News analyst, who managed Howard Dean’s 2008 presidential campaign and is a renowned national and international political advisor.
Desmond Howard, a school choice advocate and former college football and NFL player, winner of the 1991 Heisman Trophy, Super Bowl XXXI MVP, and current ESPN commentator.
Additional speakers include Gary Chartrand, chairman of the Florida State Board of Education; Frank Biden, the president of Mavericks in Education and the brother of Vice President Joe Biden; Jeanne Allen, pioneering education reform champion and founder of The Center for Education Reform; Wendy Howard, the founder and executive director of the Florida Alliance for Choice in Education; Christie Bassett, 2015 Florida Teacher of the Year and a teacher at Highlands Park Elementary School in Polk County, Florida; Jason Fischer, member of the Duval County School Board; Lisa Graham Keegan, senior advisor to National School Choice Week and the former superintendent of public instruction for Arizona; and Randan Steinhauser, an advisor to National School Choice Week, who will join the event live via satellite from Austin, Texas. Andrew Campanella, the president of National School Choice Week, will serve as the event’s host and anchor.
The event is centered around testimonials from students, parents, and teachers who benefit from an array of education options – including students and graduates from traditional public schools, public magnet schools, public charter schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.
“Florida is a national leader in providing quality, effective education options for children,” Wendy Howard said. “National School Choice Week provides an opportunity for the Sunshine State to demonstrate to the nation the basic but transformational message that school choice works.”
“National School Choice Week will break records as the nation’s largest celebration of educational opportunity in American history,” Campanella said. “We are grateful for our partner organizations and supporters in my home state, Florida, for their work in making the inaugural event of this special week, so memorable.”
The event’s planning partners include:
What excites me about National School Choice Week is the opportunity to come together as a movement to reflect on and celebrate the gains we've made for families in choosing the best school for their child. I don't need to tell you that we have so much to celebrate this year!
However you plan to participate, I want to thank you from all of us at National School Choice Week for all that you do to ensure that every child has access to an effective education.
AS GLOBALISATION and technological advances reshape economies at all levels of development around the world, the role of human capital - making the best use of talent - in commercial growth is coming into ever sharper focus.
Understanding these issues will be critical as Latin America seeks to build on a decade of economic growth funded by an extraordinary boom in prices for its traditional commodity exports
For emerging markets, such as those of Latin America, populations equipped with skills to develop higher value-added economies will be crucial for increasing productivity and competitiveness. After decades of false starts, the question remains: how to achieve such educational progress.
The experience of Latin America has, unfortunately, demonstrated what does not work - throwing money at the problem.
Despite region-wide education spending which tracks the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of five per cent of GDP - with some countries, including Mexico, spending significantly more - performance has stagnated.
Latin America is at the bottom of international rankings such as the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, and only around half the students finish high school.
Recent research suggests that getting the best education system is a matter of balance and priorities, rather than sheer expenditure. Spending alone quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns and the amount spent explains very little about the performance differences between countries.
Understanding these issues will be critical as Latin America seeks to build on a decade of economic growth funded by an extraordinary boom in prices for its traditional commodity exports, and reaches a higher plane of development.
Its middle classes have expanded, creating a new generation which has come to expect higher standards of living and greater educational opportunities. For the region to become truly high income, it will need to switch to an economy based on higher productivity and innovation.
Several countries are tackling these challenges head-on, providing some first-hand, trial-and-error experience of what reforms may be the most effective - and politically feasible - in an emerging market context.
How students perform: OECD 2012 figures for 15-year-olds
· Reading: mean score 496 points. Shanghai-China 570, Singapore 542, Germany 508, UK 499, US 498, Russian Federation 475, Chile 441, Mexico 424, Brazil 410
· Maths: mean score 494 points. Shanghai-China 613, Singapore 573, Germany 514, UK 494, Russian Federation 482, US 481, Chile 423, Mexico 413, Brazil 391
· Science: mean score 501 points. Shanghai-China 580, Singapore 551, Germany 524, UK 514, US 497, Russian Federation 486, Chile 445, Mexico 415, Brazil 405
Brazil, Mexico and Chile are three of the nations making special efforts to improve their systems - each with potential lessons for the rest of the region.
The highly contested, often bitter, election in Brazil in October 2014, may cause President Dilma Rousseff and her allies to reconsider their administration’s approach to human capital issues.
While the Workers’ Party, now in power for well over a decade, has greatly expanded access to basic services such as healthcare, education for young children and potable water, opponents argue that Brazil has been spending too much with too little to show for it.
Over the past year, millions took to the streets to protest against failing government services. And despite successes in getting more children in the classroom, Brazil’s educational quality, as measured by the PISA evaluations, has remained troublingly low, while access is still extremely unequal.
Meanwhile, the approach of the current administration has largely centred on spending even more money. The new National Education Plan (PNE) approved by Brazil’s Congress in June 2014, and expected to be implemented in the next Rousseff term, would increase education spending to at least 10 per cent of GDP, guarantee basic universal schooling and further expand access to public higher education.
Even before the election campaigns, there was spirited debate within Brazil over whether such a focus on funding levels, rather than indicators of quality, was really the right approach, especially given Brazil's budgetary troubles.
President Rousseff, shaken by the widespread protests and her narrow re-election, may well realise the need to advance deeper reform. She would do well to recognise the potential of the private sector, which is already stepping in to help meet the educational demands of a rising middle class.
The higher education market in particular has been extremely active in Brazil. Two of the leading publicly traded teaching firms, Kroton Educacional and Anhanguera Educacional, have merged into the world’s largest higher education company, worth more than US$8 billion. International investors including US-based Laureate Education have been expanding aggressively into Brazil, acquiring 12 universities there with a total of 200,000 students in the past decade.
We expect President Rousseff to move forward in modernising the economy, cautiously pushing to reduce regulations and open some industrial sectors.
She will also need to meet her voters’ demands in terms of improving social services and carry out the promises to raise the quality of education. In the current context of economic problems, it will be hard to increase the education budget, so she will need to be more creative in bringing reforms which will not require much more funding.
In Mexico, deep and controversial education reforms have dominated the early years of the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, elected in 2012.
In particular, they focus on reforms to increase quality, such as increasing the evaluation of teacher performance, ending the tenure system which allowed for the buying and selling of posts, and devolving more autonomy to state and local authorities to pursue new approaches to educational principles and staff recruiting and training.
Barely half of Mexican students finish a basic high school-level education. Less than one per cent achieves ‘excellence’ in maths – compared with 30 per cent in Hong Kong
The teacher tenure reforms have generated vociferous opposition among many in the national unions, but have otherwise found broad support, leading to the relatively quick passage of the legislation through the Mexican Congress. The law includes a new evaluation institute which will prepare exams that all teachers must pass.
And Mexico, like Brazil, would be wise to keep pushing for greater autonomy over education policy, both for state administrations and individual schools.
In a country with more than 120 million people (Brazil has 200 million), it is unwieldy - if not impossible - for a centralised reform process adequately to address local realities and needs.
An approach holding everybody to a unified standard while allowing them to pursue their own means of getting there is a compromise which can drive innovation and best practices.
The need for change in Mexico is particularly great. Today it scores more than 70 points below the OECD average in maths and science.
Barely half of Mexican students finish a basic high school-level education. Less than one per cent achieves ‘excellence’ in maths, compared with 30 per cent in Hong Kong.
Of course, there are many devils in the details. It remains to be seen how effectively the implementation of the measures can be carried out, and how much and how quickly they will truly raise educational quality.
What is clear is that without serious improvements to its education system, Mexico’s pursuit of sustainable, high productivity, and high value-added economic development will remain quixotic.
Even given the other critical reforms Mexico is pursuing in the realms of energy policy and telecommunications, success in this field would surely be President Pena Nieto’s most lasting legacy.
However, in the context of its current security crisis and the apparent murders of more than 40 students still missing after clashing with police in the town of Iguala, we expect the Pena Nieto administration to have too little political capital to keep pushing for education reforms and probably to stay in this middle-of-the-road situation where the reforms now stand.
Over the past two decades, Chile has risen to the top of the region’s ranks. When it comes to the PISA evaluations, for instance, it scored the best in the region in reading, maths and science by a wide margin, while still coming in below the OECD average.
And yet, despite being a positive exception in the region, Chile has experienced several recent waves of education-related social unrest.
Frustrations remain over the persistently high inequality and rising costs of schooling, particularly higher education. Private universities play a large role in Chile’s system, offering choice and opportunity, but the prices can be high and affordable student loans difficult to secure.
What Chile needs now is better quality – and mandating totally free higher education will probably do little to achieve that, while adding to an already overburdened state budget
Scholars are increasingly graduating with large amounts of debt and few job opportunities, or even worse, accumulating debt without graduating at all.
Making matters worse, Chile’s education system does little to improve the country’s inequality, the highest in the OECD. Instead, it reproduces and amplifies socio-economic disadvantages. Among students as young as 10 years old, there are already sharp differences in school performance based on household income.
It is this reality which has driven the disruptive street protests and heated political debate over education which have come to define Chile's public life.
In response, President Michelle Bachelet, who was re-elected in March 2014, has sought to revamp the entire framework to accommodate demands for universal free education based on ending the private school sector. Reform legislation to implement this vision has passed the lower house and now moves to debate in the Senate.
Chile’s system has major flaws, but it is far from clear that President Bachelet’s approach will address any of them. In effect, a largely successful, decentralised, multi-pronged system would be replaced with a uniform, top-down approach - the type other countries in the region are moving away from.
That may be good for quickly expanding access, but Chile already enjoys widespread education access. What is needed now is better quality, and mandating totally free higher education will probably do little to achieve that, while adding to an already overburdened state budget.
At the same time, the current reform proposal does not address raising quality for low income pupils. Evidence from around the world has shown that early childhood interventions, for instance, have positive effects which multiply throughout a student’s academic life and subsequent career.
Targeted policies, like those pursued in Brazil and elsewhere, to expand pre-school access, increase parental involvement and offer better workforce-training for employees with children, may ultimately do more good with less downside than the current attempt to alter the funding structure of the entire system.
In Chile, the Bachelet government has probably two choices. The first is to forge ahead with its plans for reform and to set aside the resources necessary to reach for the goals of free instruction and open access. This will have a negative impact on the higher education sector.
The other option is to compromise with the opposition, preserve the role of the private sector in education and work for wider access over a longer period of time. The second option is more likely and is better for Chile in the long run.
Ultimately, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile are very different countries with divergent histories and cultures surrounding their education practices. Yet as middle-income Latin American countries which have made major economic progress, they are united in their need to break through the plateau created by poor human capital development.
The struggle for higher productivity and sophisticated, sustainable economies will, in the years and decades to come, largely hinge on the success or failure of their respective education reform experiments.
Gabriel Sanchez Zinny is president of Kuepa, which provides online and blended learning across Latin America. He is an author and a columnist for several newspapers in the region and the Huffington Post
Several days before the White House announced the U.S. would be normalizing relations with Cuba, a high school sophomore from Miami's Little Havana neighborhood gave a speech that wowed a bipartisan group of state legislators and education advocates at a conference sponsored by the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO).
It seems like almost every day more evidence comes in showing that teachers are the most important single factor when it comes to education quality. While that makes intuitive sense, it is also critical to have empirical evidence to support it.
A better understanding of the central role that teachers play will help us focus reform efforts and target resources more effectively. It also confronts us with a major challenge: there are some seven million teachers in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a recent report by the World Bank, representing 4 percent of the region's total labor force and 20 percent of its professional workers, and their combined salaries are equivalent to nearly 4 percent of regional GDP. They work in conditions ranging from open air classrooms in the countryside to plush air conditioned schools in rich urban neighborhoods.
How then, can we improve teacher performance across the region, with all of these local variations?
The World Bank, in their report "Great Teachers: How to Raise Student Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean," tackles this massive question. In perhaps the most comprehensive report on the teaching profession in Latin America, the researchers made more than 15,000 unannounced visits to classrooms in more than 3,000 public schools between 2009 and 2013.
They came to a number of interesting conclusions. As the Economist magazine summarizes the findings:
The main reason for Latin America's educational failure is simple. The region churns out large numbers of teachers recruited from less-bright school leavers. It trains them badly and pays them peanuts (between 10 percent and 50 percent less than other professionals). So they teach badly.
In fact, the World Bank found that Latin American teachers as a whole spend just 65 percent of their time actually teaching -- compared with the recommended international benchmark of around 85 percent. Nor is this a problem easily solved with new technologies or better materials -- the study points out that even in schools possessing internet connectivity, laptops, or other advanced teaching aids, teachers generally keep using what they know, the blackboard.
Thus the numbers about wasted time in the classroom point to the more fundamental problem: the way that teachers are recruited, trained, and compensated for performance. Unfortunately, making any changes in this area is no easy task, given the influential interest groups with a stake in the status quo -- including teachers unions, university administrations, and teacher training institutes.
However, not all improvements are necessarily complex, according to Javier Luque, one of the authors of the World Bank report and an education specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank. Luque explains:
"Students are at school to learn," Luque adds, "and thus all the actors in the system should align to ensure that learning takes place. This would seem to be a very simple recommendation, but unfortunately it is not happening." That may be because many of the underperforming teachers already possess the necessary technical knowledge or cognitive skills -- but the lack of clear signals related to student learning are holding them back.
At the same time, Luque argues that deeper reforms are also necessary. "These will relate to revamping teacher training and evaluation systems," he says. That is critically necessary "in order to get better information about what is working and what is not -- so we can figure out how and where to intervene."
Some countries, like Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador, have passed legislation to increase evaluations. Elsewhere, major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires are taking the lead. In each of these cases, improvements faced strong opposition from teachers unions, who are opposed to linking performance reviews with career advancement.
But in my conversation with Luque, he insists that those "signals" are exactly what our education systems are missing. "In Latin America, most classrooms are like a 'black box': the system doesn't really know what is going on internally. That substantially limits the chances of improvement." Making this explicit -- and tying it to a rigorous evaluation process -- could make a big difference.
The report put together by Luque and his colleagues presents not only a bracing picture of Latin American education but also a number of good ideas for fixing it: better principals, more peer-to-peer training, and reducing teachers' administrative workload.
Still, it focuses less on what will be needed on a system-wide level to achieve these classroom reforms. The political arena is where the real challenges are, and with powerful stakeholders ready to oppose any changes, reformers must build political strategies as well as policy recommendations. That, perhaps, is a good topic for the next study.