Adolescents in Latin America are now completing two more years on average than their parents’ generation. However despite this progress, there is still much to develop in the schooling department.
About 30-40% of the youngest children (ages 4-5) do not go to school and out of the older kids who are enrolled into secondary school, only 66% actually come to classes.
A calculation by UNESCO showed us that a few years ago, “In Latin America and the Caribbean, over 8 million people aged 15 to 24 have not even completed primary school and need alternative pathways to acquire basic skills for employment and prosperity. This is equivalent to almost one in twelve young people.”
Sports in schools
Most schools do not have the resources to offer extracurricular activities. Sports are often organised by clubs, and even those are rare in Latin America.
The child’s economic status plays a key role here, as families with relatively good incomes can afford to give their child extracurricular sporting activities, whereas poorer families push sports to a lower priority level.
A 2011 SERCE analysis showed that whereas 35% of elementary schools overall lacked a gymnasium in Latin America, if you break it down by economic regions, out of the poorer schools, almost none of them had a gymnasium for physical education. However, considering that only half of them have access to electricity and water and only 19% have a drainage system, you can see how sports is not a priority for these regions.
Other educational facilities
Science also takes a hit when you look at Latin America’s school facilities, with 88% of schools lacking in science labs. Forty percent lack libraries (this number is much lower in poorer areas) and there are only between 1-8 books per child.
SERCE also shows us that even though the amount of computers have increased in the recent years, their use is still very limited. Students in the region are averaging 100 children per computer, and they can only access it for a few minutes a week.
One thing that is highly noticeable is the divide between children of different socio-economic backgrounds. Massive differences of up to 40% can be seen in satisfactory reading and math scores, which makes it harder to predict the educational levels of the region.
After having lived in Latin America and seeing this social divide first-hand, I have decided to set up a charity to help children from less fortunate families. The foundation is aimed at bringing physical education into schools and supporting sporting events. You can find out more at the Sleijster4Children website.