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A protest in Santo Domingo in favor of 4% education spending in the Dominican Republic. (Photo: Coalicion Educacion Digna)
Monday, August 20, 2012
Special Reports

Education: More Spending the Solution?


More spending won’t necessarily help improve quality, experts warn.

BY LATINVEX STAFF

This week, Chile is expected to face a new wave of protests – perhaps even violent – in demand of increased education spending. Last week, the new president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, pledged to boost education spending to 4 percent of GDP – nearly double the 2.3 percent today – after yearlong popular demands for that change.

However, experts warn that increased spending is not necessarily key to improving education.

“Investing in education is a necessary but not sufficient condition of achieving quality,” says Gabriel Zinny, managing director of Blue Star Strategies and co-author of And Now... Quality: Insights Into the Education Policy Debate in Latin America.

“While there are inevitable infrastructure, salary, administrative and other costs that must be addressed, there is a point of diminishing returns beyond which more funding doesn't automatically translate to better results.”

Latin American countries have similar per capita spending rates as developed OECD countries. “Yet student achievement is far behind the OECD average, with the region’s top performer - Chile - coming in at only 44th in the PISA international rankings,” he points out

Instead, Latin America needs to focus on rethinking their policies and making better use of their current resources rather than increasing expenditure, Zinny says.

Luanne Zurlo, founder and president of US-based non-profit Worldfund, agrees. Spending only helps up to a certain minimum amount.  “Mexico is a fine example,” Zurlo says. “The percent of spending on public school on GDP per capita among the highest. But probably half of the education budget is wasted.  Schools are falling down, bathrooms don’t work, and yet you have spending.”

Meanwhile, teacher union leaders fly around in private jets and have bulletproof Hummers.  “They have money to spend,” she says.

Zurlo even warns against increasing the education budget if it is not efficient and too politically controlled. “Increasing the budget without changing the structure is probably counter [productive] because it makes it more political,” she says. “If you don’t have a functioning system, the more you get, the dysfunction [remains in] place.”

One example may be the Dominican Republic, where education quality is the third-worst in Latin America after Haiti and Paraguay, according to the World Economic Forum.

THE SPENDING LEADERS

Cuba has Latin America’s highest spending on education as a percent of GDP, while Haiti has the lowest, according to a Latinvex analysis of data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

On average, spending reaches 4.3 percent in Latin America.

In Cuba, spending reaches 13.6 percent of GDP. Bolivia and Costa Rica follow, with expenditures of 6.3 percent each.

In fourth and five place in spending as a percent of GDP are Brazil and Argentina, with 5.1 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively.

Mexico spends 4.8 percent, the same as Colombia. However, Colombia has a much higher quality, according to the World Economic Forum.

And Uruguay, which has Latin America’s fourth-lowest education spending as a percent of GDP, ranks as having the third-best quality.

At the bottom is Haiti, the poorest country in Latin America, which only spends a dismal 1 percent of its already small GDP on education.  Haiti also appears at the bottom of quality of education in Latin America, according to the World Economic Forum.


© Copyright Latinvex

 

 

 

Highest Spending

Best Quality

Education spending as a percent of GDP

Quality of the education system

Rank

Country

Spending

Rank

Country

Score

1

Cuba

13.60%

1

Costa Rica

4.8

2

Bolivia

6.30%

2

Colombia

3.7

3

Costa Rica

6.30%

3

Uruguay

3.4

4

Brazil

5.10%

4

Argentina

3.4

5

Argentina

4.90%

5

Chile

3.4

6

Colombia

4.80%

6

Ecuador

3.2

7

Mexico

4.80%

7

Bolivia

3.1

8

Chile

4.00%

8

Mexico

3.1

9

Paraguay

4.00%

9

Brazil

3

10

Nicaragua

3.90%

10

Venezuela

2.8

11

Panama

3.80%

11

El Salvador

2.7

12

Venezuela

3.70%

12

Guatemala

2.6

13

El Salvador

3.60%

13

Peru

2.6

14

Honduras

3.60%

14

Honduras

2.6

15

Guatemala

3.20%

15

Panama

2.4

16

Uruguay

2.80%

16

Nicaragua

2.3

17

Peru

2.70%

17

Dom. Rep.

2.3

18

Dom. Rep.

2.30%

18

Paraguay

2.2

19

Ecuador

1.30%

19

Haiti

2

20

Haiti

1.00%

Average

2.9

Average

4.29%

NOTE: Quality rank does not include Cuba.

Sources: UNESCO (spending) , World Economic Forum (quality), Latinvex (rankings)

 

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