Argentina’s school angst

Readers' views No 244, September 2004
OECD Observer

Your report Education at a Glance 2004 shows how badly Argentine students are lagging behind, not only those in OECD countries, but also in other “emerging” countries. Finding a job has become hard work for a growing number of Argentine youths, whose low educational attainment casts a shadow over the country’s economic prospects. Local businessmen have recently been complaining about shortages of qualified applicants, even for low-skilled workers.

A survey recently conducted by the education ministry highlighted the current asymmetries between supply and demand in Argentina’s labour market: over 80% of vacancy ads published in Buenos Aires newspapers sought upper secondary graduates. But a majority of those on unemployment benefits fall short of this.

Just 41% of the population at the typical age of graduation have completed high school, compared to the OECD average of 81%. But if the drop-out rate worries educators, employers and government officials alike, the low literacy levels of those who stay at school are generating a lot of hand-wringing.

The 15-year-olds in Argentina want to do as well as anyone else. Most of them, when interviewed, expect to become high-skilled workers by the age of 30. Their hopes should not be dashed.

The country’s business people should do more to invest in this “dormant” asset and should encourage the government to do so too. After all, it is Argentina’s future we are talking about.

—Jorge San Pedro, Buenos Aires


©OECD Observer No 244, September 2004




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