The great educational challenge in Latin America is fighting a high-school dropout rate averaging roughly 50 percent, while at the same time improving the quality of an educational system that severely lags behind that of other regions according to the latest international evaluation, Emiliana Vegas, the head of education for the Inter-American Development Bank, told EFE.
"The region has made many advances in terms of access to education. Nowadays, almost all children in primary education are graduating. Where we have a challenge is in keeping them in high school," said Vegas in an interview at her office at the IDB headquarters in Washington.
Vegas emphasized that "50 percent of the young people are abandoning high school in Latin America before finishing 12 years of schooling."
In addition, she pointed to the low quality of the regional education system, as backed up in the latest Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, report dating from 2012, in which of the 65 participating nations, "the eight included Latin American countries were among the last 14 places."
In first place in the region was Chile, in 51st place overall, followed by Mexico in 53rd, Uruguay in 55th, Costa Rica in 56th, Brazil in 58th, Argentina in 59th, Colombia in 62nd and Peru in 65th.
However, there is a positive element, the Venezuelan experts said.
By participating in the PISA exercise there is "an awareness that this is a problem," as in Peru or in Brazil.
"Reforms have been made and improvements are being seen," said Vegas, who expressed hope that these moves forward will be reflected in next year's PISA report.
The figures show that the school dropout rate is very high throughout the region, not only in the poorest countries.
In Argentina, the high school graduation rate is just 43 percent, in Mexico it is 48 percent and in Brazil it is 61 percent.
One exception is Chile, where 82 percent of high school students graduate, the highest rate in the region.
In Chile, Vegas emphasized, there have been "numerous reforms in the past two decades" that have raised the educational level, including the design of measures linked to "attendance, not just to enrollment."
It is expected that the educational sector will be discussed at the annual IDB assembly, which begins Thursday in Nassau, capital of The Bahamas.