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Literacy and Public Spending on Education in Latin America
One of the founding mission principles here at the World Organization for Positive Action (WOPA) is that education is the best route to ensuring prosperity. And what we’ve found too is that many Latin American countries — for reasons that are often beyond their control — are not able to allocate the resources they’d like to education. WOPA researchers were surprised to see just how strong the correlation is:
The red and blue lines equal levels of literacy, while the yellow line indicates the percentage of a country’s Gross National Income that is spent on public education. As you can see, the correlation is almost absolute: the United States spends some 7.9% of its national income on education and has near-universal literacy, whereas Haiti, to take the most extreme example, spends only 1.1% of its public funds on education, and has a literacy rate of 62%.
The lesson for us? Trying to fill in the cracks in education funding, whether it be by donating school supplies or by assisting with infrastructure, does make a difference. And that’s where WOPA comes in. Many Latin American countries, for whatever reason — low-functioning economies, corruption, structural inefficiencies, a legacy of colonialism — have a hard time investing in the education of their own students. But the students themselves, the children who are hoping to make their communities better and stronger, should not be punished for the drawbacks of their environments. That is why we at WOPA believe in doing whatever we can to help give the young people of Latin America a chance to succeed.
About the chart:
Literacy statistics in percentage of persons over 15 years of age who can read a simple statement about their lives. Source: Oxford World Reference 2007 online, courtesy of the NYPL.
Cost of Education figure in percent of Gross National Income allocated to public education, except for Haiti and Honduras (Gross National Product) and Mexico (Gross Domestic Product). Data 2003 – 2007. Source: The Statesman’s Handbook 2015, edited by Barry Turner (New York: Macmillan, 2014).
No data available for Belize.
Research and Chart by Mike Lindgren.