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In my last article, I pointed out that young “US” Americans are growing up fat and dumb. This is troubling because the educational attainment of young people is probably a pretty good indicator on how a country will fare in the 21st century.

And while I believe the economic prospects for Latin American countries are excellent for the next ten years, it appears that at least some LA countries are going down the same road as the US in producing dumb, fat kids. The second column in the following table provides results from the OECD survey the average grade on reading, science and math scores from the OECD survey[1] for selected countries.

Latin American countries have uniformly low scores. The Gini Coefficient is a measure of income inequality – the higher the number, the more unequal is the income distribution. Income inequality is very high in Latin America. And this means rich parents don’t care about the public school system – they send their kids to private schools.

The final column in the table is the percentage of the population 15 and up that is obese. No Latin American country compares with the US, but obesity is a growing danger in Latin America.

PISA

Gini

Country

Average

Coefficient

Obesity

Latin America

Argentina

396

0.51

15.5

Brazil

401

0.57

11.0

Chile

439

0.54

22.0

Colombia

399

0.58

12.7

Mexico

420

0.47

23.3

Uruguay

427

0.45

n.a.

Other

Japan

529

0.32

3.1

Korea

541

0.31

3.5

New Zealand

524

0.34

22.5

United Kingdom

500

0.34

22.6

United States

496

0.38

32.1

Hong Kong-China

546*

0.43*

2.9**

* Hong Kong only.

** China overall.

Source: For PISA and Gini, The OECD; for obesity, the World Health Organization

The Economist magazine just did a feature article on education in Latin America. It was quite positive on new steps being taken to improve education in Brazil. But it also said: “Argentina’s schools, which a century ago were among the best in the world, continue to decline”.[2]


[1] PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science (Volume I) - © OECD 2010

[2] Economist.com

Source: Latin America: Education as an Economic Indicator