Nearshore Americas

LATAM Students Struggle with Math and Science, PISA Test Shows

A UNESCO skill test revealed a worrying educational crisis in Latin America, with three out of four students lacking basic proficiency in mathematics and 57% struggling with science.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) paints a stark picture, highlighting Chile and Uruguay as relative bright spots while El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Paraguay lag significantly behind.

While some countries saw progress in this year’s test, the overall picture remains bleak, the UN agency noted.

“In mathematics, for instance, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay and Peru experienced declines in performance,” stated the report.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Panama remained stagnant, offering little solace. However, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Guatemala managed to improve their results, suggesting a glimmer of hope.

The PISA test assesses 15-year-olds’ ability to apply reading, math and science knowledge to real-life challenges.

“[PISA] shows that a large proportion of girls and boys in the region has not managed to acquire basic proficiency. For example, just 25% of students acquired basic proficiency in mathematics,” Claudia Uribe, Director of the Regional Multisectoral Office of UNESCO in Santiago, said.

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UNESCO identifies two key factors contributing to this regional underperformance: poverty and insufficient investment in education. The agency reports that 88% of the poorest students perform badly in math compared to 55% of the wealthiest, highlighting the stark link between socioeconomic status and academic success.

While Latin American countries dedicate at least 4% of GDP and 15% of total public expenditures to education, they still fall considerably short compared to developed nations. On average, OECD countries invest nearly five times more per student than their Latin American counterparts.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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