The most important competitive asset Latin America has is its youth, suggests Jordi Botifoll, Cisco President Latin America. Yet millions of young people in that region are not in school or at risk of dropping out, putting their futures and that of their countries at risk. Read below why Botifoll believes --as do I -- that digitizing education is the answer and the path to further innovation, social inclusion, job creation and national competitiveness in that part of the world. -- Philip Bane
In Latin America, Botifoll writes, the education gap is prevalent, with the majority of students not receiving high quality and relevant education. And that's those who are in school; Worldfund estimates more than 22 million children and adolescents in Latin America are not – or are at risk of dropping out each year.
As a result, he suggests, too many Latin American youth enter the labor force lacking the skills they need "to find dignified work and participate in an increasingly competitive, information-rich and globalized economy."
He points to estimates of 150,000 information and communications technology (ICT) jobs going unfilled because there aren't qualified workers – at the same time automation is reducing the number of unskilled manual labor jobs.
Something has to change
The problem is, young Latin Americans need to learn new job skills, they need to learn critical thinking skills, and he suggests, they need to learn English. "But there aren’t enough qualified English teachers in Latin America, let alone teachers who can pass on the technical skills that are most needed in this new digital economy," he says.
Digitizing education could change that. For example, a classroom in a rural town in Uruguay can have teachers from across the world appear on video screens to teach perfect English.
And to that end, Council Lead Partner Cisco recently announced a partnership with the Latin American Development Bank CAF and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean to improve the quality of education in Latin America by connecting all classrooms to the Internet.
“Without the technical infrastructure," notes Ricardo Santos, Cisco’s Latin America Digital Education Leader, "you are limited to the knowledge you have in your own city, your own neighborhood. Digital connectivity allows you to search for new information, new solutions to solve problems. Latin American students can access the best teachers and databases in the world. No borders. No limits.”
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