Media Center

Press Release


  March 7, 2003

Latin American and Caribbean countries must redouble efforts to improve the quality of their education systems, in order to narrow the widening gap between them and the developed countries.

That was the view put forth by Guillermo Perry, a World Bank economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, during an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting on March 6. He explained that the division of the world into rich and poor has become more deeply entrenched over the last 50 years.

He told a joint meeting of the OAS Permanent Council and the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CEPCIDI) that most surprising about the widening income gap is that it bears no relation to factors of production such as the availability of capital, but, rather, has to do with knowledge.

According to Perry, education has always held the key to technological advancement. He warned that while developed countries have been generating new technologies—that account for at least half of their economic growth—most developing countries have not taken advantage of many of these new technologies.

Technological change in the twentieth century was more geared towards the development of a skilled work force, which explains the increasing salary gap between skilled and unskilled workers in industrialized countries, he observed.

He explained that in most of the region, demand for better skills—and in particular for workers with tertiary-level education—is growing faster than the demand for less-skilled workers. And therein lies the challenge, he stressed: the salary gap tends to widen with the current unequal access to education.

Another World Bank official, William Maloney, argued that from a technological standpoint, the region does not invest enough in technological innovation. He stressed that such innovation is key to improving education.

In addition, a number of the member state delegates expressed appreciation for the presentation and echoed the sentiments concerning the need for the Organization to reassert its social agenda in order to tackle the educational and technological challenges facing the Hemisphere.

Addressing the meeting as well, Ronald Scheman, Director General of the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD), spoke about his Agency’s work in the education sector, citing the Educational Portal and the fellowships program.

Reference: E-052/03