Latin American Education Is Struggling, Israel May Have the Answer

Four lessons learned to improve education in Latin America


Many of us in Latin America have searched for solutions to the massive educational hurdles plaguing our region.  I found some of the answers in the Holy Land.

As someone who has dedicated his life to educational innovation, I have always been curious as to why Israel, a tiny country locked in constant conflict, has given birth to so many groundbreaking ideas, while the much larger nations of Latin America struggle to catch up.

To find out, I traveled to Israel to get a better sense of the initiatives that affect science, education and entrepreneurship in a country many have called “Start-Up Nation.”

What I found is a blueprint for progress in my part of the world, where millions of bright young minds are clamoring for the opportunity to flourish.

Lesson 1: Pool educational resources

Much in the spirit of its famous kibbutzim, Israel pools its educational resources for community benefit.

Take Hemda Lab, a campus where students from 17 secondary schools in the Tel Aviv area can learn from scientists, experiment with state-of-the-art equipment at cutting-edge facilities and receive free tutoring, while high achievers in physics and computer science accelerate their learning on study trips and other programs.

This concept is perfect for Latin America, where most schools lack the equipment and teacher training to make progress in science and innovation.

Efficiently pooling community educational resources would be a cost-efficient way to reduce the skills gap and give birth to new ideas.

Lesson 2: The government needs partners

Innovation requires resources. In Israel, state and local governments, the private sector and even individual citizens from all over the world do their part. Educational and cultural institutions in Israel are tremendously successful in attracting private funding for innovation through a culture of giving back.

One example is the Hebrew University Gift Annuity program, which offers high lifetime returns, tax deductions and annuity payments while driving Israeli-led innovation toward a better future.

In addition, money invested by private firms in research and development helps maintain a fertile marketplace for well-educated, productive workers.

This lesson is a critical one for Latin America, where declining terms of trade for commodities exports have made increasing worker productivity a critical requirement for growth.

Some large corporations, such as Brazilian miner Vale, offer their own sophisticated in-house training programs, though more should be done by private enterprise to funnel profits into innovation as well as public-private educational initiatives.

Next- Lessons 3 and 4

Fernando Valenzuela
Fernando Valenzuela
Fernando is currently head of Aspen Institute education program in Mexico and Partner at Global Impact Edtech Alliance. He was formerly President McGraw-Hill Education, Latin America. He is a recognized senior executive, entrepreneur, speaker and board level leader with international background. He has founded and led successful enterprises in Latin America for over 25 years. He holds a Degree in Computer Science from the Universidad Iberoamericana, and an MBA in International Business by the University of Miami. Active member of Wharton Fellows, ENOVA Network of Latin America CEOs, Center for Hemispheric Policy and Council of the Americas, board member at Inroads. He was most recently President at Cengage Learning / National Geographic Learning Latin America and founder of LINNEA, the First Laboratory for Innovation in Learning Experiences in Latin America. There Fernando lead the transformation of the educational models and creating high value learning experiences by engaging students with technology. Website LinkedIn

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