Factors Affecting Learning and Cost Effective Schooling in Latin America

This book presents a summary and methodology of analysis of factors affecting learning and cost effective schooling in primary schools in Latin America; chapters on primary school education for Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico are presented, as are analyses of the four nations as a group and each nation individually of family, classroom, and school factors including educational programs, that affect student achievement in language and in mathematics. In Brazil, the impact of the color of the student at both the individual and classroom levels and that of the teacher on student achievement is analyzed. Among the major findings are that low cost policies such as assigning the best teacher to the first grade, shifting parents’ educational activities from participation in school management to ensuring that the student completes homework, and targeting assistance to poorly performing schools would improve achievement. Cost effective improvements for those in the lowest achievement groups are improving socioeconomic conditions by improving housing and adopting constructivist techniques. The longer school programs are in existence, the greater their impact. The Mexican reading program (PRONALEES) is especially effective. An extensive review of the literature and bibliography is provided.


“This book presents a timely research and analysis of the Latin American quality of education, because over one billion dollars has been invested in the region in the last decade to little avail. In spite of many internationally funded projects, still half of the students are not able to read a simple article of the first page of their national newspaper and to understand its main message. This carefully designed and well-implemented study shows that the problem is still centered in the classroom and in the initial training of teachers and that reforms have not reached those areas … The main outcomes [of this work] deserve a careful study, both to re-shape on-going policies and to further explore the area it opens for future research.” – Ernesto Schiefelbein, Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor in the Graduate School at Harvard University

“The work of Dr. Randall is valuable for three reasons: she reviews a large portion of the research that has been done on Latin America; second, this work includes four original studies by Latin American authors describing four of the national systems. These descriptions go beyond the usual ministry reports and provide an excellent view of the current trends in these four systems; and third, Dr. Randall has carried out an exhaustive analysis Latin America’s only comparative study of academic achievement ... The data and analysis in this work would be of interest to several categories of readers: students in international education seeking information about education in four major countries in Latin America; education researchers seeking to expand their knowledge of what studies have been done on education in Latin America; and policy makers looking for examples of policies tried out in other countries ...” – Noel F. McGinn, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

“This book can be used by general readers, students and educational policy makers alike as a basis for discussing and evaluating existing conditions and policies as well as for future research. It is most strongly recommended because it reviews and builds on existing scholarship, introduces methodological innovations, and presents both general concepts of analysis of education and those proposed for each nation.” – Professor Henry Levin, Columbia University

Table of Contents

1. Introduction and Executive Summary
2. Primary Schools in Argentina
3. Brazil: Two Educational Policies
4. The Chilean Educational System
5. Primary Schools in Mexico
6. Child and Family Conditions and Characteristics
7. The Classroom
8. What Happens in School
9. Programs
10. Cost Effectiveness and Its Implications for Policy
11. Conclusions
Author Index
Subject Index