11 May 2018

Ecuador: smart investments in education?

Gabriela writes:*

Ecuadorian education policy changed in 2006 when the referendum updated the constitution to include a “Plan Decenal de la EducaciĆ³n” (lit. Decennial Educational Plan). The 2006-2015 Decennial Plan [pdf] focused on:
  • Universalization of primary and initial (for children below 5 years old) education
  • An increment of student population enrolled in secondary education
  • Eradication of illiteracy
  • Improvement of infrastructure and teacher quality, standards and work conditions.
  • Increased quality and equity of access to education
  • 0,5% of GDP increase in educational budget.
By 2015, there were many improvements [pdf] in the aforementioned focus points, incrementing access to education. For instance, based on a government report [pdf], the percentage of people between 16 and 24 years with finished basic education (primary and first 3 years of secondary education) went from 63,9% in 2006 to 80,6% in 2015. Yet, data from CAF affirms that only 55% of students finishes high school.

The investments in education reached 3,93% of GDP in 2015. Those investments increased in comparison to the investments from 2000-2006. The GDP itself also increased, mainly, because of increased revenues from oil exports. In general, the amount of money dedicated to education was the highest in the story of the country.

The investment in the educational sector prioritized infrastructure, technology and then teachers. In this case, infrastructure means building educational facilities as schools. At least in 2015, almost half of the total budget was dedicated to infrastructure. Such investment is questionable because more schools and better-equipped schools are not equal to better education. According to the government, one of the biggest achievements was that 70 “millennial schools” were built, yet only 2,4% of students in the public system go to these schools. To add on, communal schools and smaller scale schools were closed in an attempt of centralization and for students to attend “millennial schools”.

The second budget focus went into investments in technology, that is closely related to tertiary education. 2% of the GDP went into tertiary education, giving scholarships to high performing students and investing in new universities as “YACHAY”. Students went and some still are in some of the best universities in the world, yet issues arise when they return to the country. There are bachelor, Ph.D. and master students that are unable to find appropriate jobs. Under the conditions given for the scholarship, some have declined job offers in other countries and are forced to work in jobs they are overqualified for. This is evidence that for education to be reflected in production and (hopefully smart) consumption, policies need to come together with improvements in the economic sector and policies that allow for innovation and entrepreneurship.

In general, the investment in teacher quality are positive, yet the results of such investment are to be seen in the results of the quality of education.

Bottom line: The Ecuadorian Educational policy improved education broadly, yet the quality of investments is questionable.

* Please help my growth and development economics students by commenting on unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc. (Or you can just say something nice :)