Quality education is one of the basic building blocks for sustainable development, and Bolivia has made great strides forward in terms of enrolment rates and by now has an economically active population with more years of education than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean (despite being one of the poorest countries in the region). Close to a third of the population is currently studying.
However, the quality of that education is in doubt. Bolivia has not participated in any of the standardized international tests (SIMECAL, PISA, TIMSS) since 1997. The situation was bad in 1997, especially in public schools, and it is unlikely that Bolivia has been catching up significantly in terms of better test scores. What is clear is that returns to education have been going down steadily over the last couple of decades. Bolivian workers with 12 years of education earn barely more than Bolivian workers with just 1 year of education1. This indicates a serious problem with the quality or relevance of the education most of Bolivia’s students are receiving.
Improving the quality and usefulness of education in Bolivia, and making sure the acquired education is being put to good use in the labour market is a major challenge, but one that must be addressed for Bolivia to improve its extremely low labour productivity.