Despite an initiative aimed at improving education in its poorest areas, Colombia must make more adjustments to its education system if it wants to become a member of an internationally exclusive economic group.
“Everyone Learns” is a program that was formed by the Colombian government in 2012 and geared toward elementary students in public schools in the poorest areas of the country. The initiative focuses on mathematics and language and has reached 2.4 million students, according to Colombia’s RCN Radio.
Education Minister Maria Fernanda Campo backed the program, which selected more than 3,000 of the country’s best teachers to guide another 90,000 in a nationwide effort, according to RCN.
However, despite the country’s efforts to reform education, it is still not adequate enough to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of 34 countries that identify good economic and political practices and have strict membership requirements.
The “Everyone Learns” program began in 2012, the same year that Colombia requested to become a member of the OECD, yet the organization’s standards have still not been met by the Colombian government.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has shown great interest in joining the group to modernize Colombia’s global market economy.
Colombia has made it into OECD’s accession process for membership but has to make some changes in many issues in the country.
The latest effort is in education where Colombia has not met the OECD standards in scores from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test given to 15-year-olds.
In math, reading, science, and problem solving PISA’s 2012 test scores show Colombia’s top performing students fall below the OECD average, and students are not improving as the trend remains neutral.
Colombian students also remain higher than the OECD average in student anxiety while countries like Canada, Finland, and Australia remain over the OECD average in the same subjects.
Colombia’s background with OECD
The only countries with OECD membership in Latin America are Mexico, Chile, and Brazil. Most countries in the OECD have a high Human Development Index (HDI) and are considered developed countries.
Colombia recently made it into the OECD’s accession process, but before Colombia can become a member, it must introduce reforms that will address the OECD’s critiques. For membership, the country must combat armed conflict and economic inequality, with support and advisement from the OECD.
Colombia’s praise and criticisms of the OECD
In 2012, Colombia applied to become a member of the economic organization, of which President Santos said, “It is the club of good practices.”
Colombia has received praise from the OECD earlier this year. In a report, the OECD said that the country “demonstrates a high level of commitment to the international standard for transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.”
The report released said, “Colombia has a solid legal and regulatory framework ensuring that ownership and accounting information is available for all relevant entities, and Colombian authorities have full access to this information for exchange purposes.”
Although in a later report by the OECD, Colombia was criticized on the environmental front. Colombia is one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries but has many extractive industries like livestock grazing, urbanization, car use, deforestation, and mining.
“Colombia is growing fast as an economy and it needs to take action now to protect what are some of the world’s richest forests and ecosystems,” said OECD’s Environment Director Simon Upton. “Bringing environmental policies in line with the best international practices will be a key step towards bringing Colombia into the OECD.”
The exclusive group also commented on the country’s failure to stop “internal armed conflict,” which has “undermined the rule of law.”
The OECD also called for Colombia to have better regulation on telecommunications. The country’s largest mobile service provider, Claro, owns more than 60% of the market, and the second largest, Telco, owns 30%. OECD standards allow on average 42% of the market.
The economic organization suggested the Commission for Communications Regulation (CRC) should merge with the National Television Authority (ANTV) to have a complete convergence of communications standards.
Colombia’s Semana news magazine suggested a complete separation of government since currently Colombia’s CRC, which monitors telecommunications has five members, two of which are senior government officials.