Juan Manuel Santos

President Juan Manuel Santos announced a new longterm goal Wednesday to convert Colombia into the most educated nation in Latin American by 2025.

Speaking at the Strategic Forum for Educational Excellence, Santos said that “the time has come for us to ensure the prosperity of future generations,” according to a copy of the president’s remarks published on his office’s website.

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The new initiative was announced to a collective group of governors, mayors, teachers, parents and members of the public and was described by Santos as a “a goal with which we can all engage.”

Colombia has all “the talent, the resources and the drive” to achieve this new goal, according to the president, who referenced the academic excellence of both Korea and Singapore as a model that Colombia should strive to emulate.

“We should not be afraid of being ambitious: I have faith in the talent and ability of all Colombians.”

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Santos did, however, acknowledge that in the past, education was not enough of a priority.

In 2012, UNESCO described what it called Colombia’s “lost generation.” The potential of an entire age bracket, said the international body, especially the youngest children, was being squandered due to a lack of access to adequate education. As recently as December 2013, a report was issued by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) demonstrating the ongoing deterioration of Colombian public education. Of the 65 countries tested as part of the study, Colombia had the third-lowest level of performance on basic international education standards.

MORE: International survey reports downward slide for Colombia’s educational system 

Addressing the shortcomings of early education in particular, Santos siad, “those under the age of five should receive the same amount of attention as their counterparts do in Europe, the United States and Asia.” The president also acknowledged that providing service to “young people in rural areas, where there is a concentration of poverty” and generally low access to education will require additional measures.

The crux of the problem, according to Education Minister Maria Fernando Campo is that “if we want better quality of the education system, we have to produce better teachers,” as reported by Blu Radio. Teachers are a common target of criticism in the country, while the teachers themselves complain of underfunding and other structural issues.

Neither the minister nor the president specified what policies would be implemented to achieve the new goal.


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