Chile Takes the Lead: Latin America’s Educational Success Story


The 2022 Pisa exam, which evaluates the cognitive abilities of 15-year-olds from OECD nations, showcased Chile as the top contender from Latin America. While Chile has consistently ranked first among Latin American countries participating in Pisa, Brazil, on the other hand, remains among the poorest performers and has shown minimal improvement since 2009.

Chile’s success in the Pisa test can be attributed to various factors that have not been effectively implemented in Brazil. These factors include the establishment of standards and quality control, decentralization of administration, and a focus on training and recruiting highly skilled teachers. These measures have played a crucial role in enabling Chile to surpass other Latin American nations in educational performance.

Although both Chile and Brazil allocate 6% of their GDP to education, Chile has shown significant improvement in recent years. In the Pisa 2022 exam, Chilean students scored 412 in arithmetic, 448 in reading, and 444 in science. In comparison, Brazilian students scored 379 in math, 410 in reading, and 403 in science. While Chile is in a more favorable position, closer to the performance of better-ranked nations, both countries have experienced stagnation in their educational outcomes for several years.

One notable difference between the two countries is the percentage of students who do not grasp the minimum mathematics skills required for basic daily activities. In Chile, this percentage has decreased from 73% in Brazil to 44%. Similarly, the reading proficiency levels also highlight the disparities, with 50% of Brazilians failing to attain level 2 and 34% of Chileans failing to reach level 3. In terms of scientific knowledge, 55% of Brazilian students lack the minimum required knowledge for their age group, compared to 36% in Chile.

Chile’s educational journey in the Pisa exams began in 2000 when its students became the first from Latin America to participate. They scored 410 in reading that year, and although they did not take part in the 2003 edition, they returned in 2006. Over this period, Chile witnessed a remarkable 32-point improvement in reading scores. Since then, Chile has maintained a level 2 status, surpassing other Latin American nations but still falling below the OECD average.

The education system in Chile demonstrates a rigorous evaluation system and a highly prescriptive curriculum. In contrast, Brazil lacks such standardized frameworks and guidelines, according to education expert Ilona Becskeházy. The Chilean government sought advice from the OECD to implement effective educational policies, reflecting a historical concern with education and a commitment to improving the learning conditions of Chilean students.

Elige Educar, a non-governmental organization in Chile, receives public and private funds to recruit academically gifted youth and develop strategies to retain experienced educators. It aims to address the educational challenges faced by the country. These initiatives aim to reform the schooling system through a sophisticated “Education Quality Assurance System.” This system, established through the General Education Law, involves organizations such as the Ministry of Education, the National Education Council, the Education Quality Agency, and the Education Superintendency.

The decentralization of education has been a key element in Chile’s success, allowing for greater flexibility in curriculum development to address specific regional needs. Célia Seabra, a teacher in Brazil, emphasizes the importance of taking into account the social, economic, and geographical diversity within a country when designing educational systems. Seabra believes that state and local governments should spearhead educational reforms in Brazil, following Chile’s example.

Improvements in teacher preparation programs are also essential for enhancing educational outcomes. Verónica Cabezas emphasizes the need to address teacher turnover rates and improve training programs. In Chile, the NGO Elige Educar has implemented initiatives such as the “I want to be a Prof.” program, which provides support to students interested in pursuing a teaching career. However, in Brazil, pedagogy courses and teacher training programs have been criticized for their lack of emphasis on practical teaching skills.

In conclusion, Chile’s position as Latin America’s top performer in the 2022 Pisa exam can be attributed to its implementation of effective measures such as standards and quality control, decentralization of administration, and a focus on teacher training. Brazil, on the other hand, struggles to improve its educational outcomes due to the absence of these crucial elements. For Brazil to enhance its performance, it is essential for the government to take inspiration from successful foreign models, address teacher turnover rates, and prioritize practical teaching skills in teacher training programs. Only through comprehensive reforms can Latin American countries strive towards educational excellence.