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Gabriel Sanchez Zinny, the author of Educacion 3.0: The Struggle for Talent in Latin America
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Education: The Future of Latin America’s Human Capital

New book focuses on education and the future of human capital in Latin America.


Latin America education expert Gabriel Sanchez Zinny, president of and a Latinvex columnist, has just published Educacion 3.0: The Struggle for Talent in Latin America, a new book that takes a long look at the efforts at those in the private sector, NGOs, and other independent organizations, to fundamentally reshape education options in both Latin America  and the United States in order to meet the needs for educational transformation.

Why did you focus on education?

Zinny: The 21st century knowledge society in which we live relies upon human capital. Such “human resources” are a central strategic asset, not just for the individuals themselves, but also at a national level. And in emerging economies such as those in Latin America in particular, the only way to move forward into a new development stage, which demands increasing competitiveness and productivity, is by raising the bar for human capital – providing education that combines technological prowess with creativity and leadership capabilities.

Is there one path going forward?

Zinny: As the book recognizes, there are different points of view on the best paths to advance educational quality with an inclusive and equitable framework, so that vulnerable and lower-income communities can also benefit. This challenge is even more urgent in a world that has been transformed by technology and which, at the same time, still holds inequalities in the access to the digital resources and to the knowledge society.

Global comparisons, like the international PISA evaluation (Program for International Student Assessment), have proven to be powerful tools to learn what successful countries are doing to address these issues and expand opportunities for all. But is there a single, replicable model for everyone? The experiences of countries like Finland or Korea are quite difficult to replicate in societies as different as Latin American. This multiplicity of approaches is what the phrase “Education 3.0” tries to capture.

What makes the book different?

Zinny: In Educacion 3.0, I argue that relying on the same formulas from the past will not improve education. It is time to start thinking outside the box, considering new models, and encouraging new players to get involved – especially the private sector, with its ability to provide innovative solutions for challenges new and old. In this view, reforms cannot happen in isolation, but must, in complex systems, be interconnected.

And indeed, countries that have succeeded in advancing fundamental education reforms have anchored the process with coalitions that were able to challenge status quo while promoting political dialogue through ongoing negotiations and positioning. Can such coalitions, rooted in political compromise, continue to promote innovation?

You also focus strongly on entrepreneurs. Why?

Educacion 3.0 seeks to enrich the debate with a practical approach that includes but goes beyond theoretical justifications. In addition to valuable quantitative data, the arguments are based on the examples of a number of entrepreneurs in the US and in Latin America who are already – as some have been for many years – trying to make a difference by taking risks with new solutions. This includes more than 100 education entrepreneurs in Latin America and the US have been interviewed, including NGO’s, foundations, think tanks, startups and investors, all of them committed to changing the status quo.

Their stories, their accomplishments, and the obstacles they have confronted along the way, are at the heart of this book. As the Brookings Institution recently argued, “The development community has learned that reforms have to be owned to be sustained. Change will take hold and learning will improve only if a quality-oriented education reform movement emerges from within national political processes as something to be embraced, not feared.”

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