IDB launches GRADUATE XXI, an initiative to prevent high school dropout in Latin America

Nearly half of all youth in Latin America never make it to graduation day

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is launching a new initiative that seeks to raise public awareness of the high school dropout crisis in Latin America and generate solutions to keep more young people in school. By presenting the latest dropout research and data in engaging platforms such as social media, film, and interactive online forums, GRADUATE XXI aims to involve Latin Americans from all walks of life in efforts to improve education systems and increase the number of high school graduates across the region.

Why students drop out

In recent years, access to education has improved significantly in Latin America. Primary education is virtually universal throughout the region. However, nearly half of the students in Latin America do not finish secondary school. Gaps in access to education persist among socioeconomic and ethnic groups, as well as between urban and rural communities. Indigenous youth, the poor, students with disabilities and youth who live in rural areas are disproportionately represented in dropout rates throughout Latin America.

  • In every single Latin American country, the gap between rich and poor students persists.
  • Over half of youth in rural areas do not complete 9 years of school.
  • More than 40 percent of indigenous youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are not in school.
  • It is estimated that only 20 percent to 30 percent of all children and youth with disabilities in the region attend school; most of them never finish high school.

The goals

The IDB is working in partnership with Latin American governments to close these gaps in access, as well as to improve the quality of secondary education. According to household surveys from Latin America, most students between the ages of 13 and 15 who are not in school list “lack of interest”—above economic, access or family problems—as their primary reason for dropping out. These surprising results may hint at deficiencies in the quality of instruction and curriculum. GRADUATE XXI seeks to further research, analysis, and public discussion on the underlying causes of high school dropout.

In addition to videos, blogs, educational materials, and the most recent dropout data, GRADUATE XXI will host a series of ten online contests. Each contest will culminate in the announcement of a winning idea and the screening of a short film on the contest topic. The first online contest, launched today, December 10, will center on barriers faced by students with disabilities and will solicit ideas to make education more inclusive and accessible. Hugo, the first short film by award-winning director Mariana Chenillo, will premiere at the close of the first contest at the end of January.

Argentine director Pablo Fendrik and Colombian director Carlos Gaviria will lend their story-telling talents to GRADUATE XXI in the upcoming contests. Fendrik’s short film will discuss barriers to accessing education in rural areas of Latin America. The impact of conflict on graduation rates will be the subject of Gaviria’s short film. The other participating Latin American directors will gradually be revealed over the course of the contest series.

Chenillo, who filmed a short documentary about deaf students in Mexico City for GRADUATE XXI, said, “I am proud to be associated with this project because educating the next generation is the single most important investment that Mexico, or any country, can make in its future. There is no future for a region in which half the population does not have a high school education. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that all of our youth have equal access to quality education. The need for action is urgent and I think GRADUATE XXI will inspire more Latin Americans to get involved.”

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

The IDB is the main source of multilateral financing and expertise for sustainable economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Education Division of the IDB conducts education research, provides technical assistance and finances projects to improve the infrastructure, curriculum and policies of education systems throughout the region. The Division works in partnership with Latin American and Caribbean countries to support education goals and reforms so that all students in the region have access to quality education.

This initiative is made possible in part by the generous support of the Korea Poverty Reduction Fund. In 2005, the government of the Republic of Korea established the Korea Poverty Reduction Fund (KPR) at the IDB. The KPR aims to support poverty reduction and social development activities, intended to benefit the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged groups in Latin America.