Exploring Skills Enhancement at the Secondary Level in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Challenge

According to UN data, thirty million, or one in every three secondary school-aged people in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are not enrolled in school. Each school dropout forfeits the equivalent of 14 percent of per capita GDP each year of his or her working life by missing out on vital skills for future employment. Furthermore, there are 10 million unemployed youth aged between 15 and 24 in the region and almost one in four people under 24 are neither working nor in school.

The Opportunity

The rising demand for secondary education and changing needs of the labor market present an enormous opportunity to identify and foster innovative ways of enhancing youth skills for the workforce in the LAC region. Indeed, given that secondary education is now the level of education from which most people enter the labor force, it becomes crucial to consider the relevance of the curriculum and pedagogy for today’s labor market. There is also a need to explore mechanisms to increase quality of learning and reduce persistent inequities in secondary education graduation rates. Marked equity gaps based on urban-rural divide and income inequality are also added concerns. Importantly, the large informal economy in the region cannot be ignored, and it reinforces the necessity of exploring alternative and relevant models of skills development.

Together, R4D and FHI 360 analyzed the skills required for work and identified models of secondary education in the region. The partnership leveraged FHI 360’s long track record supporting education reform efforts and workforce development in the region, and built upon R4D’s study that identified the skills required for work in the 21st century economies of Africa and Asia.

Our Progress

This project focused on the following questions:

  • What skills are needed for employability in the LAC region?
  • What skills do students primarily acquire in the current formal education system?
  • What innovative delivery models are currently working in specific locations or may have potential to improve skill acquisition and youth employability?

The study focuses on Colombia, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. These three countries were selected to ensure representation of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The authors used a mix of primary and secondary research, and focused on effectively disseminating the joint findings to stakeholders in the region and engaging policy makers, civil society and donors to discuss the implications of the findings. The work was conducted in close collaboration with local and regional partners in the LAC region, and built partnerships with key players in the public and private sectors.

To read the full report, click here.


Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador


FHI 360



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