Sadly, despite its promising name, Pablo Neruda's Elementary Odes contains no advice for improving his country's educational system. Too bad, because Chile could use some help. Once again, the country is being riled by sporadic protests--by students and teachers alike--over education. Although the most vocal protesters are demanding more funding for schools, Chile's larger education problem concerns low teacher quality, which many citizens believe is the reason for the huge disparity between Chile's lofty economic rank on the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report (27th in the world and far ahead of the rest of Latin America) and its world rank (100th) in math and science education. During the Pinochet years, teacher wages decreased and schools were forced to hire loads of unqualified workers. Now, thanks to unions, it's nearly impossible to fire poor-performing teachers. The government has expressed a desire to raise classroom standards, but powerful teacher unions have blocked it every step of the way. Sounds familiar--maybe the world really is flat.        

"Chile's Schools: How to make them better," The Economist, October 5, 2006

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