Armando Chacon andPablo Pena have written a valuable book on a topic of great importance. Monetaryreturns to college and university education have been high during the past 30years in virtually all countries. Higher education pays off not only withbetter earnings and better jobs, but also in better health, greater likelihoodof being politically active, and in many other ways. In developing countrieslike Mexico, educated persons are especially valuable in helping companies touse efficiently the capital and technologies imported from richer nations.
Despite these highreturns to a college education, many students with sufficient cognitive skillsto benefit from higher education quit school after finishing high school. Many other able students even drop out of high school before graduating. This waste oftalent is especially significant in Mexico and most other developing economies.
The authors stressthree factors in Mexico that help discourage able students with poorer and lesseducated backgrounds from finishing high school and going to college. These arefew role models for students from these backgrounds that help motivate them to tryto do well in school, late detection of their talents, and limited familyresources to help pay the tuition and foregone earnings opportunities requiredto attend college. The authors give manyexamples of how these and other obstacles discourage students from continuingwith their schooling.
Chacon and Pena alsodiscuss real programs that have succeeded in overcoming some of theseobstacles. These include the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and Sponsor aScholar programs that provide role models to children from more deprivedfamilies. National Merit Scholarships and a few other programs that identifytalents at earlier ages than would otherwise occur. Becalos, Lumni, Sofoles,and other Mexican programs that provide funds to poorer and middle class studentsthat help them acquire the financing needed to continue their education.
Historically,Mexico has done a bad job of investing in the human capital of its boys andgirls from poorer backgrounds. Fortunately, during the past 20 years Oportunidadesand the programs discussed by the authors have improved education opportunitiesin Mexico for children from modest backgrounds. Yet the authors show that Mexicomust do much more to encourage investments in the education of its youth
I strongly recommend this book for anyoneinterested in valuable insights about how to overcome the obstacles that inducemany talented Mexican youngsters to drop out of school at much earlier agesthan they should.