Half of the poor youths do not finish high school - IDESA

Report Nº: 92520/08/2021

Half of the poor youths do not finish high school

Toyota’s difficulty in hiring employees with a high school education made explicit the large number of young people who do not finish high school. Moreover, those who do finish suffer from low-quality education. The pandemic is the opportunity to rethink high school in such a way that serves young people and companies.

A senior executive of Toyota made public the great difficulties the company faced to incorporate 200 young people into its staff. He states that the main obstacle is that the candidates do not meet the requirement of holding high school finished. This is the minimum level of education required to work in a modern industrial plant. it is not an isolated case. It is a problem faced by most modern companies in Argentina.   

The issue sparked intense controversy. It is disturbing that a company cannot find workers to fill vacancies when unemployment and informality are so high, especially among young people. The phenomenon warns that the factors impeding social progress are not limited to low productive investment and archaic labor legislation that discourages job creation. The lack of people’s labor skills is also decisive.

The key question is in what situation Argentine youth is concerning secondary education. According to data from the national Ministry of Education, it is observed that: 

  • Only 69% of young people up to 24 years of age completed high school. 
  • Among the highest-income youth, 88% finished high school.
  • Among the lowest income youth (mostly poor) only 52% finished high school. 

These data show that the proportion of young people who complete secondary school is low and heterogeneous according to the income level of the families. In households with higher income levels, almost all of the youngsters finish high school, while in poor families only half do it. The problem is aggravated by the low-quality of education. According to the Ministry of Education, 47% and 81% of students in state schools do not reach a satisfactory level in language and mathematics, respectively. This indicates that, even if they finish high school, their learning is not enough to obtain the minimum training required by modern companies.

The information refers to 2019, that is, before the pandemic. Further degradation is to be expected due to the prolonged disruption of education triggered at the beginning of 2020. All students are suffering the consequences, but the most severe damage is among the lower socio-economic levels where it was impossible to migrate to virtual teaching. The terminal crisis resulting from the pandemic should trigger a profound change in educational policies. Just as telework is revolutionizing the organization of work, the pandemic is an opportunity to implement more technological teaching modalities to recover young people’s interest and improve the quality of education. In particular, it is critical and urgent to address the deficit in mathematics. 

This modernization should be paired with a redesign of secondary education. In the Saxon countries of Europe, such as Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark, among others, secondary education is organized in two modalities. One prepares young people for university and the other for the labor market as they finish high school. The latter is called vocational education. In Argentina, high school only prepares for university, neglecting young people whose project is to start working early.

Experience shows that the success of vocational education depends crucially on a close link between secondary schools and companies. It is very enriching for students to complete the training provided by the school within a company. To make this idea a reality in Argentina, it is essential to overcome obsolete views both from the educational sphere (which considers that schools are not to train people for the companies) and from labor legislation (which is extremely restrictive allowing young people to be trained in the workplace).


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