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Educating the Next Generation of Hondurans

I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning while having my usual cup of espresso. The coffee was not as good as the San Rafael organico (from Copan Ruinas) which I brew at home, and at $1.54 it was certainly nowhere as cheap. But I digress…

The title of the WSJ article was, “In Latin America, Rich-Poor Chasm Stifles Growth”. The focus of the piece was poverty in Latin America and its correlation to education (or lack thereof). Obviously, this theme is not breaking news to anyone. It does not take a Harvard economist to figure out that the increasing gap between the rich and poor in the developing world is due primarily to inadequate access to good education by the masses. There are many other reasons, of course, but it all starts with education. That is why every candidate for a position of leadership tends to stress things such as education and training.

The problem is that when a candidate succeeds in his/her campaign for office he/she then is faced with the challenges of having to administer a bureaucracy and manage a staff. Suddenly, the individual is presented with a broad range of “operational” problems that need to be resolved. In no time at all, macro issues that are extremely important such as education and healthcare keep being pushed into the background until a time when they can be effectively addressed. Unfortunately, that time never seems to arrive. And before you know it, yet another generation of young people is growing up without the skills required to compete in the global economy.

The WSJ article noted that in 1980 Mexico's economy was nearly four times the size of South Korea's. Today, the World Bank ranks South Korea's economy as the 11th largest in the world. Mexico's economy is ranked 12th. Look what has happened in 25 short years. A small Asian country with few natural resources has quickly overtaken one of the largest Latin American nations—one with huge oil reserves, a huge tourism industry, and an advantageous trade relationship with and close geographic proximity to the US.

What's the difference? Well, you can start with education. According to the WSG, seven out of 10 Latin Americans drop out of high school, which is double the rate of industrialized countries and Asian countries like South Korea.

If Mexico is falling behind, then what do you think is happening to Honduras?

This is not meant as a policy critique, but rather an attempt to highlight a problem with which Honduras must deal. I accept that there are many “more pressing” problems for the country. I accept it. I also know that there will always be more pressing problems than education and healthcare. As long as this continues to be the case, ask yourself… “How many more generations are we willing to sacrifice?”

Without an educated and well-trained population, all those great things that we associate with Honduras are irrelevant. With all of its beautiful mountains, fields, rivers, and beaches. With all of its picturesque churches and plazas. With all of its wonderful music and food. With all the nostalgia associated with times and families gone by. … Honduras is nothing without its people, and its people are nothing without the ability to think, reason, question, and learn.

I will politely argue from here to Kingdom come with anyone who laughs at the notion that Honduras could be anything like South Korea. Give an Honduran kid a top notch education, good healthcare, some ego-diminishing spiritual guidance, excellent nutrition, and a stable and loving family… make no mistake, I'd be willing to put that child up against any kid in the world. I can provide you with numerous examples, starting with Darwin, David, Jarvin, Marvin, and Olvin of the Micah Project in Tegucigalpa.

I invite you to attend the sixth annual Conference on Honduras in Copan Ruinas on October 20-23, 2005, where the main two themes will be education and healthcare. For information, see Conference.



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