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Home arrow Mathematics arrow Mathematics Teacher Preparation in Central America and the Caribbean: The Cases of Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela

Central America and the Caribbean

The countries of this region of Latin America have certain characteristics in common: all are part of the Caribbean Basin; there is a shared European heritage (predominantly Hispanic) with ethnic and cultural contributions from pre-Colombian, African and Asian communities; educational achievement is not reaching the levels needed to meet development goals; there are often conditions of poverty that are among the highest in the Americas (Fig. 1.1).

The situation with respect to the teaching and learning of mathematics in Central America and the Caribbean should be considered in a larger context. One image of its reality is provided by international comparative testing.

Central America and the Caribbean. Source Free vector map of Middle America political with shaded relief. http://www.onestopmap.com

Fig. 1.1 Central America and the Caribbean. Source Free vector map of Middle America political with shaded relief. http://www.onestopmap.com

The achievement in Latin America on PISA, the international assessment from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (that is given to 15 year-old students) is systematically among the lowest of participating countries. The following table shows the 15 countries with the lowest scores on the 2012 PISA mathematics test. More than half of them are from Latin America (Table 1.1).

The average scores for countries participating from Latin America was approximately 397, almost 100 points lower than the OECD average and 215 points lower than Shanghai. Fully 63 % of Latin American youth scored under Level 2, which is considered to be the level necessary to function adequately in the modern world in which we are living (and that is 40 % more than was the OECD average). Less than 1 % scored at the highest two levels. Even if you do not accept all of the criteria and methodology used by PISA, these results show very weak achievement in school mathematics which presents these countries with the need to design very serious actions to improve education. Also, within the region there are significant differences, for examples there is a 55-point difference between the highest (Chile) and the lowest (Peru).

There has also been an effort on the part of UNESCO’s Latin American Laboratory on the Evaluation of the Quality of Education to measure achievement in the third and sixth grades in schools in the region. Their two latest studies have been the “Second Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study” (SERCE) in 2006

Table 1.1 The 15 countries with the lowest achievement levels on PISA 2012

Country

Average score on PISA 2012

Percentage of students with the lowest scores (lower than level 2) (%)

Percentage of students with high scores (level 5 or 6) (%)

Chilea

423

52

1.6

Malaysia

421

52

1.3

Mexicoa

413

55

0.6

Montenegro

410

57

1.0

Uruguaya

409

56

1.4

Costa Ricaa

407

60

0.6

Albania

394

61

0.8

Brazila

391

68

0.8

Argentinaa

388

67

0.3

Tunisia

388

68

0.8

Jordan

386

69

0.6

Colombiaa

376

74

0.3

Qatar

376

70

2.0

Indonesia

375

76

0.3

Perua

368

75

0.6

Average for the Latin American countries

397

63

0.8

OECD average

494

23

12.6

Shanghai-China

613

4

55.4

aLatin America. Many nations in this region did not participate, including the Dominican Republic and Venezuela Source OECD (2014)

and the Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study” (TERCE) in 2013. Some results follow (Table 1.2).

These data show that the countries of the Caribbean Basin that have participated in these tests (without including Mexico) have consistently scored below the rest of Latin America. Latin America as a region on international comparative tests has had low achievement levels with respect to the rest of the world, but Central America and the Caribbean is even weaker. On three of the tests the difference between Chile (with the highest scores) and the Dominican Republic (with the lowest scores) is more than 130 points.

The purpose of CANP 2 was to study the conditions related to mathematics education in Central America and the Caribbean, and search for elements to promote development. And the objective of this book is to offer to the international mathematics education community for the first time an academic summary of some dimensions of the development of the teaching and learning of mathematics in this specific region.

Why are only Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in this book? Although other countries in the region were invited to participate, for various academic and socioeconomic situations they chose not to. This work should

Table 1.2 Results from SERCE and TERCE (UNESCO) in Latin America: 2006, 2013

Third grade

Sixth grade

SERCE

TERCE

SERCE

TERCE

Argentina

505

533

513

530

Brazil

505

540

499

520

Chile

529

582

517

581

Colombiaa

499

519

493

515

Costa Ricaa

538

558

549

535

Ecuador

473

524

460

513

Guatemalaa

457

501

456

488

Hondurasa

508

480

Mexico

532

549

542

566

Nicaraguaa

474

485

458

462

Panamaa

463

494

452

461

Paraguay

486

488

468

456

Peru

474

533

490

527

Dominican Republica

396

448

416

437

Uruguay

539

551

578

567

Overall average

491

521

492

509

Average for countries from Central American and the Caribbean (not including Mexico)

471

502

471

483

aCountries from Central America and the Caribbean Venezuela did not participate in these studies Source OREALC-UNESCO (2014)

Table 1.3 Area and population of Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela

Country

Area

Approximate population in millions in 2016

Colombia

1,142,903 km2 and territorial waters 988,000 km2

48

Costa Rica

51,100 km2 and territorial waters 589,000 km2

5

Dominican

Republic

48,442 km2 and territorial waters 138,000 km2

10

Venezuela

916,445 km2 and territorial waters 670,000 km2

31

be seen as a first approximation. Without a doubt, it will be important to replicate this study in other countries in Central America and the Antilles.

It is important to note that the four countries in this study are particularly diverse geographically and demographically. Below are data on surface area and population that should help to situate the reader (Table 1.3).

Colombia is the largest with the greatest population, followed by Venezuela. The Dominican Republic has an area similar to Costa Rica, but twice the population.

Colombia has an area 20 times that of the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, and a population 10 times that of Costa Rica. Colombia and Venezuela share a long border. Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic share no borders with the rest of these countries, but the latter does share an island with Haiti. All these countries were a part of the Spanish Empire, although with diverse levels of importance. Costa Rica was the most “peripheral”. All four experienced distinct processes of independence from Spain. They have all had distinct relationships with the main power in the Americas, the United States. For example, the Dominican Republic was occupied various times by the United States while Costa Rica has always enjoyed a close relationship with the country to the north. Politically, all are representative democracies, but historically they have lived quite different conditions. Their levels of economic, social and educational development are distinct which indicates the need for care in analysing these realities.

 
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