The Expansion of Mass Education in Twentieth Century Latin America: A Global Comparative Perspective


This paper studies the expansion of mass education in Latin America in the twentieth century from a global comparative perspective. The paper argues that expansion in terms of enrolment and attainment levels was quite impressive. A comparative analysis of the grade enrolment distribution demonstrates, however, that the rapid expansion of primary school enrolment did not correspond with an equally impressive improvement in educational quality. The persistently large tertiary education bias in public education spending suggests that part of the poor quality performance is related to a lack of fiscal support for primary education and that the political economy explanation for educational underdevelopment, as advanced by Engerman, Mariscal and Sokoloff for the 19th century, still applied to Latin America during most of the 20th century.