Education is a key component of technology growth in developing economies. The foundations of innovation in scientific communities lie in the academic strength of those within them. When a country as a whole lacks scientific, numerical, and literary skills, it will make technological progress at a slower rate than other country.

University Degrees in Science and Engineering

With a high availability of scientists and engineers, there is an increased likelihood of technological growth. As the following figure illustrates, some Latin American countries (Mexico, Columbia, Chile, and El Salvador) are on par with the OECD (see subsection) in terms of the percentage of total tertiary degrees that consists of science and engineering degrees. Other countries, such as Argentina and Brazil, are below the benchmark set by the OECD. Although this statistic only reveals that university students in these countries do not favor engineering and scientific studies, it may contribute to a lagging advancement of technology in the country.

The application of state-of-the-art knowledge to existing products and processes to make their production more efficiently, with better materials, with lower energy consumption, or reduced environmental costs is essential for technological progress, which puts engineering careers at the heart of technology.

Doctoral Degrees in Science and Engineering

The following figure illustrates the number of doctoral graduates science and engineering per 100,000 inhabitants, and this can serve as a measure of the quality and depth of research and engineering personnel in these countries. Although Brazil and Mexico lead the Latin American countries with about five and three Ph.D.s per 100,000, respectively, they are still far behind the United States and Spain. Furthermore, the total numbers of science and engineering Ph.D.s are even lower in Brazil and Mexico, which could be another cause of Latin American countries’ lagging advancement in technology.

University Rankings

Universities provide human capital and knowledge needed for technological growth. However, as the following figure illustrates, very few Latin American universities are in the Top 500 World’s Universities. This study was conducted by ARWU (see subsection), and it used six indicators to rank universities across the globe.

Authors: Alvin Heng, Justin Heermann, Chamal Samaranayake, & Lilly Sath