In almost every modern industry, technology is changing the way that users access information. GPS-based applications like Waze provide commuters with real time, crowd-sourced traffic updates, while websites like E-Trade and Yelp give consumers unprecedented transparency into the financial and restaurant worlds, respectively. And the information flow goes both ways: not only can consumers get real-time updates, they can also communicate with other users about the quality of the products and services on offer.
But education remains a largely opaque sector, especially in Latin America. Parents in the region don't generally have access to information about the quality of K-12 schools, leading them to make decisions based on other factors, like location or the decisions of their friends. This is true even of private schools, which "don't share the real education indicators with parents," says Massimo Mazzone, the founder of Cadmus Academies, a new network of low cost private schools in Central America. "Their positioning is based much more on things like the comfort and security of the facilities rather than statistics on college acceptance or job placement rates."
Much the same is true in higher education. Rankings focus on the gleaming campus buildings, how much professors publish, and the ever-growing endowments, not the actual value for students' future salary and career prospects. Regardless of whether one chooses a traditional four-year college or some kind of technical or vocational training, there is almost no good information on where graduates eventually end up.
It remains unclear why there isn't more demand for such information, or why high-quality institutions--which should be flattered by the success of their students--wouldn't be eager to provide it. What is clear is that such opacity incurs a social cost. "Nontraditional students find it especially difficult to finish [their education]," concludes a report from the Lumina Foundation's Committee for Economic Development, in large part due to "uncertainty relating to educational options, and uncertainty around the eventual benefits to continuing one's education."