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Latin America's success could lie in education, education, education.

September 4, 2008 |  9:29 am

Latin American could have a lot to learn from Finland, argues Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer.

Here, he details a recent visit to Finland, which "ranks first among 179 countries in Transparency International's index of the least corrupt nations in the world (the United States is No. 20); No. 1 in Freedom House's ranking of the world's most democratic countries (the U.S. ranks No. 15); No. 1 in the world in 15-year-old students' standardized test scores in science (the U.S. ranks No. 29), and is among the 10 most competitive economies in the World Economic Forum's annual competitiveness index (the U.S. topped the list this year)."

Oppenheimer quizzed Finnish President Tarja Halonen on the secret to the country's success in an interview, during which she said: ''I can sum it up in three words: education, education and education.''

Something as simple as having really good teachers has helped the country develop into a manufacturer of high-tech products that sell for high prices around the world, such as mobile phones.

"A small country of 5.3 million, which only two decades ago was by most measures the poorest country in northern Europe, Finland also boasts the headquarters of the world's biggest cellphone maker -- Nokia -- and cutting-edge paper and pulp-technology firms," writes Oppenheimer.

"Finland could be an excellent example for Latin American commodity exporters who want to become high-technology producers. They could help themselves by remembering this country's three little secrets: education, education and education."

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City