Education in El Salvador

Education in El Salvador follows a (1 or 2) 9-2-5 educational system, which is regulated by the country's Ministry of Education:[1]

Education levels

  • One or two years of Preschool Education (called kinder, short for kindergarten), which is not part of the State's educational system.
  • Nine years of Basic Education divided into three cycles of three grades each:
    • 1st Cycle: from 1st to 3rd grades
    • 2nd Cycle: from 4th to 6th grades
    • 3rd Cycle: from 7th to 9th grades; which is a transition to secondary education (e.g. specialized teachers for each assignment).
  • Two (or an optional three years technical program) of Middle Education, called bachillerato:
    • Two year General Bachelor's Degree
    • Three year Technical Bachelor's Degree (e.g. Accounting, Secretariat, Electronics and Computer Science, etc.)
  • Five years (minimum) of Higher Education, consisting of university education or other tertiary education.

Current education situation and statistics

According to statistics, only 82% of children make it to 9th grade. 6% of the children in El Salvador, do not attend school at all. Children who have finished 9th grade can go to secondary school, but only 33% will. The distribution of literacy is 79% men and 73% women.[2]

El Salvador has a very high crime rate and high gang violence, 300,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 have no jobs and do not attend university to study.[3]

According to the El Salvador Constitution (1983), every child is entitled to free education at the age of 4-6 years. Since most families live from less than $ 1 a day, it is normal in El Salvador that children under the age of 7 drop out of school to support their parents by working on a coffee plantation or helping in the household, because the parents can not afford education for the children. About 1.8 million minors between the ages of 5 and 17 work. In rural areas, about 62% of all children work, to support their families.[4]

Complications and improvement

The Minister of Education Carlos Mauricio Canjura Linares is responsible for education in El Salvador. Former President, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who used to be a primary school teacher, co-supervised the Education Department from 2009 to 2012. The improvement of the Salvadoran school and university system is in need of improvement compared to other Latin American countries.

The biggest problem is the elementary and middle school education. Although the government creates incentives through teaching materials, distribution of school uniforms and free meals in schools, El Salvador still remains in the rear in terms of education. Strong deficits are the condition of the different schools, the schools themselves are underfunded. Teachers’ wages are too low and according to recent research, 3,000 schools in 262 communities are in need of repair. The current president announced an increase in the education budget from 3% to 6% by the end of his term in office (2019), but instead, the education budget has been cut.

In the meantime, 88% of the population is dominated by reading and writing, which is a great step forward. In 1992, after the end of the civil war, only 74% of them knew how to read and write. Spanish is spoken in El Salvador and English dominates as the first foreign language. In 1992 the Minister of Education Cecilia Gallardo de Cano embarked on a reform program of basic education. In 2017, the literacy rate was 88% for adults who were 15 years old and above.[5]

The national educational system is not the only one available. Pre-university education is not free. The State provides public education for which a fee is paid if the person paying can afford it and only one payment per family is made (i.e. siblings pay only one fee). Public education is inconsistent in quality, being extremely poor in rural areas and dubiously efficient in urban areas, becoming one of the State's greatest challenges.

The private schools have also made progress in El Salvador, there are also German, French, British and US schools in El Salvador, which offer a recognized high level of education.[6]

According to the World Bank, access to primary education in El Salvador has increased in recent years, as mentioned earlier, the literacy rate has also increased. Mainly the urban areas have developed. Nevertheless, a big challenge remains the early school leavers.[7]

Impact of education on poverty

The average income in El Salvador is approximately 851$, about 40% of the population live below the poverty line. At the moment, efforts are being made to reduce unemployment by boosting economic growth.

Due to poverty, many young people tend to violence, which is why they put less focus on education. El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in Latin America. Between 1980 and 1992 there was a civil war, which cost more than 75,000 lives. Since 1992, more than 50,000 people have been murdered, reflecting the level of violence that has barely declined since the Civil War. 81% of the murdered were between 18 and 39 years of age, 82% of whom were men.[8]

Another strong deficit in education is that many children are not given the opportunity to attend school. Many children have to work on sugar or coffee plantations at a young age or help in the household. As already mentioned, more than 40% of the people in El Salvador are living below the poverty line. It is common for children in poor families to start working after the age of six.

As mentioned, very few students are able to obtain a university degree. For young people and adults who have achieved little or no education, it is difficult to earn a decent salary in El Salvador. The minimum salary is $ 185 and people who have no secondary education need to work for less than the minimum salary.[9]

Higher education

The University of El Salvador (UES) is the largest (and only) public university in the country. However, classes are constantly stopped for protests. The University of El Salvador has one main campus in San Salvador and three more campuses in Santa Ana, San Miguel and San Vicente.

There are also many private universities as alternatives to UES.

In Dec. 2014, the government of El Salvador entered into partnership with the United States Agency for International Development, in hopes of improving institutions of higher learning within the country with updated curricula and faculty training.[10]


  1. "Ministry of Education. Government of El Salvador"
  2. "Education Statistics".
  3. "Education".
  4. "Die Kinder von El Salvador".
  5. "Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)". The World Bank. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  6. "Kultur und Bildung".
  7. "The world bank in El Salvador". 10/05/18. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. "Soziale Bewegung in El Salvador".
  9. "Learn about El Salvador".
  10. "New Higher Education Project Launches in El Salvador, Aims to Boost Economic Growth". December 11, 2014. ProQuest 1635105111. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
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