A Glimpse into El Salvador’s Education System
El Salvador has both a private and public school system. The public school system is free and anyone can enroll (according to article 59 of the Education General Law); and, the cost of a private education varies depending on the school. Both private and public schools either run on the (1) national system, OR the (2) international system. We must mention that there are a couple of private schools that run on the national system and calendar, but they also combine some of the international system practices. Learn a bit more about both of these systems, and the difference, below.
1. National Education System
The National education system is taught with a regular and prefixed sequence, that advances from an initial level to higher education. In El Salvador, the national school year runs from late January to mid-November. The system is composed as follows: preschool, basic education, and higher education.
1. Initial Education, also known as day care: infants from 0 to less than 3 years old.
2. Early Childhood Education: for 4, 5 and 6-years old children.
3. Basic Education: is subdivided into three cycles. First cycle, from 1st to 3rd grade; second cycle, from 4th to 6th grade, and third cycle, from 7th to 9th grade. The first and second cycle of Basic Education corresponds to “Primary,” in the international classification.
4. Secondary Education, otherwise known as high school, is subdivided into general high school studies and vocational technical. The general high school studies lasts for 2 years and the vocational technical with a duration of 3 to 4 years.
5. Higher Education corresponds to college, university and postgraduate, which have different durations, depending on the modality and the chosen career. The vocational technical is also considered as higher education.
Early childhood, basic and secondary education are mandatory and free at public centers for all children under 16 years.
Formal education is open to any person, with the only requirement of approving the respective evaluation process for the applied course. Complementary education is offered to finish, update, train or strengthen academic or working skills without submitting to the formal levels.
The government has made significant strides in recent years to expand access to education, striving to provide a strong foundation for its youth. Despite these efforts, disparities still exist in rural and marginalized communities.
International Education System
One shining aspect of El Salvador’s education landscape is the emergence of bilingual schools that cater to the global demands of the 21st century. These institutions not only equip students with a solid academic foundation but also immerse them in English and other languages, enhancing their prospects in an increasingly interconnected world.
Most of the private institutions include competitive English programs and there’s a great offer of international schools that adjust to the quality of countries like the United States, England, Germany, or France, among others.
The International system runs from mid-August to early-June, and they usually follow the IB program (International Baccalaureate). See below for a chart of some of the popular International Schools in El Salvador.
Government Measures To Improve Educational Quality
Under Nayib Bukele’s government, there have been various initiatives and policies implemented in an effort to better the national education in El Salvador. So far his investment in education corresponds to 5.1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Here are a few of the measures the government has taken:
- Delivery of tablets and computers to all students in public schools, each equipped with computer programs and educational resources. This initiative started in 2021, seeking to benefit almost 1.2 million students
- El Salvador launched ‘Mi Nueva Escuela’ (‘My New School’), an ongoing initiative to improve: infrastructure, early childhood education, teacher training, student curriculum, technology, health and nutrition. This includes the development of new materials, access and inclusivity for disabled students, the renovation of otherwise dysfunctional and uninspiring classrooms and schools – specifically the construction of nearly 400 schools in a three-year period in different parts of the country – and more.
- The establishment of CUBO, also knows (in English) as the ‘Urban Center(s) for Well-being and Opportunities. Across El Salvador, you will find 11 of these physical spaces in different communities. According to CUBO’s official website, each one was built to “promote the development of the population through healthy recreation, promotion of letters, arts, culture and information and communication technologies. The construction and revitalization of the use of public spaces aimed at strengthening community identity and belonging, culture, social transformation, the healthy promotion of physical activity, free movement, sports and recreational practice, among others, are elements of the policy of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the social fabric and the creation of quality collective spaces in neighborhoods, neighborhoods and communities, are energizers of local violence prevention processes.”
- Moving into a higher education level, the government has implemented the CUBO+ program. CUBO+, the first advanced engineering and training program for Bitcoin and Lightning developers in El Salvador, will cover topics ranging from high-level technical development to distributed technologies such as Holepunch, Nostr and Web5. The program will support a small group of outstanding university students, who, upon completing the course, will have the option of working in companies such as: Bitfinex, Strike, Galoy, Ibex and Tiankii. In addition, some of these students will also have the opportunity to travel in 2023 to Lugano, Switzerland, and then to Italy for more camp and mentoring opportunities. This initiative arose from the need for human talent demanded by technology companies that have settled in Salvadoran territory, motivated by the new regulations.