Children in El Salvador start their nine-year primary school at the age of seven. Almost all children go to the lower stages but many then drop out. The quality of education is often low.
Formally, compulsory schooling applies to children from 1 to 15 years. Nevertheless, few in the lowest ages participate in any form of education. Just over half of children between the ages of 4 and 6, mainly in the cities, attend preschool, which is usually three hours a day.
The elementary school is divided into three stages in three years each. Education should be free of charge in state schools, but many families still pay for school uniforms and books. The private schools, many of which are run by the church, are subject to fees. The lower classes are often gender segregated – girls go by themselves and boys by themselves. Only in the corresponding high school are the classes usually combined. The school year runs from January to November.
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About every third child fails to attend high school. Rural children attend school to a lesser extent than children in cities. This is partly because the authorities cannot always give the children the right education because of a lack of teachers and resources, and partly because the children have to contribute to the family’s livelihood and therefore are at home part of the school year.
The left government that took office in 2009 introduced a social program with free school food, school uniforms and materials for the poor. The proportion of children in the school subsequently increased for a few years, but has since dropped again.
After compulsory school, a two-year high school is offered that gives university admission, or three years for those who want a vocational education. One third of young people go to high school.
There are a number of universities and colleges. Founded in 1841, the State University of El Salvador (UES) is the largest with over 50,000 students. The UES is headquartered in San Salvador but is represented in several locations in the country. Jesuit University Universidad Centroamericano José Simeón Cañas (UCA) actively participates in the social debate.
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FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
80.6 percent (2017)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
Reading and writing skills
88.1 percent (2016)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP
16.1 percent (2016)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget
16.1 percent (2016)
Ex-President Flores surrenders
Former President Francisco Flores surrenders and is placed under house arrest (see May 2014).
Criminal gangs give armory a second chance
The leaders of five criminal gangs say they will cease attacks on police and military in an attempt to rein in the ceasefire. They say they want to give peace “a second chance”. The number of murders has now doubled compared to 2013, to around eleven a day. Sánchez Cerén did not acknowledge the ceasefire but said he would develop his own strategy against the violence.
Meeting with Obama on the refugee issue
President Sánchez Cerén and his colleagues from Guatemala and Honduras meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House and discuss what has sailed up as a crisis in the United States, with at least 57,000 unaccompanied refugee children arriving since October 2013, mainly from the three countries. Obama says those involved have a “shared responsibility” to change the conditions that make the refugees leave. This applies to poverty, violence and difficult living conditions in the home countries, but also to some information that most refugees may not stay in the United States, even if they are minors.
The President’s residence becomes an art gallery
Sánchez Cerén announces that he intends to stay in his own home and let the presidential residence function as an art gallery so that “socially excluded” Salvadoran people will be able to share the country’s cultural heritage.
Agreement on oil from Venezuela
El Salvador joins Petrocaribe, the program through which Venezuela sells subsidized oil to states in Central America and the Caribbean.
Sánchez Cerén takes office
Salvador Sánchez Cerén takes over as president, with Óscar Ortiz as vice president.
Detention order issued for former President Flores
A court issues an arrest warrant for former President Flores (see January 2014) and orders his assets seized, including several real estate, cars and boats. It is unclear where Flores is; he may have fled the country.
Button victory for Sánchez Cerén in the presidential election
In the second round, FMLN candidate Salvador Sánchez Cerén gets 50.1 percent against 49.9 percent for Arenas Norman Quijano, a victory margin of just 6,634 votes. Arena claims that cheating has occurred and requires first recasting of all votes and then that the entire election is redone, but receives no hearing from the Election Authority (TSE). Arena also questions TSE’s impartiality and Quijano is causing some uproar with a call to the military to “create democracy”. According to international election observers, the election was the most democratic one to date in the country. Almost three weeks after the election, Arena admits defeat and says the party should invest in “democratic, serious and sincere” opposition to the future president.
No winner in the first round
In the first round of the presidential election, Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén gets close to 49 percent of the vote, and thus fails to avoid a second round of elections. He is then placed against Arena candidate Norman Quijano, who in the first round gets close to 39 percent. Ex-president Antonio Saca gets just over 11 percent.
Live election debate
For the first time, a live presidential debate will be held on television and radio before the election. Sánchez Cerén now leads by a fairly large margin in opinion polls. In the debate he focuses on his political proposals and does not appear to be confrontational, which undermines the arena’s attempt to portray the guerrilla veteran as radical and unpredictable. Quijano is more offensive and advocates, among other things, militarization of the fight against the criminal leagues, maras, among other things by putting gang members before the military court. He is forced to back away from that proposal the days after the debate, as it would have violated the Constitution.
Ex-president confirms money from Taiwan
In a hearing before a parliamentary committee, ex-president Francisco Flores (1999-2004) confirms that he received $ 10 million from Taiwan during his presidency, but denies that the money would have been for personal use. According to Flores, Taiwan should have contributed money on three occasions, after earthquakes and to combat drug trafficking and gang crime. The government claims that the money never reached its intended goals but instead ended up in bank accounts in the Bahamas. According to President Funes, Flores has tried to flee to Guatemala to avoid further hearings. Flores denies the charge.