10 El Salvador Education Facts

El Salvador’s education sector has made tangible progress in the last two decades. Research indicates that while education has slowly become more accessible to El Salvadoran citizens since the end of the civil war in 1992, multiple challenges remain. Below are the 10 most important facts you should know about El Salvador’s education system.

  1. Poverty and education

  2. The biggest challenge is the nation’s poverty rate, which prevents children from low-income families from attending school. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate dropped from 39% in 2007 to 22.3% in 2019. However, the numbers are still high, and poverty remains the largest obstacle to students’ access to education across the country.

  3. Troubling eighties

  4. The eighties of the 20th century were the most challenging and destructive years for the country’s education system. This was when the entire country was engrossed in a civil conflict. Violence was rampant, and kidnapping became the order of the day. Lots of schools were destroyed, and most students were simply afraid to go out into the streets, let alone go to school.

  5. Enrollment in preschool education

  6. Enrollment in preschool has been on the rise, reaching almost 18%. However, it remains low when considered in absolute terms. Only 1 in 4 preschool-aged kids are in school. Overall, the numbers of boys and girls enrolled in preschool institutions are nearly the same. 

  7. Enrollment in primary education

  8. Analysts point to declining enrollment levels in primary education. It was as high as 94% back in 2009. By 1015, it dropped to 85%. Of note is a high rate of repetition, particularly in the first grade, constituting more than 7%.

  9. Secondary education

  10. According to available data, students’ academic performance in secondary education is below par. Judging by the Learning and Aptitude Test, basic graduates know no more than 50% of the curriculum.  A large number of second graders perform at the lowest levels of literacy.

  11. Higher education

  12. In total, there are 23 universities in the country. Most are secular institutions, although some are affiliated with religious entities. It takes undergraduate students four or five years to complete their bachelor’s degree programs. 

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  13. Oldest university

  14. Of all the universities, El Salvador University is the oldest higher education institution. It was established in 1841 by a priest and an army general. Like all other institutions of the country, the country went through a series of hardships and crises in the decades to follow. Currently, it is entirely owned by the national government. 

  15. Girls in schools

  16. Alarmingly, many female students experience various forms of violence and harassment in the country’s schools. Often, they are forced to drop out due to continued violence and the inability of school administrations to protect them. At worst, they are victims of sexual violence and misconduct. Cases are either never reported or poorly investigated.

  17. Vocational Education

  18. In El Salvador, vocational training is offered by private schools. The system of vocational education is managed by the Salvadorian Vocational Institute. Investments in human capital focus on providing integrated training with broad-based education opportunities. Many students also opt for self learning to improve their skills. With burgeoning online education resources, there is a lot to choose from.

  19. Security & Governance

  20. Security remains a concern in many parts of the country. In areas where gangs are at large, access to education is limited. Naturally, parents are afraid of letting their children go to school in regions where a student dies every 4 days and a teacher dies every 17 days. Bullying is one of the most widespread forms of violence in schools. But the vicious cycle of violence affects all, including students and teachers. 

The educational system suffers from weak institutional capacity. Problems persist in planning and coordinating education sector reform and policy development. Links between the state, non-state, and donor agencies are also poorly developed.

Concluding Remarks

El Salvador’s education has gone through some troubling times during the civil war of the eighties. It has made a lot of headway since then, but there is a long way to go to provide safe, quality, and equitable education for all.


Diane Sherron has a solid background in education as a tutor and researcher. She is also an experienced and accomplished writer, and she enjoys sharing overviews of education systems and reforms in various countries. Diane draws on her research skills to assess the pros and cons of the education systems across the world.