Although access to education is free for students up to age 14, surveys show that only 82% of students attend classes, with 6% never attending school at all. The adult literacy rate is 79% for men and 73% for women, which means there is a lot to work on and improve in the country’s education system.
The country is still reeling from large-scale outmigration in the volatile 80s of the last century when approximately 350,000 people left for the United States alone. Since 2020, El Salvador’s education spending has increased by 5%, reaching 18.13% of GDP by the end of 2022. This is a really positive development, but there is still a lot to be done to accelerate reform. Let’s take a closer look at what the country needs to do to improve the quality of education.
Most of the country’s school infrastructure fails to pass muster. School buildings are either dilapidated or unfit for effective learning and tutoring. This means that many classrooms are overcrowded with students, making it impossible for teachers to achieve intended educational outcomes.
Lack of physical access is another huge obstacle. Children are unable to attend classes because schools are too far from their homes. The local authorities need to do more to arrange transport between remote areas and the nearest schools.
Addressing the issues of low enrollment and dropouts
Low enrollment continues to be a challenge. It is due to a lack of physical access. Low security and persistent family obligations or stereotypes. Over the years, enrollment rates have continued to drop at an average annual rate of 2.5%.
Those who continue their studies find it difficult to manage busy schedules and recurrent assignments. When the workload becomes too onerous, students start to wonder, ‘Who can write my essay for me cheap?’ That is when reliable and trustworthy online essay writing services come in handy to help college students deal with their assignments at reasonable rates.
Dropout rates are another major issue that must be resolved. The number of students who quit their studies increased by nearly 5% over the last decade. Importantly, enrollment rates are lower for girls. This suggests that there are some underlying gender disparities that thwart women and girls’ access to education, especially in rural areas.
When it comes to access to quality education, lack of security is one of the major obstacles. The country is suffering from high crime rates. Violence is rampant in many parts of the country, making it simply dangerous to walk to school for young students. Girls are at a greater risk of falling victim to the violence of local gangs.
The government has made some progress in containing violence, but its crackdown efforts are often missing the mark. Local gangs prove to be surprisingly resilient, and they quickly adapt to new security measures and actions.
Unfortunately, schools are among the most vulnerable institutions that can be easily impacted by violent actors. Not only that, local gangs often use schools to recruit children. When that happens, young students rarely manage to return to their studies.
Modern technologies and digital tools
Most educational institutions in El Salvador lack proper technologies and IT equipment. The learning process remains largely paper-based, which dilutes the efforts of local teachers. It is hard to stay abreast of modern and fast-developing technological changes with just a pen and paper accessible to local students.
It is true that technology changed the education in the 21st century. It changed the way we study and use our knowledge. The national government and donor agencies need to do more to revamp local schools and colleges to equip them with modern technologies and equipment. All schools must have uninterrupted and reliable internet connectivity to ensure access to advanced learning tools and resources.
School supplies and nutrition
Most schools lack basic supplies, nutrition, and clothing. Some government programs provide free meals to students, but not all are able to benefit, particularly in remote and rural areas. There is a need to identify the list of the most vulnerable and isolated schools and populations to develop special programs that will target their needs.
Donor agencies support several programs, but their resources are not infinite. The national government must seek innovative ways to develop public-private partnerships with successful companies to leverage their resources and goodwill.
Despite some progress El Salvador has made to advance its education sector reform, multiple challenges remain. It will take many years to make a breakthrough. Significant resources must be allocated to rehabilitate or develop modern infrastructure, introduce modern tools and resources, and create a safe and secure environment for learning.
This is a challenging task that requires concerted efforts and the involvement of multiple actors, including the national government, donor agencies, school administrations, the private sector, and El Salvadoran society at large.
Diane Sherron is a professional writer, researcher, and education sector expert. She has carried out multiple research projects in both developed and developing countries across the world. Diane has worked with both national governments and international donor agencies, advising them on the best education sector reforms and policies.