Education in El Salvador. Statistics and Problems that Need Solving

The Average Grade Achieved by Salvadorans is 7.2

By Eddie Galdamez  |  Nov 1st, 2023
Education in El Salvador.
Salvadoran students. Image by @Aulas_InformLL

In 2023, El Salvador is experiencing levels of security never seen before, or at least not in the last 30-plus years. This improved security is good news for Salvadorans. However, it will not help solve the country’s financial and poverty problems unless the country’s education improves.

Education in El Salvador needs to improve! The average grade attained by Salvadorans nationally is 7.2; it is worse in rural areas, where the average drops to 5.6. In urban areas, the school grade achieved is 8.2, and in the San Salvador metropolitan region goes up to 9.1.

Problems with Education in El Salvador are nothing new. The educational issues Salvadorans have today result from previous administrations not dealing with the problems; this is evident when analyzing school attendance, absence, analphabetism, and level of schooling reached by Salvadorans.

School Attendance

The Salvadoran 2022 Multipurpose Household Survey showed that only 52.6% of Salvadorans aged 4 to 29 were attending school in 2022. As usual, the attendance rate is lower in rural regions, 47.8; and higher in urban areas, 56.0.

El Salvador school attendance 2022
El Salvador school attendance 2022.

When it gets breakdown by age, we can see that most Salvadorans that don’t attend school are over 18 years old, the university years. The 2022 attendance rate for those under 18 is in the 80s; however, it drops to 18.0 for those aged 18 to 29.

School attendance by age group
Age 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
4 to 12 87.2 86.5 84.4 83.7 87.1
13 to 17 81.1 81.2 83.8 82.0 83.8
18 to 29 20.6 20.4 20.1 18.2 18.0

Access to superior education is difficult! In El Salvador, around 80 to 88 out of 100 students are excluded from a higher education; this has been a historical problem that no Salvadoran Government has been able to solve.

El Salvador’s higher education continues to be out of reach for most Salvadorans, with two of the biggest obstacles being accessing the institutions and covering the cost.

El Salvador has 38 higher education institutions, 24 universities, one public and 23 private. The remaining 14 include eight technological institutes and six specialized institutes, all of which are private.

Most of these educational institutions are concentrated in the capital city, San Salvador. Therefore, most students can’t afford to move to the capital city or pay the tuition.

Also, the University of El Salvador, the only state-own public university, only has a presence in four of the fourteen departments and doesn’t have the capability of accepting all students that apply.

SEE ALSO: Poverty in El Salvador, an Issue that Leads to Crime and Migration

Educating and doing it well, with high-quality standards, is a fundamental “preventive” condition for many aspects of society; health, traffic, safety, the environment, etc. Educated people commit fewer crimes, reflect and analyze options, and have more and better employment opportunities.
Oscar Picardo, Gavidia University.

To improve education in El Salvador, the government needs to make sure students have access to the right schools, especially at the university level. Many Salvadorans don’t go to college because it is not easy to get to and it is too expensive.

Student Absence

Student absence begins to increase at 16 years old. The percentage of Salvadorans ages 15 to 18 that are absent from schools has averaged 35.3% over the last 5 years.

In 2022, those of age 19 to 29 were the ones that represented the highest percentage of school non-attendance, 84.8%.

On the contrary, the group from 7 to 15 years old is the one that registered the lowest percentage of non-attendance, 4.9%. The data affirms that the majority of Salvadorans make an effort to complete basic education.

Student absence by age group
Age 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
4 to 6 33.8 33.3 36.3 39.8 34.8
7 to 15 5.9 6.0 6.8 7.1 4.9
16 to 18 35.2 38.2 31.9 35.7 35.7
19 to 29 94.4 94.3 94.7 95.1 84.8

Analphabetism in El Salvador

The National Analphabetism rate in El Salvador is 9.7; it is 6.5 in urban areas and 15.2 in rural regions. The rural regions in El Salvador have the most extensive illiteracy rate. For example, 45.7% of individuals aged 60-plus living in rural areas can’t read or write; it is more than double the urban rate.

Analphabetism in El Salvador
Analphabetism in El Salvador.
Analphabetism in El Salvador
2020 2021 2022
National 9.6 10.0 9.7
Man 7.9 8.1 7.7
Women 11.1 11.7 11.4
Analphabetism in El Salvador by age
Age 2020 2021 2022
10 to 14 1.8 1.8 1.6
15 to 24 1.5 1.9 1.7
25 to 29 2.9 3.1 2.9
30 to 59 9.0 10.0 9.6
60 Plus 30.2 29.4 28.3

SEE ALSO: The Struggles of Living in Rural Areas of El Salvador

Level of Schooling Reached by Salvadorans

In 2022, the national average schooling was 7.2 grades, with substantial differences when analyzed by region. For instance, the urban area’s schooling average was 8.2 grades, while, for the rural regions was 5.6, below the national average.

Years of schooling achieved
2020 2021 2022
National 7.2 7.1 7.2
Rural 5.5 5.5 5.6
Urban 8.2 8.1 8.2
Male 7.4 7.2 7.3
Female 7.0 7.0 7.1
Ages 6 to 17 4.3 4.2 4.1
Ages 18 to 29 10.3 10.2 10.3
Ages 30 to 59 8.1 8.0 8.2
Ages 60 Plus 4.1 4.3 4.5

The percentage of Salvadorans who did not pass a single grade is 30.9% in the population of 60 years and over; this percentage falls to 10.2% in the population between 30 and 59 years of age and is even lower in the population between 18 and 29 years of age, 2%.

Years of schooling achieved
Ages ►►
▼Years Completed▼
All 6 to 17 18 to 29 30 to 599 60 Plus
None 13.5 19.5 2.0 10.2 30.9
1 to 3 years 15.5 27.1 3.5 13.0 23.9
4 to 6 years 18.4 26.9 10.8 17.5 20.8
7 to 9 years 18.6 22.1 20.5 19.2 9.3
10 to 12 years 22.9 4.4 44.0 25.7 9.2
13 years plus 11.2 0.0 19.2 14.4 5.9

SEE ALSO: Crime & Financial Problems Discourage University Enrollment in El Salvador

Education in El Salvador

The educational system in El Salvador has many challenges to overcome: equitable access, low academic performance, repetition, school dropout, and infrastructure quality, among others.

These challenges have caused the level of schooling reached by Salvadorans to remain low; undoubtedly, they need to be overcome for El Salvador to prosper.