In 1952, only a third of the Bolivian population could read and write. That year was the beginning of a period of sweeping educational reforms. Public education became available to most Bolivians. Today education is free and compulsory for children from the ages of 6 to 14. Although the government is trying to improve education, some schools, especially those in remote areas, are underfunded. Often there is no money for textbooks or other supplies. Many children are unable to attend school because their families are very poor and they must work.

 In areas where schools are overcrowded, children go to school in shifts, either in the morning or in the afternoon. Because Bolivia is in the southern hemisphere, its school year is different from that in Canada. Classes run from March until the end of November, with a short break in June. 

Children are usually taught in Spanish. However, in rural areas, the mother tongue of many children is not Spanish. There are efforts under way to provide education for children in indigenous languages and to introduce Spanish gradually.

 Students attend primary school from the age of 6 or 7 to the age of 14. They may continue their education at a secondary school or at a technical secondary school, both of which have four-year programs. There are several universities and technical schools in Bolivia. The largest university is the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz. The Universidad de San Francisco Xavier in Sucre was founded in 1624 and is one of the oldest in the Americas.

  Did you know?
Children in public elementary schools wear white uniforms.While girls continue to wear this uniform in public secondary schools, boys are not required to do so.
Some adult Bolivians who did not have the opportunity to go to school when they were young may attend literacy programs. Some programs are broadcast on the radio to reach people who live in remote areas.
  Did you know?
Bolivians value education and give special titles to professionals. University graduates are called licenciado (for a man) or licenciada (for a woman). Engineers are called ingeniero or ingeniera, teachers are called profesor or profesora, and medical doctors and lawyers are called doctor or doctora.