All children in Ecuador must go to school from age six to fourteen. Because of a shortage of teachers and facilities, children attend school either from 7 a.m. to noon or from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Most children eat their lunch at home.

Most schools are located in cities and towns, so many rural children cannot attend. Poor peasant families also find the cost of registration, uniforms and textbooks very high. In rural areas, children often drop out in the early years of their schooling. Only a few go to secondary school.

The children of indigenous families also face barriers to education since there are not enough teachers who speak both Spanish and Ecuador's indigenous languages. This makes it difficult for children who do not understand Spanish to go to school. The government has tried to recruit teachers who speak indigenous languages so that these children can get a better chance at education.
Did you know?

Even though Quichua is the first language for many indigenous communities in Ecuador, it is not taught as a separate language in most schools.

Education in private schools is usually better than that offered in the public schools. Private schools have fewer students, more books and better facilities. However, few families can afford the fees at private schools.

About 10% of all Ecuadorians 15 years of age or older cannot read or write. In the 1960s the government started programs to teach adults how to read and write. It was found, however, that these programs did not work very well. Moreover, government budget cuts and poverty have made it difficult to combat illiteracy.

Outstanding secondary school students are encouraged to continue their education by state and private bursaries. The Central University of Ecuador in Quito was formed by the amalgamation of three small universities founded by the Augustinians, the Jesuits and the Dominicans in the 16th and 17th centuries. It currently has 45,000 students. There are also three Catholic universities, located in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. Overall, there has been an increase in the number of students that enroll in university.