Education is free and compulsory in El Salvador for six years at the primary level. Student pass through four levels of school: parvularia (preschool), basica (grades one through nine), media (grades 10 to 12) and superior (post-secondary education). The curricula of primary and secondary schools is similar to North American schools, and includes history, geography, physical education, mathematics, computer studies and literature. El Salvador also has a private school system; many of these schools are administered by the Roman Catholic Church or other religious groups.

Educational funding has been inadequate in El Salvador for many years, although it is now the largest expense in the national budget. Because of inadequate facilities, many Salvadoran children donít finish primary school. Nearly one-tenth never even begin. Schools tend to be in poor condition, especially in the countryside, and often lack basic supplies such as modern textbooks. Rural families may have no school nearby, especially in the upper grades, and although primary school is free, families must pay for supplies, compulsory uniforms and sometimes registration fees. For poor families, these costs can be too high. In addition, teenaged children are often urgently needed at home: girls help their mothers care for younger siblings, while boys may work in the fields or in the streets selling goods.

Students able to continue their studies have several options. The government administers a number of universities and technical institutes, as well as national schools of agriculture and physical education. The military also operates a military university and school of nursing. Located in San Salvador, the University of El Salvador is one of the countryís most prominent universities. Established in 1841, the university also has schools of law and medicine, and over the years became known as a centre for academic freedom. The Jesuit-run Central American University, established in 1966, is also a highly regarded facility.

Salvadoran teachers, like priests and doctors, are held in high respect in their communities; most parents would not question a teacherís authority. During the war, teachers and university students were active leaders in social movements, and some violent confrontations occurred on university campuses. In 1980 the University of El Salvador was shut down by the government for four years, on charges of subversive activities. The Central American University was also targeted for repressive action, and many faculty forced to leave. In rural areas, hundreds of schools were destroyed or stopped operating. The shutting down of the University led to the rise of many private universities, which charge higher tuition fees. Children of wealthy families frequently attend university abroad.

  Did you know?
During the civil war, some schools in El Salvador were run by volunteers. Many teachers were persecuted and killed just for being members of a teachersí union.

  Did you know?
El Salvador honours teachers on Teachersí Day (June 22), which is a national holiday.