The government of Uruguay has a tradition of great commitment to education going back to the 19th century, when politicians realized that an educated population was necessary for economic development and the overall well-being of the nation.

Education in Uruguay is free and compulsory for nine years. Primary school lasts for six years. The first three years of secondary school are known as "basic secondary." At the age of 15 or 16, students may continue in "diversified secondary" school and work towards the bachillerato (baccalaureat), leading to university. Another option is to enter the "technical secondary" stream and work towards a bachillerato tecnico (technical baccalaureat).

School customs are more formal than those in Canada. In many schools, when a teacher enters a classroom, all students are expected to stand up. Both students and teachers in elementary schools wear white smocks over their clothes. Testing is often done by oral questioning of each student in front of the rest of the class.

There are three universities in Uruguay: the Universidad de la Republica (State), the Universidad Catolica del Uruguay Damaso A. Larranaga, and a private university called the Universidad ORT Uruguay. There is also a postsecondary technical school called the Universidad del Trabajo and two other postsecondary institutes that specialize in Information Sciences and Health and Development.

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Students have to make their own way to school, since there is no school bus system. In the countryside, getting to school is more difficult, since schools in rural zones are widely dispersed. Some students have to find lodgings near their school or university.
University students in Uruguay tend to be more aware of political issues than students in Canada. They value their right to free speech and follow current events. During the military regime of the 1970s and 1980s, many students were arrested because of their involvement in politics or because of their parents' involvement in politics or union activities. These problems have diminished, but the sense among students that the future of their country depends on their affirming their human and civic rights is still very strong.