Elementary school in El Salvador is 9 years old, free and
compulsory from children is 7 years.
The school system is poorly developed, and the country
ranks lowest among Latin American countries rated by basic
educational factors. Just over 80% of children start school,
but dropout rates are high, especially in rural areas, and
25% of pupils finish before 6th grade. See TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA for TOEFL, ACT, SAT testing locations and high school codes in El Salvador.
39% of all pupils start high school, and half of the
pupils attend private schools. 17% take higher education at
three state and a number of private universities or at other
higher education institutions. The University of El Salvador
is the largest university.
In the early 1970's, the Salvadoran labor movement
received a strong injection of salt water. New rebel
movements were formed and the legal opposition, PDC, UDN and
MNR, merged into Unión Nacional Opositora, UNO, whose
candidate for the February 1972 election was Napoleón
Duarte. His opponent was Arturo Molina of the PCN ruling
party; the latter succeeded in winning the election by
widespread electoral fraud.
Electoral fraud also helped General Carlos Humberto
Romereo to power after the election in 1977. The ensuing
demonstrations were defeated; in this connection, it is
estimated that 7,000 lost their lives.
The absence of political alternatives caused the rebel
movements to expand; efforts were made to coordinate actions
against the regime between the individual rebel movements,
as well as contacts with the country's democratic
On October 15, the government created a military-civilian
junta with representatives from the Social Democracy and the
Christian Democrats. Without real power, the junta was
unable to control the fierce repression against the
opposition, forcing the civilians in the junta to withdraw;
they were replaced by people from the Christian Democratic
Party's right wing, led by Napoleón Duarte.
On March 24, 1980, San Salvador's Archbishop, Oscar
Arnulfo Romero, was assassinated during a trade show;
obviously because of his stubborn defense of human rights.
The political-military organizations joined and a broad
alliance of political parties and social opposition groups
In October, Frente Farabundo was formed Marti para la
Liberación Nacional, the FMLN, which consisted of 5
political-military organizations fighting the Salvadoran
regime. On January 10, 1981, the FMLN embarked on a "major
offensive" and at the same time carried out actions across
virtually the entire country.
In August 1981, the governments of Mexico and France
signed a declaration in which they recognized Frente
Farabundo Marti para la Liberación Nacional-Frente
Democrático Revolucionaro, FMLN-FDR, as legal representative
of the Salvadoran people.
Ronald Reagan's government in the United States viewed
the situation in El Salvador as a North American security
problem and intervened directly in the conflict; In doing
so, the United States became the military and economic
guarantor of the "anti-guerrilla warfare" practiced by the
Following Washington's proposals, elections were held on
March 28, 1982, with the purpose of setting up a
Constitutional Assembly. The rebel movements responded again
by launching a major offensive, culminating in the week-long
siege of the city of Usulután.
After protracted internal power struggles, the new leader
of the Constitutional Assembly became Roberto D'Aubuisson,
supreme leader of the right-wing extremist party ARENA. He
is considered to be the principal behind the attack against
In a highly tense climate during intense fighting,
parliamentary elections were held on March 25, 1984,
however, boycotted by the FMLN-FDR; a call that was followed
by 51% of voters. With obvious support from the United
States, Napoleón Duarte's party PDC gained 43% of the vote
against 30% for Major Roberto D'Aubuisson's ARENA.
The right-wing extremists criticized the election
results, but the swift backing of Duarte from the Minister
of Defense and from the army leadership put a damper on the
criticism. It was the first time the army publicly supported
the reform-friendly forces. There were meetings between the
government and the guerrillas in La Palma and Ayagualo in
1984 and 1985.
Following a major earthquake in October 1986, the warring
parties agreed on a ceasefire. Negotiations were renewed in
October 1987, following a peace initiative, which in August
1987 was supported by all Central American governments, with
the signing of the Esquipulas Agreement.