School and Education in El Salvador

Elementary school in El Salvador is 9 years old, free and compulsory from children is 7 years.

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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.

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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.

El Salvador Country Flag

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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 opposition.

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 was formed.

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 Salvadoran army.

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 Archbishop Romero.

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.