Secondary education lasts for five years, divided into three years of ciclo básico (basic cycle), with students typically aged 12 to 15 years, and two years of ciclo diversificado (diversified cycle) for students aged 15 to 17 years. Upon the completion of the liberal arts-oriented course of study in the diversified track, the student is recognized with the Bachillerato in Arts or Science, which is one of the prerequisites for access to higher education. The other option in the second portion of secondary education is a three-year course of study in one of the technical secondary schools. These students, aged 15 to 18, are awarded the title of Técnico medio after completion of their coursework. The stated objective of the secondary education system is to prepare students for successful entry into university study, although many students opt to enter the labor pool immediately upon completion. For those unable to attend traditional day schools, the MECD provides both evening and Saturday classes in various venues around the country.
Given the emphasis placed on primary education, the nation's secondary system has not developed to a comparable degree. A secondary school reform program, beginning in 1999 and funded by theInter-American Development Bank, sought to address perceived weaknesses in this system, specifically targeting the goals of quality and equity. This program was aimed at four areas of emphasis: changes to the education structure and curriculum within the secondary schools, increased and varies uses of educational technology, development of a pilot preschool education program to be administered within the secondary schools, and an incentive program aimed at encouraging the demand for and supply of educational services.
Curriculum—Examinations, Diplomas: The secondary curriculum in place during the 1990s was a traditional one including study of mathematics, language arts, science, and religion. This curriculum is actually little changed from that used during the Sandinista regime, although overt political indoctrination has been removed from the schools. Beginning in 1999, the Ministry began a review of the existing secondary curriculum aimed at a complete revision. This revision will be effected with the assistance of people at all levels of the education system as well as non-education government representatives and representatives from private industry. The research guiding this revision includes the assessment of current and projected future needs regarding secondary enrollment and infrastructure, the social demands affecting the education system, a critique of existing administrative practices within the MECD, and inquiry into improved articulation between the various levels of education and between the education system and the workforce. At the completion of this research, the MECD proposes to review the current curriculum in light of the findings from the research and then to create a revised curriculum. Despite the pronouncements on the need for reform, it is not clear how committed the government is to significantly restructuring the nation's secondary schools.
Grading is performed on a 0 to 100 percent scale with 60 percent as the cutoff for passing. Although all instruction in government-funded schools is carried out in Spanish, four English-speaking schools operate in Managua: the American-Nicaraguan School, which is widely considered to provide the best education in English; the Lincoln Academy; the Notre Dame School; and the Nicaraguan Christian Academy. French, German, and other national schools also operate in the country, although their instruction is in Spanish.
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