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Bolivia

Secondary Education


The real lack of public educational infrastructure and the policy of Paz Estenssoro encouraged private educational investment in Bolivia. Since 1989, about 380 new private schools were created and attendance rose. Students who complete secondary school successfully earn the title of bachiller when they pass the exit bachillerato exam. This exam, along with a health certificate, is a requirement to enter the university, which also administers its own entrance examination.

To really understand the progress that education is making, it helps to look back to mid-November 1989 when education was in real distress. Less than 50 percent of the population spoke Spanish as their first language, though it was the only language used in education. Approximately 90 percent of the children attended primary school but often for a year or less, and the literacy rate was low in many rural areas. Eighty thousand state teachers, supported by the COB (Central Obrera Boliviana or Bolivian Workers Center), went on strike demanding a $100 special bonus to supplement their low $45 monthly wage. Paz Zamora, following the customary strategy, imposed a state of siege, banning strikes, public meetings, and demonstrations for 90 days. He imprisoned 850 union members, banished 150 of them to internal exile and, in order to bring the strike to an end, offered teachers a 17 percent pay increase on top of a negotiated annual spring bonus. At the same time, Zamora planned to sell off 100 of the 157 state-owned companies and use the $500 million revenue for health, education, and public works.

Furthermore, student enrollment in secondary schools in the 1970s and 1980s grew twice as fast as the increases in population for the age group, making all numbers more dismal. Only 33 percent of first graders completed the fifth grade, 20 percent started secondary education, 5 percent started postsecondary education, and only 1 percent graduated from universities. At all levels, dropout rates were much higher for rural students and higher still for girls. In the 1980s secondary education was still beyond the reach of most Bolivians; as a result only 35 percent of the total population in the appropriate age group attended, and numbers showed a large disparity between male and female enrollment rates. By 1996, 40 percent of males and 34 percent of females, regardless of age, enrolled in secondary schools. According to the 1989-1992 study done by the Secretary of Education, less than a third of the students of the appropriate age group were enrolled in secondary education.

The numbers at this level showed a terrible discrepancy between cities and rural areas. In cities, close to 65 percent of the age group were enrolled in secondary education, as opposed to only 11 percent in rural areas. According to the 1999 "State of the World's Children" study, 60 percent reached grade five. The ETARE study of 1992 also showed that in urban areas, 33.2 percent of the male students who started in the first year in 1980 reached the twelfth year in 1992, versus only 2.2 percent in rural areas. (Comparable figures for females were 29.4 percent for urban females and 1.1 percent for rural females.) In spite of all the evidence showing that a minimum of five to eight years of education is needed to bring noticeable results in agricultural production, 71 percent of rural students didn't reach the lower mark of five years of schooling. This study also showed that private schools enrolled 27.5 percent in urban areas, versus only 0.049 percent in rural areas.

It must be pointed out that the data was skewed since a variety of schools, which are technically private, were at this point integrated into the public sector and were counted as such. These schools included those operated by institutions, religious groups, or by ONGs. Many of these schools are suburban, serving the poor population; these schools are a strange mix. They receive public funding and, while their fees are the same as public establishments, they remain private as far as their operation and structure are concerned. They are, however, allowed to add lab and computer fees when appropriate. They also operate under different rules—they can dismiss teachers; supplement the state salary, plus give additional benefits; and are far more autonomous in respect to their curriculum. Thus, they can attract and keep better teachers and are in higher demand than ordinary public establishments.

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceBolivia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education