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Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The law-making process in Ecuador begins when a bill is initiated by legislators or Plenary of Legislative Commissions (PCL), the president of the republic, judicial organs, or popular initiatives. A test is provided to each piece of legislation 15 days prior to debate in Congress. The proposed bill is discussed in two debates on different days. After the first debate, it may be returned to the originating commissions, which must report on new observations to modify, alter, or change it.

On 10 August 1998, Ecuador's new constitution came into effect. These constitutional changes enacted by a specially elected National Constitutional Assembly in 1998 strengthened the executive branch by eliminating midterm congressional elections and by circumscribing Congress' power to challenge cabinet ministers. To demonstrate his commitment to learning, President Mahuad chose Gustavo Noboa, Rector of the Catholic University in Guayaquil, as his Vice President. He also chose Ministers of Education who were committed to open and frank dialogue and to fixing a system that provides good education coverage, but poor and declining educational quality. He submitted a comprehensive educational reform bill to Congress and gave them 30 days to approve it into law. Although literacy is high, Ecuador is still concerned about upgrading the quality of technical training and teaching teachers and professor modern practices of teaching. Dr. Vladimiro Alvarez Grau, former minister of Education, suggested that there is too much focus on memorization and repetition and insufficient work on critical thought and analysis.

The president serves for four years and can be reelected after sitting out a term. The legislative branch is a unicameral National Congress with 121 seats. Seventy-nine members are popularly elected nationally to serve four-year terms. Forty-two members are popularly elected by province for four-year terms. Two are elected from each province. The constitution provides for concurrent four-year terms of office for the president, vice-president, and members of Congress. Presidents may be re-elected after an intervening term, while legislators may be reelected immediately. The executive branch includes 17 ministries and several cabinet-level secretariats headed by presidential appointees. The president also appoints Ecuador's provincial governors who represent the central government at the local level. Provincial prefects and councilors, like municipal mayors and aldermen, are directly elected.

Each two years legislators elect from among themselves a president and vice president of the Congress. Congress meets for two months of the year. For the remainder of the year, unless an extraordinary plenary session is called, all legislative business is transacted by the 35 members of Congress who serve on 5 permanent committees. Ecuador has a three-tiered court system. The Congress appoints justices of the Supreme Court for six year terms. The Supreme Court names the members of the superior or provincial courts, who, in turn, choose ordinary civil and penal judges.

Throughout the years, Ecuador has faced some serious reforms in education. In 1930, the National Congress of Elementary and Normal School Education generated recommendations for a curriculum that still makes the educational programs today. The Congress produced the first detailed outline of curricular content and achievement expectations at each level. By 1938, the Organic Education Law put all schools under state control, focused on education at all levels, and made way for the current administrative organization of Ecuador's educational system. The education system in Ecuador still has developing to do, particularly in the areas of teacher education, textbook writing, and the addressing of ethnic, gender, and social bias. Some say that there has already been an educational revolution in Ecuador since in the 1990s when a process of updating and rewriting textbooks, workbooks, teacher guides, and other tools to begin to eliminate ethnic, gender, and social bias began. Only time will tell if this educational reform is successful. The Ministry of Education has an educational reform in mind that would introduce new courses and train thousands of adults in crafts, agriculture, small-business management, industry, trades, and services, as well as information management systems.

Literacy is defined as those age 15 and over who can read and write. A total of 90.1 percent of the population qualified (92.0 percent male and 88.2 percent female) in 1995. With 10 internet providers in 2001 and 30,000 internet users, 15 television stations, 392 AM stations, 27 FM stations, and 29 short wave radios (1998), getting news is easier than using the telephone system, which is inadequate and unreliable. One Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) satellite earth station does make international telephone service possible though. There are approximately 748,000 telephones (1998) and 497,765 mobile cellular phones (1995).

According to the last census (1995), the following tabulation was made concerning the level of functional literacy, years of school, and consumption. Those who live in the countryside have 4.4 average years of schooling and an illiteracy rate of 17.9 while those who live in the city have an average 8.8 number of years of schooling and an illiteracy rate of 6.0. In the city 42.4 percent of the people are at or below the poverty rate, as compared to 75.9 percent in the countryside.

According to the 1979 constitution, the central government must allocate at least 30 percent of its revenue to education, although a much smaller percentage was actually allocated. The teacher's union claims that there has been a permanent reduction of the budget for education and although teachers, parents, and students successfully fought to have the new Constitution require 30 percent of the State budget be earmarked for education, currently only 2.3 percent of the budget is actually dedicated to education. The union also claims that there has been delayed payment of teachers' salaries and an elimination of benefits held in the past. Calling for an optimization of educational services, efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity, the government had one form of educational reform platform and the teacher's union had another. The 1982 law, still in effect in the university sector, was developed and passed to change the educational system and to restore democracy. The administration also developed a National Plan at this time, which privileged education in state expenditures.

Education in Ecuador has not always responded to the challenges posed by new development models because of international, economic, political, and social instability. While education is repetitively made a new priority by the newest leaders replacing failed administrations, the expertise required to adapt or create technological innovations with the ability to reason and to learn independently has not occurred in sufficiently large numbers either in the urban or rural communities of Ecuadorian citizens. Initiatives to overcome extreme poverty, child labor, urban and rural violence, and eliminate extreme social inequalities while establishing a community of informed and responsible citizens have not been completely successful. Inequitable education does not foster political tolerance or reduce violence.

Additional topics

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