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El Salvador

Secondary Education


Secondary education, for children from the age of sixteen, lasts for three years. Of children in the relevant age group, only 21 percent were enrolled in secondary schools in 1996. The curriculum at the secondary level was developed by the government to be uniform throughout the country. The provision of the secondary level suffers from the same rural-urban dichotomy as the public school system. Only a small percentage of students reach grade twelve and receive their bachillerato (equivalent to a high school diploma). Secondary-level enrollment among the rural population is about 8 percent of the country's total enrollment in secondary education; in grades ten through twelve it drops to about 1 percent. Although both men and women teach at this level, the majority are men. The school year runs from February through November. In general, the curriculum prepares students for either employment or further study. At the secondary level there are different programs: academic or general, technical, pedagogical, and commercial.


Academic Secondary Study: The academic secondary study has two programs, physics/mathematics and chemistry/biology. All students are expected to take the same courses in the first year and carry about 30 instructional hours. In the second year, students start taking different courses according to their program. For example, the science/mathematics program students would take the same classes as other students, and later add specialty classes such as vocational physics/mathematics, and, for science students, the instructional classes include vocational chemistry and advanced biology. In the third year, the number of courses is reduced, but the vocational classes are increased. For example, seventeen hours per week are dedicated to the specialty. Also, all students in the third year take the following common courses: letters, demography, English, and physics/mathematics. After completion of the three-year cycle of secondary education, students sit an examination administered by the government; those who pass are awarded a high school certificate. These programs are offered specially in private schools or Catholic colleges for upper class students. Most of the students continue to the university level.


Commercial Secondary Study: This program consists of three years of instruction. The curriculum at this level is vocational and is aimed at preparing students for employment or further vocational training programs. The program focuses on three areas of study: economics, business administration, and accounting. The certificate is earned after three years upon passing the final examination. The students either enter the labor market or a postsecondary institution. The curriculum of the commercial secondary studies is computer science, economics, accounting, typing and shorthand, among others. The total instruction hours per week are 30.


Technical Secondary Study: Technical secondary study is only offered to low income students at the National Institutes. There are three programs: general mechanics, general electrics, and auto mechanic. All these programs are based on three years of attendance, from Monday to Friday, 40 hours per week. In the first year, all students are expected to take the same courses. There are no electives until the second year, when each program introduces special courses according to each specialty. After completing the three years cycle of secondary education, the students take the government-administered examination.

Pedagogic Secondary Study: This program is offered for students who want to be preschool or elementary teachers. If they want to specialize in secondary education they need to attend the university level. The curriculum in this program is focused on pedagogy, children's literature, psychology, sociology, philosophy, methodology, and teaching techniques. After the second year, students spend a great of deal of time working on the practical, supervised by teachers. At the end of the third year, students take two examinations, on science and pedagogical material, administered by the government. Those who pass are awarded the diploma of education. Those who fail may take the examinations again.


Transitional Education: The aim of the Technological Institute is to make the transition from study to work simple and to make education relevant to the social and economic needs of the country. It also targets students who cannot afford tuition at the university level. Study at this institute, located in Santa Tecla, lasts for two years, 40 hours per week. The program offers technical industry, civil engineering, architecture, mechanics, and decoration courses.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceEl Salvador - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education - TEACHING PROFESSION