MONTEVIDEO — Uruguay has become one of the most advanced South American nations in terms of social laws and providing essential rights and services to the Uruguayans. Among these rights, education is an important pillar since child instruction has a 99 percent coverage of kids between three and five years old. Even though early education is extensive, the real aim for the Uruguayan administration is to keep students in school since abandon rates are high; as an effect, this will also reduce the inequality in the educational system.
Basic education in Uruguay is public and mandatory, which means that students have to attend school for nine years: six in primary school and three years in middle school. After that, the Uruguayan students have the option of taking different branches of study in order to elect a college career — a set-up similar to the European model. This last part of the basic instruction in the Uruguayan education system is still public, but not mandatory.
The system has been successful with a 98 percent adult literacy rate. Moreover, in the United Nations Development Program Education index the country ranks 50 out of 187 countries. Education in Uruguay is one of the best in South America, just behind Chile and Argentina, who hold the 41st and 49th rank, respectively.
Despite the successful outcome, education in Uruguay still faces a problem: how do they prevent students from dropping out in middle school and upper levels? According to the National Institute of Educational Evaluation (INEED), at the age of 13 years old, 29 percent of the students simply abandon their studies or attend classes with an educational lag. In addition, 27 percent of teenagers of 17 years old do not study, and 39 percent are behind in school.
Another important issue of the Uruguayan education system is that students can experience based inequality based on their socio-economic status. In numbers, 25 percent of the students between 15-17 years old from the lowest income percentile completed secondary education. In contrast, the 85 percent of students of the same age but from the top income in Uruguay are able to finish their studies.
There are no silver bullets to resolve inequality in the Uruguayan educational system, but there exists some recommendations that the administration may follow. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provided some recommendations to the country, such as a implementing a range of compensatory educational programs like community teachers to reduce the educational lag among the students, and distributing resources equally in the schools to reduce inequality.
The South American country has been in a constant state of reconstruction since the violent conflict between two political fractions inside Uruguay ended in 1985. Education in Uruguay has obtain remarkable results during the almost 30 years of peace; however, there are still challenges that the Uruguayan administration needs to resolve in order to improve the educational system even more.
– Dario Ledesma