RAYMOND, Maine — In recognition of its one-year anniversary with the Corporacion Andina de Fomento Bank (CAF), a Latin American development bank, El Salvador is receiving a $150 million loan to strengthen its education system, close the digital gap and advance its schools into the 21st century with new technology. Once the loan is finalized, the government will improve teacher training with technology, use the new technology in schools to improve El Salvador’s education system and hopefully break the poverty cycle.
El Salvador’s Education Challenges
El Salvador’s education system has many challenges stemming from devastating poverty and the lack of technological access within schools. In 2020 in El Salvador, 26% of the population lived in poverty and 25% of children under 5 lived in extreme poverty in 2022. Children in El Salvador are often born into poverty, cannot obtain the critical education to break out of poverty, and then the cycle continues into the next generation.
Education in El Salvador is compulsory from ages 7 to 15 for primary schooling. Numerous factors contribute to a child’s inability to continue their education beyond compulsory school. Many El Salvadorans do not attend school past the compulsory years because they cannot afford it and begin working. As of 2013, at least 8% of all El Salvadoran children aged 5 to 17 were involved with child labor practices and were not receiving an education. Many students cannot reach a secondary school within a reasonable distance and simply do not enroll when work is much closer and easier to obtain.
Improving Students’ Lives
Incorporating new and improved technology into one’s education can dramatically improve the lives of students while they are in school and after graduation. Critically, students in schools with new technology can learn skills that are highly in demand and necessary for work in a student’s post-graduation life. With the technology El Salvador intends to introduce into the school systems, students can engage with the materials in an individualized manner, helping them learn the materials with whatever method works for the student. They can also develop strong communication skills through online group projects in Google Classrooms. All of the reasons to improve technology access in schools, however, are meaningless unless technology and internet access expand into El Salvador’s rural areas.
Thankfully, the government has continued to make efforts since the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to educate remotely and is working to improve rural internet access and road access. The infrastructure changes in El Salvador could allow students in rural areas to continue their education beyond compulsory years and help break the cycle of poverty in which El Salvador’s population remains stuck.
El Salvador and the CAF Bank
The Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) Development Bank of Latin America focuses on partnerships with nations in desperate need of sustainable development, but that cannot achieve their goals on their own. The bank opened in the 1970s and has 19 Latin American countries as bank members, with an additional 13 private banks in partnership with the CAF. The CAF has funded programs benefitting more than 77,000 students worldwide, installed almost 60 miles of clean pipe to replace old pipes making people ill, and has brought economic boosts to countries in need.
El Salvador signed an agreement to become a full bank member in December 2021, thus allowing it to partake in the economic progress offered by the bank’s assistance. As a member nation of the CAF, El Salvador now has access to technical assistance and resources, projects with new financing sources outside of El Salvador’s limited economic reach, and new markets. The new agreement places El Salvador in a new economic, competitive circle, making it a valuable trade ally.
The partnership is still new, but with the new resources at its disposal, El Salvador’s government is tackling projects that were in planning stages for years. One such major project is improving the quality of El Salvador’s education system to have the long-term effect of decreasing the nation’s rates of poverty and child labor.
El Salvador’s New Loan
A primary goal for El Salvador is to be the first country with 100% of its students digitally connected and operating with educational programs, such as Google Classroom. Estimates show that with full technological connectivity in schools and the surrounding areas, more than 100,000 children would receive a proper education in primary schooling. An additional 200,000 students could have a proper secondary education experience if schools have the correct technology.
The CAF bank’s board approved El Salvador’s education loan for $150 million. The board dictated that it agreed to the loan on the condition that the funds go toward equipping the schools with the desired technology, training the teachers and closing the digital gap barring students from education.
With such gaps closed, the cyclical impact of lacking education and working without economic advancement diminishes, and families can find ways out of poverty. El Salvador’s education loan through the CAF offers its citizens new opportunities to complete their education, improve their quality of life, and break the nation’s cycle of weak education and poverty.
– Clara Mulvihill