Education: More of a Utopia Than a Right?

(CAFRED thanks Sr. Gabriel Gasteazoro for submitting the following article. Articles submitted by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of CAFRED and cited data may or may not have been verified by CAFRED. CAFRED welcomes comments addressing points raised in the article. We encourage submission of third-party opinion pieces in the spirit of debate about education in El Salvador and Central America.)

by Gabriel Gasteazoro, law student at Universidad Centroamaricana Jose Simeón Cañas.

El Salvador is in urgent need of intervention when it comes to education to ensure that the population overcomes a somewhat precarious lifestyle, where nutrition, shelter and security needs can’t be satisfied by the greater part of the population.

Many people pose the question: “What benefits will an investment in education bring?”  The answer to this question is pretty straight forward.  An investment in education would make sure young people and adults (as many adults wish to complete their studies, regardless of age) are better prepared, allowing them better employment and higher salaries.  2010 statistics from MINEC (the Salvadoran Ministry of Economy) and DIGESTYC (Salvadoran Office Census Data and Statistics) show that people with four or fewer years of education earned an average salary of $184 monthly, compared to people with twelve or more years of education who earned an average salary of  $631 monthly. Better access to education guarantees a greater possibility of obtaining a more economically sound lifestyle.

Wen Jiabao,  China’s Premier, made ten recommendations at the beginning of 2012, advising countries with similar characteristics to Guatemala how to overcome certain weak points to emerge with a better quality of life for their inhabitants and a better national economies.  Among these recommendations was to quintuple the current investment in education in order to specialize more of the population in technical areas, which would in effect better the country’s economy.

El Salvador is a small country with a high illiteracy rate.  Out of the total population of 5,188,220, about 981,134 (almost 1/5) are illiterate. Illiteracy diminishes the chance of obtaining a decent income. Out of the almost 1/5 of the population that suffer from illiteracy, 543,822 (more than half) are from rural areas  (Population census, El Salvador, 2007). Rural areas are the most vulnerable and most affected by a low investment in education.

Another fact indicating the lack of educational accessibility in El Salvador is the number of inhabitants who have never benefitted from ANY formal schooling in El Salvador. 920,922 inhabitants have never attended any formal school, out of which 494,818 live in rural areas. Sadly, this segment of the population lacks any chance of a decent salary, due to its lack of an adequate “education”.

The rural sector requires an urgent increase in education related investment.  For many rural students, the closest public schools are hours by foot, thus disincentivizing these students. The teachers within these schools often only have a very basic education themselves. The schools are often in environments prone to violence, where they share the community with gang members and common delinquents.  School materials are out of date, and more often than not, add no real value to the educational experience.  Areas of study such as English or computers are unheard of;  the facilities are often damaged and cause injury to the students when attending classes.

An Investment in education could result in reversing the misconception that an excellent and secure education is nothing but a utopia, but would make it a reality. This would help guarantee that everyone could meet their full potential by having the right to an education.

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