Education: Strong Words, Strong Facts

“We wish to thank Mr. Gasteazoro for his valuable contribution to our blog. It is an opinion piece from an outside source, and as such, however, does not necessarily reflect the views of CAFRED. That being said, we welcome any and all independent submissions, and/or comments about any and all articles on this blog in the spirit of lively debate. Please submit articles to info@cafred.org for review. Comments are welcome directly below the article. Please be respectful.”

By Gabriel Gasteazoro – Law Student at Universidad Centroamericana Jose Simeon Cañas.

On this occasion, we will look at which approach is best: to privatize education as a policy,
reaching only a few, or to guarantee the right to an education free of cost. To carry out an
analysis, I will back up my opinions with studies from two countries. One of these
countries relies principally on public education, and the other on private education for the
majority of its citizens. In this way, we can do a comparative analysis to decide which
approach will best serve El Salvador.

Spain, with 73.06% of its schools privatized and Finland with only 1% of its schools privatized
will serve as our comparison. Each country possesses its own approach to guarantee education
for the common good, but one approach is more effective than the other.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regularly coördinates
the Program for International Student Assessments (PISA) which tracks students in three
distinct areas: Mathematics, Science and Reading. This test of 15-year-olds from diverse
countries brings to light an balanced view of the best education systems. Using these data,
other systems such as ours may use similar approaches.

Spain’s majority prefers, and has all the right, to pay for private education; whereas, in Finland,
the majority of citizens opt to enroll their children in the public system, being that their public

system is one of the best in the World and is totally free. The question would be to decide
which country gets better results among its students. I draw your attention to the following
graph, which demonstrates for each country the PISA evaluation results mentioned earlier:

UntitledUsing these data, we may see that Finland has achieved impressive rankings in all three subject categories, and has maintained these rankings over time, placing it among the best in the World. It behooves me to reiterate that, according to the OECD’s PISA reports, Finland has consistently achieved the best rankings, and in 2009, placed first among its counterparts.

On the one hand, with these data points, we may see that Finland has achieved the best academic results, recognizing that a free and qualitative education for each student as an inviolable right. Spain, however, with its preference for private school education, has obtained good results, but not up to par with the Finns.

Many will ask themselves, ‘what does this have to do with El Salvador?’. Well, it indeed sheds much more light to on the subject of education in El Salvador than it seems to at first blush. Many may not be aware that El Salvador has not yet defined which system it wishes to carry out. In addition, with an humiliating score hardly approaching a 6 in the PAES exam, and with an abundance of teachers underqualified and unqualified to teach, education has not yet obtained the status of a ‘right’, as defined in Article 53 of the Salvadoran Constitution, but is rather a ‘privilege’.

 these are strong words and strong facts, but are true nonetheless, that most poor people can barely achieve a fourth grade education in El Salvador due to the fact that they have to work to make at least a dollar per day to survive.  A totally private system of education would exclude entirely this segment of the population, which is indeed the majority of the population. This is not a question of economic and/or political idealogy, but rather a human-centered thought favoring progress in which the Individual is the center of the activity of the State.

The political stance that we must take now is to immediately work to carry out a free education system with expert teachers that will guarantee paid employment for those who need it – as well as rest and relaxation. It might sound utopian, but certainly great ideas are borne of utopian visions.

Education is the only proven way to escape the bonds of underdevelopment. An educated populace is a populace with technical capabilty and autonomy. An educated populace is what we need. For now, an accessible and free education is far more important than a privatized system. Capable teachers, schools in tip-top condition in every little corner of El Salvador is what we need to start asking for. Now is not the time to impose an education
system, but rather, now is the time to help guarantee the well-being of our citizens.

For more info about education systems or studies already conducted, you can enter http://www.oecd.org/

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