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People, Education

Soyapango, Salesians, urban slums, largest university, literacy rate

Salvadoran law mandates free, compulsory elementary public schools through the 9th grade. Education through the 12th grade is available, and students completing 12 grades receive the bachillerato degree (high school diploma). However, enforcement is often lax, especially in rural areas and in urban slums, and the civil war of the 1980s damaged educational programs. El Salvador has about 3,200 primary and secondary schools with a total enrollment of 1.3 million students. But only slightly more than half of the school-age children actually attend school, and only a third finish the 9th grade. According to a 2001 estimate for people over age 15, the literacy rate was 89 percentó89 percent for men and 87.9 percent for women.

The national university is the University of El Salvador (1841), and the second-largest university is the Jesuit-run Central American University of Jose Simeon Canas (1965). Both suffered from the political turmoil of the 1980s, and the government closed the national university for much of that decade because it was a center of leftist activity. The Central American University also closed for brief periods. The University of Don Bosco is located in Soyapango, a suburb of San Salvador, and run by the Salesians, a Catholic religious society. Because of closures at the major universities, many small, private colleges and universities opened during the civil war, and more have opened since. Some 115,000 students are enrolled in institutions of higher education, with more than two-thirds attending private schools. Education in public schools is free.



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