Strong economic reforms enacted since the early 1990’s have led to a significant decrease in El Salvador’s poverty levels, and an improvement in its educational system. Income inequality is still quite high, however, and crime and violence are rampant. El Salvador’s important educational issues include:
- Poor educational quality: Its educational system does not meet the needs of a competitive economy, and the quality of its math and science education ranks only 108th out of 134 countries (World Economic Forum).
- Low preprimary enrollment numbers: El Salvador’s preprimary school enrollment rates are 49%, versus a regional average of 65% (UNESCO).
- High drop-out rates: At 64%, El Salvador’s gross secondary school enrollment rates are far below the regional average of 89%, indicating that many children do not continue on to secondary school (UNESCO).
Mano Amiga San Antonio (CIDECO)
Location: Santiago Nonualco, La Paz
Number of Students: 765
- After the devastation caused by El Salvador’s 2001 earthquakes, a group of business executives reached out to help victims throughout the country.
- Mano Amiga San Antonio, a top-quality education institute with the capacity for 1,200 pre-K through high school students, is located within CIDECO La Herradura, a community that includes 227 homes, a health clinic, sport centers and shops run by the beneficiary families.
- The school opened in 2003 with 56 children between the ages of five and eight, and now educates 765 preschool through eleventh grade students. In addition to classrooms, it has a library, science lab, computer lab, cafeteria and swimming pool.
- In 2008, the sixth grade students scored 22nd in the country on the sixth grade National System of Learning Evaluation exam (SINEA) that was administered at 406 public and private schools throughout El Salvador, and the ninth grade students scored 20th in the country on the ninth grade exam.
- The school is seeking funds to allow it to admit more students while maintaining a long-term sustainable operating budget.
Mano Amiga (Helping Hand) schools were first founded by a Catholic priest in Mexico City in 1963 in response to the grave financial, educational and social problems of impoverished neighborhoods throughout Latin America. Today, there are 31 schools in the Mano Amiga network, serving more than 19,000 students living in underprivileged communities in Latin America.