Education in Nicaragua, Schools, Universities

Nicaragua is currently recognized as being one of the poorest countries of Latin America and its education system has suffered as a result. Much of the current problems really started before the Sandinistas came to power in 1979. It was under the Somozas that Nicaraguan education was thrown aside to make way for other political issues. The limited spending on education in Nicaragua resulted in many adolescents being forced into the manual labor market. It also limited educational opportunities for the majority of the population. The result was that only 65 percent of primary school children were enrolled in school. Of those who made it to first grade, only 22 percent finished the remaining six years of primary school.

Three quarters of the rural population was illiterate and rural schools only offered one or two years of schooling. Secondary educational institutions were private and too expensive for the vast majority of Nicaraguans. Some 8 percent of the population enrolled at university and some upper-class families sent their children abroad where education standards were considered to be higher. There was a lot of work to be done in order to improve current deplorable education standards.

Five years later the Sandinista government had already managed to double the ratio of GNP which was spent on pre-university education. This was used to increase the number of primary and secondary school teachers and to increase the number of schools with the result that a greater number of students were enrolled at all levels of the Nicaragua educational system. A large reduction of the illiteracy rate took place after the 1980 literacy campaign wherein secondary school students voluntarily took on the role of teaches. The campaign was highly successful and illiteracy decreased from 50 percent to 23 percent. The Ministry of Education then made further efforts to increase the literacy of the country by setting up Popular Education Cooperatives whereby residents of poor communities could gather together in the evenings and make use of materials supplied by the Ministry to try and develop basic reading and mathematical skills. While these self-education classes were designed mainly for adults, many children who were struggling to get into the already overcrowded schools also made use of it.

The next change that the Sandinistas made to Nicaraguan education was that of reshaping the higher education system. Besides making higher education more accessible, they replaced law, humanities and social sciences with agriculture, medicine, education and technology – all of which would benefit the country to a greater degree. However, despite all these efforts Nicaragua was still home to a largely uneducated society by 1993. The largest problem by this time was to provide enough educational facilities for the rapidly growing population. There was even a decline in literacy from the level reached by the end of the 1980 literacy campaign.

However there is hope on the horizon as young people in this country are becoming increasingly more interested in receiving a better education in Nicaragua. Currently 65% of the population is younger than 25 and both elementary and high school education are now mandatory and free. Several Nicaragua universities have formed an affiliation with various universities in the United States. To add to this, the Nicaraguan government is increasing funding to improve the education available in the country. Promotions have also gone a long way to increasing the level of enrolment in tertiary institutions.

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