Willamette World News

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Bolivian education

The formal education in Bolivia starts with kindergarten (one year), elementary (five years), middle school (three years) high school (four years), and college (five years). Public education is free (from kindergarten to college). The school time is split into three shifts (morning, afternoon, and night). For example, I attended the morning shift (6:45 am to 12:45 pm) in high school for the regular classes (mathematics, foreign languages, history, natural sciences, etc) and afternoons for mandatory vocational classes (carpentry, electricity, auto-mechanics, chemistry, and technical draw).

There are 10 state-funded and 23 private universities. The University of San Andrés in La Paz is the largest in terms of student numbers, while the University of San Francisco Xavier in Sucre is the oldest, having been founded in 1624. I attended a state-funded university, Universidad Mayor de San Simon in Cochabamba; I got a bachelor degree in Economics after six years of regular classes plus one year of thesis. The first classes that we have to take in economics are: Calculus, Linear Algebra, Management, Accounting, Microeconomics, and Political Economy (in this class meanly we had to read and analyzed the whole book of Carl Marx – Das Capital). The last year, the sixth, we have to take Methods of Research and develop and defend the Thesis. My thesis was about the influence of the new Economic Policy (introduced in Bolivia in 1985) in the public health.

Unfortunately the health of Bolivian education still weak, urban illiteracy in Bolivia remains high, and even higher rural illiteracy. Chronic political instability and corruption hindered the development of general education throughout Bolivia’s history since the independence to these days. In the colonial era, education was limited to a few clergy and elite families. By 1900 schools existed primarily to serve urban elites, only 17% of the adult population was literate. By 1952 less than one-third of the adult population was literate. According to the World Bank Report 2006 – 2010, only one-third of first graders completed the fifth grade, 20% started secondary school, 5% began their postsecondary studies, and just 1% received a university degree. And according to INICEF, dropout rates are higher among girls and rural children. Only about 40% of rural youngsters continued their education beyond the third grade.

Certainly, the Bolivian government must to improve the quality and coverage of education and increase the efficient and equitable use of resources allocated to this sector (education), but before any measures be implanted, it hast to address the short and long term poverty, and then to ensure that children enroll and complete their basic and secondary education at least.

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