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Argentina, or its official name the Argentine Republic, is a large country in South America, the second largest by land area after Brazil. In total, there are twenty-three provinces in the country and one large autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which also serves as the nation’s capital. By land area Argentina is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world and the eighth largest overall.
According to the latest census data, the population of Argentina is just over 40 million, making it the third largest in South America by population and the 32nd largest country worldwide. However, due its massive land area, Argentina is not very densely populated, and with just 15 people per square kilometer it is well under the world average of 50 people per km².
Argentina, much like other countries in the Americas, including the United States, is very ethnically diverse, primarily due to the large waves of European immigration that took place in the latter half of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Today, the majority of the population is of Italian and Spanish descent—people who self-identify as White/European even though most have lived their entire lives in Argentina. Smaller groups call themselves “mestizo”—a title that indicates a combination of European and native tribal heritage. The remainder of the population, which makes up less than 2 percent of the population, is primarily of Asian and Arab lineage. 92 percent of the population is Christian, of which the majority practices Roman Catholicism—a religion that the constitution of Argentina guarantees the country will support. In fact, up until 1994, the President and Vice President of Argentina had to be catholic, according to the Argentine Constitution.
Education in Argentina
In Argentina, all children between the ages of 6 and 14 are required by law to attend school. Education is free for all students and highly valued in Argentina—a country that boasts a 95 percent literacy rate. Education is divided between primary and secondary schooling, spanning 6 and 4 years respectively, although in the final three years/grades of secondary school—years that are non-compulsory—enrollment drops off significantly. This is especially true in rural areas of the country, where many students leave school after turning 14 to seek employment and help their families economically.
There are both state-funded and private schools in Argentina at the primary and secondary levels, some of which are better than others. Schools in the city tend to be much better equipped than those in rural areas, and they also tend to draw the most qualified teachers, particularly the schools in Buenos Aires, the country’s capital and the most significant city both politically and economically. The curriculum in primary schools is very diverse, and quite similar to that of the U.S. and Europe, offering instruction in subjects such as science, mathematics, language, art, history, geography, social studies, computers and physical education.
Secondary education institutions in Argentina are called “polimodals,” meaning there are many different instructional modes offered to students. For example, students who are planning to attend one of the country’s universities upon graduation will most likely want to enroll in the general education track, offering advanced college-preparatory instruction in all major academic subjects, while the more career-minded students may opt for the vocational mode, in which they can obtain valuable knowledge and skills related to a specific vocation, while still receiving basic instruction in academics.
Higher education in Argentina is also highly valued, best evidenced by the number of degree holders in the country. As of 2011, an estimated 3.3 percent of the adult population had earned a university degree, the second highest percentage in the world, after France.
There are 39 National universities in Argentina, where eligible students can pursue undergraduate degrees, with no tuition costs, in a wide array of academic and technical disciplines. There are also nearly 50 private and parochial universities in Argentina—institutions that set their own tuition rates. Graduate programs, both at the Master’s and Doctorate level, are widely available at the National and private universities, although for this level of education, students at the public universities are required to pay nominal tuition costs, with rates that vary depending on the type of degree and the field being studied.
No common system of examination after high school exists in Argentina, which essentially means that each university must define its own admission policy and requirements.