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Ecuador, officially known as the Republic of Ecuador, is a country in South America, with a total land area of approximately 109,000 square miles.  The nation shares borders with Colombia to the north, Peru to the east and south and the Pacific Ocean to the west.  The total land area of Ecuador also includes the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific.  Save for Chile, Ecuador is the only country in South America that does not border the geographically mammoth country of Brazil.  The capital and government center of Ecuador is Quito, but the largest city in the country is Guayaquil.
 
Ecuador has a total population of just over 15 million.  Ethnically, just over 65 percent of the population self identify as Mestizo—a combination of Amerindian and European ancestry, particularly Spanish, but also Italian, Portuguese, French, German, English and Irish.  An estimated 25 percent of the population is of Native American descent, and the remainder consists of whites, mostly European, at 7 percent, and blacks, who were brought to the country as slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries, at 3 percent.  An overwhelming majority of the Ecuadorian population, 95 percent, is Roman Catholic, with the remainder practicing one of the many Protestant religions, including people who are Methodists, Presbyterians and Anglicans. The official language in Ecuador is Spanish, and is spoken by the majority of its people.  It is used in all official government capacities and is the language of instruction in all Ecuadorian public schools (some private schools offer instruction in English).
 
Education in Ecuador

Education is very important to the people of Ecuador, although access to the system is not very equitable.  Under the Ecuadorian constitution, children are required to attend school until they obtain at least a “basic level of education,” which, according to the current government, takes 9 years, for children between the ages of 6 and 15.  Last year the government reported that the net enrollment rate in the country’s primary schools was approximately 97 percent, with roughly 70 percent of school children remaining in school until they are promoted to the secondary level.  However, these numbers, say critics, do not accurately reflect current enrollment rates in Ecuador.  Studies show that only about 10 percent of Ecuadorian children living in the poorer and more rural areas of the country attend school beyond the fifth grade. 
 
Education in Ecuador is overseen by the national government, and is implemented at the municipal level.  The system features both primary and secondary schools, and while education is said to be free at both of these levels, parents of school-aged children often have to pay fees for things like school uniforms and materials, as well as transportation costs.  The country boasts both public and private schools at every level, with the private schools generally being held in higher esteem than their public counterparts.  The reasons for this are many (quality instructors, better resources, etc), but it mainly comes down to funding.  There are too few schools to meet the large demand, and public primary schools often face insufficient space and large class sizes. Grades and test scores seem to mirror these inadequacies, as both tend to fall far well below national, South American and global standards.
 
Higher education in Ecuador, which is available at a cost for all students who earn a high school diploma, is provided by 61 universities in the country, some of which still confer terminal degrees, based on the old Spanish model of higher education.  The rest of Ecuador’s universities have recently switched to a more standardized and globally-aligned credit and degree structure, following the recent lead of most countries in the European Union.  This system now offers 3-year Bachelor degrees, 2-year Master’s Degrees and 3-5 Year Doctorate or PhD Degrees in a variety of major academic fields, ranging from accounting, biology and business to education, medicine and the law.

For additional information see:
Ecuador’s Ministry of Education (site in Spanish only)

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