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Honduras is an independent republic located in Central America, with a total land area of 43,000 square miles.  Once referred to as Spanish Honduras to differentiate the country from British Honduras, which is now the country known as Belize, Honduras is bordered by Guatemala to the west, El Salvador to the southwest, Nicaragua to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca to the west and the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea, to the north.  The capital and largest city in Honduras is Tegucigalpa, and the country’s northern territories are a component of the Western Caribbean Zone.  Exportation of minerals, textiles and tropical fruits is the largest economic sector in Honduras.
 
According to the latest available census data, Honduras has a permanent population of nearly 8.2 million, a population that is very diverse from an ethnic standpoint.  Mestizos, or those with a combination of Amerindian and European heritage, account for 90 percent of the population, with the remainder self-identifying as Amerindian (7%), black, or those of African descent (2%), and white, those claiming only their European heritage, particularly Spanish (1%).  Honduras also has a significant Christian Palestinian population.  Spanish is the lone official language of Honduras, and is used in government, schools and commerce.  It is also the most widely spoken language among the Honduran people, with most speaking it as their first and only language.  Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Honduran Constitution, but Roman Catholicism, a Christian faith, is the closest thing to an official or national religion in the country, practiced by over 80 percent of the population.  Recent years have seen increasing membership in the various Protestant religions, including some Roman Catholics who have changed their religious affiliation.
 
Education in Honduras
 
Education in Honduras is overseen by the national government, and school is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14.  The system consists of three stages:  primary education, secondary education and higher or tertiary education.  While most of the instruction in Honduran schools is provided in Spanish, many of the private institutions offer bilingual (Spanish/English) and even trilingual (Spanish/English/German-Turk) education.  Despite the government mandate requiring attendance at Honduran primary schools, the net enrollment rate is only 90 percent, and the completion rate is a staggeringly low 40 percent.
 
Secondary education is available for those students who complete the 8 years of primary school studies.  Students have the choice of attending a general secondary school, where the program focuses on advanced academics and university preparation, or a vocational-technical program, in which students receive education and training in one of many career fields important to the Honduran economy.  Students who complete their vocational studies are awarded a certificate of proficiency and can either join the workforce or continue their education at the tertiary level, while those graduating from the general secondary schools are eligible to enroll at the university level.
 
While Honduras has a number of universities, both public and private, the national university, which has branches/campuses in most major Honduran cities, is the most prestigious and most popular among students.
 
The adult literacy rate in Honduras, as reported by the government, is approximately 83 percent, about average when compared to most Central American countries, but much lower in relation to the rates in highly developed nations in North America, Europe and Asia.

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