Primary and Secondary Schools in Argentina

About Primary and Secondary Schools in Argentina

In Argentina, education is highly valued at all levels, and compulsory for all children ages 6 to 18.  It includes both public schools, which are maintained and funded by the government and free to attend, and private schools that are typically run by churches or other non-profit associations and at which tuition is required. The enrollment size at each of these schools varies depending on the school’s location.  Schools in major Argentine cities, for example, such as Buenos Aires, may have scores of classrooms, while schools in the country—schools which many students have to ride horses to just to attend—may consist of only one or two rooms.

The emphasis on and commitment to education in Argentina is evident by the country’s high rate of literacy—95 percent—and the per capita number of university graduates—3.2 percent of the population.  Both of these statistics are tops when compared to all other South American countries.

Educational Structure in Argentina

The educational structure in Argentina is very similar to that of its North American and European counterparts, in that it basically consists of three levels:  kindergarten, primary school and secondary school.


Kindergarten is a state-run program designed for students that are roughly 5 years of age.  Although students are not required by law to attend school at this age, the majority of families, particularly those in more urban areas, do take advantage of the program as a way to prepare their children for primary school.  In kindergarten students are exposed to projects involving reading, writing, art and music at very basic and introductory levels, as well as plenty of physical play with children their age.  This helps students become accustomed to the idea of attending school and cooperating with others, and saves primary school teachers from the task of acclimating children to the school setting.

Primary School

Primary school in Argentina is required for all students ages 6-14, regardless of where in the country they may reside.  As mentioned, primary school is free to attend; however, there are certain items that must be purchased by families, including certain books, class materials and the school uniform, which for all students consists of a white coat resembling the ones worn by doctors and scientists in the lab, and seen as a symbol of learning in Argentina.

The curriculum in primary school is very similar to that of other countries.  Students study a wide range of subjects, including science, mathematics, language arts, art, history, sport and geography.  There are also certain classrooms and schools that cater to students with special needs—physical, mental or emotional difficulties—that present obstacles to learning in the traditional classroom setting.

Secondary Education

Although the public secondary schools in Argentina are also tuition-free, education at this level was not even mandated by law until 2007, which unfortunately means there were generations of students who missed out on the offerings students enjoy today.  Studies show that prior to 2007, only half of all primary school students would continue on to secondary school, and most that did came from the more urban and affluent areas of the country.  Sadly, the rationale for this statistic is more a matter of economics than lack of interest.  Many secondary-age students, particularly those belonging to lower income families, had to leave school early to help earn money for the family.

Today education is required through secondary school, and in Argentina these schools are called Polimodals, meaning students have a choice in terms of the type or “mode” of curriculum they can study.  Typically, education at this level will last 5 years and is divided into three different types of programs:  Bachiller schools, Comercial schools and Escuelas Tecnicas.  Bachiller programs are those that focus on the humanities, including courses in language, history, grammar and social science.  Comercial schools center on the economic sciences, including business, accounting and home economics, while the last type, Escuelas Tecnicas, delve into the technical and applied sciences, including computers, information systems and chemistry.

Successful graduation from one of these Polimodals is a requirement for all students wishing to further pursue their education at the tertiary or university level.

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