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FEATURE STORY

Public schools strengthen for the future in Uruguay

October 26, 2012


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Children have breakfast in public school No 70 in Uruguay

World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A project helps to improve the quality, equity and efficiency of the education system
  • Almost 100% of Uruguayan children attend schools
  • The expanded program of full-time schools increases the number of students benefited in 8,000

"When I grow up I want to be a programmer", "I want to be a veterinarian", "I, an international chef". Sixth grade students of the public school No. 70 raised their hands and waited their turn to answer. In the classroom there were those who wanted to be doctors, architects or lawyers and who also let their imagination fly and dared to dream of being a writer, archaeologist, guitarist or a crime scene investigator. The school is the first step to achieve this.

Almost 100% of Uruguayan children attend school. A census conducted last May revealed that in 2011 the public education system in Uruguay served 360,695 children, which represents 81% of total national enrollment. This number includes kids coming from families of all socioeconomic strata. The rest attend private institutions.

Being poor or rich, living in this or that neighborhood, does it matter when talking about education?

According to a national study about learning in primary education in Uruguay, the socioeconomic status of households affects the quality of children's learning. The document says that in a "very favorable" environment (households very well equipped and highly educated mothers), 85% of children reached levels of proficiency in Language and 66% in Mathematics, while in a context " very unfavorable" (lack of assets in their homes and mothers with at least full primary education), the results of proficiency were 37% and 17%, respectively.

This study was conducted several years ago, but remains valid if one considers that more than 200,000 children from 0 to 12 years in Uruguay are under the poverty line, according to the National Statistics Institute.

Uruguay faces this situation, through the implementation of the Project to Support Uruguayan Public School (PAEPU), coordinated by the Preschool and Primary Education Council (CEIP) and the Central Directive Council of Education (CODICEN) of the National Administration for Public Education (ANEP) with financial support from the World Bank.

More educational opportunities

Currently the project –that was launched in 1994- is in its third phase, but soon it will begin a new stage, after the approval last September of a new World Bank loan of US$ 40 million. "This is the answer to one of the Uruguayan Government’s concern:betting that all children have the greatest educational possibilities," said Diego Ambasz, education specialist at the World Bank, and project task team leader.

 


" It is not true the general idea that full time schools are something exclusive for the poor. "

Marina Orozco

Coordinator of the Project to Support Uruguayan Public School (PAEPU)

Currently the project –that was launched in 1994- is in its third phase, but soon it will begin a new stage, after the approval last September of a new World Bank loan of US$ 40 million. "This is the answer to one of the Uruguayan Government’s concern:betting that all children have the greatest educational possibilities," said Diego Ambasz, education specialist at the World Bank, and project task team leader.

Ambasz stressed that this new project will reach a total of 210 schools, and will increase the number of beneficiaries in 8,000 students, reaching 20% of urban enrollment.

Uruguay has now a total of 170 primary schools under the Full-Time School (FTS) model, 50% of which are located in low-income areas. According to Marina Orozco, coordinator of PAEPU, one can find this kind of schools in some neighborhoods of middle and high income. "It is not true the general idea that full time schools are something exclusive for the poor." Anyway, the coordinator affirmed that it is in the most unfavorable contexts where the FTS model really makes a difference.

Orozco says education is not only the transmission of information. "Waiting until they are all ready to eat, clearing the dishes, working with staff, knowing that there is a correct way to interact with others. These are things that children learn and incorporate in their habits and customs and are undoubtedly a valuable contribution the school makes to the formation of the whole person," Orozco concluded.

 


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