Many children in Nicaragua attend school for a few hours in the morning or evening, and work during the remainder of the day. Children must attend school in shifts in order to accommodate other students and to contribute financially to their families according to The Tico Times article, “Is Nicaragua’s education system failing?”
Abbreviated school days combined with student and teacher poverty has resulted in poor education in Nicaragua. UNICEF estimates that only 55 percent of children complete primary school and enter into secondary school. During secondary school the rate of completion continues to drop. While attendance rates have increased in the past ten years, university entrance exams demonstrate a continuous pattern of poor education quality in schools.
At the center of the quality issue, Nicaraguan teachers have very low salaries, earning an average of only $266 per month. The teachers also have a limited amount of supplies and facilities for students, forcing them to limit their curriculum. In The Tico Times article, José Treminio, Nicaragua’s education vice minister, exhibited concern about teacher’s salaries, stating, “We are determined to solve educational problems. We have a commitment to make a leap in the quality of education.” As a result, government has promised a small salary increase for teachers in 2014.
However, in a Nicaragua Dispatch article, “Impoverished teachers, poor schools”, Tim Rogers describes the financial struggles and government promises involved in Nicaragua’s education system. He states, “Nicaragua’s cash-strapped school system is delivering a poor quality of education.” Rogers maintains that the Nicaraguan government has not produce promised education results.
Rogers explains that the government, under the leadership of President Daniel Ortega, expresses a strong interest in improving national education. The government, however, only allots a small amount of the budget towards education, sending the public mixed messages about their endeavors. The amount does not provide enough money for adequate teachers’ salaries, student supplies, or school facilities.
The International Development Association (IDA), a division of the World Bank, offers aid to impoverished countries, providing loans or grants to promote economic growth. In 1995, the IDA partnered with the Nicaraguan government through the First Basic Education program. From 1994 to 2004, this program increased enrollment in primary schools in Nicaragua.
The IDA reported that, “The project contributed to an increase in the enrollment coverage of pre-schools and primary schools, particularly in targeted poor and indigenous communities.”
Even though Nicaragua now has a high primary school enrollment rate, school exams still show low student performance. In response, the IDA acknowledged that the quality of education still remained very low and initiated a similar program to strengthen the education system overall. IDA’s programs combined with an increase in government funding suggests that a sustainable system of education in Nicaragua is possible.
– Jaclyn Ambrecht