Education has undergone considerable reform in Ecuador since 2006. Broadly, these reforms can be characterised under three sets of policies. Firstly, to restore state jurisdiction over the school system which was heavily decentralised in 2006; secondly to universalise school enrolment; and thirdly to improve the quality of education services. From 2007 onwards, the Government has set clear priorities for schooling, which have in many ways been highly successful, and have led to a rise of 16 ranks in the Education pillar over the past decade.
The 10 years of considerable political instability up to 2006 resulted in Ecuador’s school system having little or no state input or accountability, poor physical conditions within schools, and a devalued teaching profession. In 2006, the outgoing government under President Alfredo Palacio instigated a referendum and public consultation on reforming the education sector. Eight policies were submitted and approved by 66% of the electorate, including universalising provision between ages 0 and 15, improving the physical infrastructure of schools, increasing education funding by 0.5% of GDP each year up to 6% (it reached 5% in 2015), and strengthening the teaching profession through more rigorous entry requirements for teachers and greater levels of pre-service and in-service training.
As a result, primary completion rates are now at 100%, up from 95% in 2009 and the secondary enrolment rate has increased to 88%, from 56% in 2009 with secondary completion rates rising too, from 60% to 99%. In terms of quality, test scores at secondary level have also improved considerably. In a study that mapped national test scores onto the PISA international benchmark, Ecuador’s results are 15% stronger today than in 2009.
Ecuador’s education reforms also appear to be having a positive effect on skills in the population. The average number of years of schooling for women has grown from 10.3 to 11.2 years, and adult literacy has risen by two percentage points to 94.4% over the last decade.
One notable aspect of Ecuador’s education reforms is the increase in school attendance among the country’s historically neglected ethnic groups. Indigenous people and Afro-Ecuadorians have shown the greatest increase in school attendance in the 10 years to 2015, such that enrolment rates for both groups are now comparable with the national average.