If you are interested in moving to El Salvador with children you may have some concerns about the education system here, unless you are wealthy enough to afford one of the larger international schools. Among those are the American School, The Brittish School, The French School, The German School, and more. These academies are regarded as high quality instutions, and offer educations as good or better than most schools in the USA.
At these schools the cost of education is reasonable if you plan to stay for many years. The up front Matriculation fees are several thousand dollars, but you only pay them one time. After that, your monthly tuition will sit a few hundred per month. For someone with no income, like myself, this is too high. (Thats right..NONE. BWAH! too busy spending it on a dream brewery to make any of it back yet)
One tier down there several more international schools. These normally offer a Salvadoran as well as an international diploma, which restricts some of their choices because they are officially under the Ministry of Education here. Their costs are lower, because they cannot raise tuition outside a very strict set of guidelines. They offer good educations, but may struggle with class size, for example. My girl´s school is in this “upper middle” catagory.
Then of course there are many Church sponsored schools which can be good. I have heard some good reports about church sponsored schools, both local and international. Then there are the Salvadoran public schools, which offer a half day of classes, and depending on your area may have a variable level of safety and effectiveness. from what I hear, though I do not know this factually, in general they are underfunded and in some cases unsafe.
Some differences here include that education seems to start a bit later, in that 1st grade is delayed by one year, replaced by a grade called Prepa. A six year old will normally be placed in Prepa by very insistent school staff, unless you are extremely determined, and can demonstrate that your 6 year old is ready for first grade.
If your child has some Spanish language skills and is well adjusted I recommend you demand placement in 1st grade if you are in doubt. Prepa appears to be a very slight step up from most kindergarden in the states (with the exception of some of the reading material in Spanish, which would be very challenging for an English speaking child).
You must know, and also be honest about, your childs academic level, and then balance it to a place that also allows for emotional and cultural changes. I opted to let the school place my daughter in Prepa, and though she is very well adjusted now, and enjoys her school quite alot, after her full year of Prepa, and on entering 1st grade, both her math and reading skills are about where they where when I pulled her out of Kindergarden to move here.
For me, this is not very upsetting, because I feel blessed that she is confident, but if I turned back time I would choose differently because now I see boredom in her posture. Education, for me, is not a race. But like every parent I have the small nagging fear of failure, just big enough to have me shopping for homeschool supplemental work (but not big enough to have me calling the American School or hiring tut
Other differences is that a girl may not be offered the same level of encouragement with regard to athletics. My daughter keeps explaining to me that “That is not what girls do in El Salvador”. There are girls teams and many athletic girls, but on the whole you may need to boost your girl in the pursuit of certain things if she shows an interest.
Above all the biggest difference I see is the use of repetative drills and rote work, that to an American might seem excessive or even counterproductive. It is everywhere, and is evident in how things are done throughout most systems. A perfectly formed letter is more important than a well chosen word. A tidy page of well copied numbers in proper sequence is a homework a child might get several times. Some children are not willing to do that page several times. It is not something to get to hung up on, but to be aware of. Perhaps my daughter may be the first Newbom EVER with good handwriting.
So you have been warned. Put alot of thought into Prepa if you are coming with a 6 year old. It may be a good “buffer” for your childs adjustment, but be ready to accept being a tad behind the competative edge if you feel obligated to raise superchildren. (I’m over it…..mostly).