Preschool, primary and secondary education are compulsory for children aged 4–17 years. The State provides free public primary, secondary, higher, industrial and artistic education. In 2015, 248,590 students were enrolled in such programmes. Families cover 0.8 per cent of the cost of public education, including materials and support services.
The National Administration of Public Education is the main agency providing formal education. The central authorities manage the education budget and teacher recruitment, allocate infrastructure and equipment, and make decisions on the procurement of teaching materials and necessary repairs in schools. Teacher allocation is the National Administration of Public Education’s largest expenditure (81 per cent), following a model in which there is a higher teacher/student ratio, teachers have slightly higher salaries in schools in vulnerable contexts versus schools in urban contexts, and schools in vulnerable contexts are allocated support teachers and social workers. As a result, per-student spending in vulnerable contexts is 10 per cent higher than in urban contexts and, for example, in 2015, 18.5 per cent of schools had a support teacher.
The school-age population is 992,978 students. Uruguay last reported education spending figures to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2011. In that year, education spending accounted for 4.36 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 14.93 per cent of public spending. Per-student expenditure in tertiary education in 2011 was USD 5,248 purchasing power parity (PPP). The most recent figures published by the Government are from 2015 and show investment in education as 5.01 per cent of GDP and 4.5 per cent of public spending.
Acceso a la educación [Access to Education] programme
In the 2015–2019 budget, the Access to Education programme aimed to improve access to the right to early childhood education, especially for the vulnerable population. In 2017, USD 18 million (UYU 642 million) of the programme budget line was executed, i.e. 17.5 per cent of the total Ministry of Education budget.
Similarly, in 2019, USD 159,139 (UYU 5.5 million), i.e. 25.8 per cent of the budget for early childhood and primary education, was allocated to special education.
Also in 2019, the allocation for secondary education in vulnerable contexts was USD 9.9 million (UYU 350 million), i.e. 43.6 per cent of the secondary education budget. This budget aims to ensure that resource distribution in secondary schools is not only based on the number of students but also on variables such as the students’ position on the social vulnerability index, the school context and characteristics, and the diversity of educational proposals.
Inclusive education programmes include:
- The A.PR.EN.D.E.R programme, which prioritizes environments with relative structural difficulties, focuses on vulnerable areas and operates in 254 schools and 27 preschools in quintiles 1 and 2. The programme has two components: the Proyecto Oportunidad Desarrollo Educativo y Social [Educational and Social Development Opportunity Project] and the Trayectorias Protegidas [Protected Pathways Project]. The first is a curriculum project based on the socioeconomic context. In 2016, the total amount to be distributed was USD 298,777 (UYU 10.5 million), allocated by school category: Category A schools: USD 3,414 (UYU 120,000), Category B schools: USD 2,560 (UYU 90,000), Category C schools: USD 1,707 (UYU 60,000). The Protected Pathways Project focuses on support for students from an institution who are lagging behind in school. For this project, one educator is allocated per institution, with a workload of 5–15 hours per week. It should be taken into account that one hour per week per month equates to USD 44 (UYU 1,580).
- Uruguay Estudia [Uruguay Studies] programme: Aims to encourage completion of educational cycles and support continued education for young people who have dropped out of school. In 2015, the programme benefited 9,189 students.
In 2016, the Ministry of Education executed a scholarship budget of USD 5 million (UYU 179 million), i.e. 5.1 per cent of the Ministry of Education budget, including scholarships for academically gifted students regardless of their socioeconomic status. The following programmes are specifically aimed at marginalized populations:
This programme encourages students to complete educational cycles and supports continued education for young people and adults who have stopped attending formal education. The programme has several components, one of which is scholarships. Each year, 4,800 scholarships are awarded.
These scholarships are intended to support continued education for students in the first and second levels of secondary education who come from households with a per capita income of less than USD 103 (UYU 3,611). Likewise, a quota of 8 per cent of the funds will be reserved for students of African descent. The allowance of USD 30–118 (UYU 1,038–4,154) is paid fortnightly during the school year. In 2014, 15,000 scholarships were awarded.
Economic support worth USD 238 (UYU 8,308) is provided to students at the University of the Republic of Uruguay who have socioeconomic difficulties that prevent them from starting or completing their university studies.
Scholarships for socioeconomically disadvantaged students at the University of the Republic and at the tertiary level of the Technical and Vocational Education Council. The allowance is USD 238 (UYU 8,308) per month for a maximum of 10 months. In 2018, 8,582 scholarships were awarded, at a cost of USD 16.5 million (UYU 577.9 million).
One of the programme components is the “study scholarship”, which is aimed at secondary students who are at high risk of dropping out of school for socioeconomic reasons. The scholarship is paid on a fortnightly basis. In 2013, 5,304 scholarships were awarded.
This is a monthly conditional cash transfer aimed at socioeconomically vulnerable families with children and adolescents aged under 18 years or with people with disabilities, up to a maximum of seven people per family. The education requirements concern school enrolment and attendance. The monthly allowance is between USD 44.50 (UYU 1,187) and USD 305.90 (UYU 8,166) per family. In 2015, the programme spent USD 159 million (UYU 4.7 billion), i.e. 0.34 per cent of GDP, and benefited 140,654 households (375,734 people, i.e. 10.95 per cent of the population).