The República de Ecuador (Republic of Ecuador) lies on the western coast of South America, bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, the north by Colombia, and the south by Perú. The equator, from whence the name is obviously derived, runs just north of the capital city, Quito. Guayaquil is the largest city and Ecuador’s major port. The population is made up of some thirteen and one-half million is largely mestizo (mix of Amerindian and white)—about 65%,with about 25% Amerindian and 10% of other ethnicity. The official language of Ecuador is Spanish (Castellano); Quechua and other Amerindian languages are also commonly spoken. The majority of the population is of the Roman Catholic faith although there is no official religion.
Ecuador, like other South American republics, has an intriguing political history. Before Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, seeking El Dorado, Ecuador was a part of the Inca empire. After a failed attempt to gain independence in 1809, success was achieved by Antonio José de Sucre in 1822 at the battle of Pichincha, and Ecuador became a part of Simón Bolívar’s Gran Colombia (along with Venezuela, Colombia, and Panamá). After the dissolution of that political union, Ecuador became somewhat a separate state. Boundary disputes with Colombia and Perú dominated much of the political formation during the 19th and early 20th centuries. These disputes caused Ecuador to lose much of its territory and in some cases - especially with Perú - continued through the 1960s. Internal political divisiveness was caused in large part by ideological differenced between Conservatives who favored the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church and Liberals who sought social reform.
The 20th century brought many changes of government, a trend which continues to the present time. Ecuador had more than fifteen presidents between 1925 and 1956. Galo Plaza Lasso who was elected president in 1947, instituted widespread social and political reforms, and José María Velasco Ibarra, elected in 1952 (the third time he had become president), expanded progressive reforms, focusing on improvements in roads and schools.
The country next chose the first Conservative president in 60 years, Camilo Ponce Enríquez, but he was soon forced to resign; eventually in favor of a military junta. By 1968, Velasco Ibarra became president for the fifth time, and assumed absolute power, presumably to deal effectively with escalating economic problems and widespread protests, particularly by leftist student movements. During the 1970s, Ecuador became Latin America’s second largest producer of oil, but the country was continuing to battle economic and political difficulties, rampant inflation and international debt were rampant, and problems in the oil industry. Austerity programs did not revive the economy, and political strife continued—President León Febres Cordero Rivadeneira was kidnapped by guerillas in 1987, and by 1990, some indigenous groups had organized into political blocs strong enough to stage boycotts and demonstrations (“the Uprising”), eventually gaining ownership of some territory in the eastern part of the country. From 1992 until about 1996, some progress was made toward economic stability, but El Niño had devastating effects on attempts to recover. President Sixto Durán Ballén privatized many state-owned businesses, and was able to reschedule much of Ecuador’s international debt. A political scandal and a severe energy crisis at the end of the 1990s brought more disarray into the politics of the 21st century. Elections and resignations with presidents, both appointed and elected, succeeding one after the other continue to dominate the political scene.
Education in Ecuador during the colonial period, as in other countries in Latin America, placed emphasis on preparing only the sons of the wealthy of European descent. After independence, government provisions for universal education largely ignored the needs of the indigenous population. Legislation in the 1960s and 1970s increased educational spending, and schools increasingly addressed the needs of the entire population. One continuing problem has been the lack of qualified teachers throughout the country.
Primary and Secondary Education
Compulsory education currently consists of 2 years of Educación Pre-Primaria (Pre-School Education), Primaria for grades 1-6, and 3 years of ciclo básico (basic secondary education). Additional and optional secondary education is provided in career training, usually of 1 to 3 years’ duration, and the 3-year ciclo diversificado which leads to higher education.
Higher education includes programs leading to careers in specific fields and titles of technician as well as academic studies leading to professional first degrees of licenciado(a) or títulos profesionales.
Second and Third Cycles
Graduate studies lead to the titles of diplomado, especialista, maestría, and doctorado.
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