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The República Oriental del Uruguay (Oriental Republic of Uruguay) is a constitutional republic in eastern South America with access to the Atlantic Ocean , located east of Argentina and south of Brazil. About 88% of the population of 3.5 million is of European ancestry. The native peoples prior to European settlement were the Charrúas. Spanish is the official language, but a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese (called Portuñol or Brasilero) is commonly spoken by inhabitants near the Brazilian border. While there is no official religion, about 65-70% profess the Roman Catholic faith, and more than 30% list their religious affiliation as non-professing or other.

Both the Portuguese and Spanish explored the Río de la Plata as early as 1515, but the first permanent settlement, at Soriano, was not founded until 1624. The Portuguese set up a settlement at Colonia and later established a claim on a hill in what would become Montevideo, today the capital and largest city. After lengthy struggles between the Spanish and Portuguese, during which most all the indigenous people perished, Uruguay revolted against Spain in 1811, but was conquered by the Portuguese from Brazil, finally achieving independence in 1825.

Most of the 19th century was marked by civil war, wars and interventions by neighboring countries, and factional rivalries. President José Batlle y Ordóñez who ruled from 1903 until 1929 instituted social programs which made Uruguay one of the most economically prosperous and politically stable in Latin America. After his death, a system based on an idea Batlle had put into place was instituted: a nine-man ruling council was chosen to govern the country with a president from among them (chosen from the major political party) to act as titular head of state.

The 1950s saw political unrest due to economic problems, a huge government bureaucracy, and internal political struggles. In 1958, the Colorado Party was defeated by the conservative Blancos for the first time, and they won again — by a smaller margin — in 1962. Economic decline and social unrest led eventually to a new constitution which eliminated the plural presidency, bringing the Colorado party into power again. A third political faction, the Tupamaro National Liberation Front, a guerilla group, had become increasingly visible and began a reign of terror—assassinations, kidnappings, countless violent acts. They eventually persuaded the president, José María Bordaberry, to dissolve the congress. The military became more visible during that chaotic period, and by 1973, a military coup overthrew the civilian government. After some twelve years, the military permitted elections, and in March 1985, Julio María Sanguinetti, a moderate Colorado, became president, and political and civil rights were reinstated. Subsequently, a Blanco was elected, and since 1990, despite periods of serious economic problems, relative political stability has reigned in Uruguay.


The concept of free, compulsory, and universal education was a basic concern of government from early times as evidenced by the Law of Common Education of 1877. The French model was adopted for the nationwide system, based on three levels (primary, secondary, and higher education). The Ministerio de Educación y Cultura currently serves as Uruguay's education ministry.

Primary Education

Compulsory education currently consists of grades 1-9, or 6 years of Educación Primaria and 3 years of ciclo básico. An additional ciclo diversificado of upper secondary education is provided in 2- or 3-year career training programs as well as a 3-year academic cycle which leads to higher education.

Post-Secondary Education

First Cycle

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 or títulos profesionales.

Second and Third Cycles

Estudos de pós-graduação (graduate studies) lead to maestrías/magisters, and subsequently doctorado degrees as well as qualifications in specific fields and specialties.



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