Uruguay Table of Contents
Uruguay pioneered universal, free, and compulsory primary education in the Americas under the influence of José Pedro Varela (president, 1875-76), whose writings convinced the government to pass the 1877 Law of Common Education. The model adopted for public schools was taken from the French system, and a centralized, nationwide system was established. A rigid separation into three branches of education grew up--primary, secondary, and university. Teacher training for grade school teachers was connected to the primary school system. The National Institute of Technical Education (Instituto Nacional de Educación Técnica--INET) grew up as an extension of the secondary school system. By the late 1950s, all three branches of the education system had established administrative autonomy, including complete control over their budgets. The Organic University Law of 1958 provided that the governing bodies of the University of the Republic would be elected by the members of the faculty, alumni, and students.
By the late 1960s, Uruguayan secondary schools and the various faculties of the University of the Republic had become extremely politicized. Student sit-ins, demonstrations, and even riots were commonplace. Classes and examinations were frequently disrupted. After 1973 the authorities vowed to put an end to this situation, and political purges in the education system became widespread. Some teachers were able to find work in private schools, but others either left the profession or emigrated. Entire branches of the university, such as the Institute of Social Sciences, were closed for a time. Academic standards suffered across the board as some of the best teachers and professors were fired and replaced by people with only mediocre qualifications.
Data as of December 1990