Schools in Ecuador

Last Updated: 31st January 2021
Written by Jason Scott
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Deciding to take the plunge and move to a foreign country can be very daunting. Multiply that by 100 when you've also got the responsibility of deciding what is the best educational outcome for your child(ren). 

We've created this guide based on our first-hand experience of schools in Ecuador, supplemented with additional research where required. By the end, you'll understand the different education options in Ecuador & hopefully have a better idea of what may work best for your kid(s) if you move to Ecuador.

Editors note: COVID 19 + Schools

We've created this guide whilst in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we're mainly calling upon our experiences pre-pandemic. Why? Because like you, we want to get back to enjoying life surrounding by friends and loved ones. This includes our kids being able to physically interact with other kids.

So, whilst a lot of the information provided is still valid during COVID 19, please use your judgment regarding what may or may be available here. For example, there is no school transport available because schools are currently only operating virtually.

How COVID is currently affecting schools in Ecuador

Summary of how COVID is affecting Ecuadorian schools:

  • Operating virtually only
  • Some offering a small discount to assist families financially
  • Schools need to have their COVID protocols in place & approved by COE Nacional
  • COE Nacional sets the date for classes to start once protocols approved
  • COE meeting on 9th Feb 2021 to determine whether classes can gradually start operating physically

We'll keep the above updated as more information comes to light.

What types of Schools are available in Ecuador?

I'm just going to say it. The style of education taught in Ecuador does not cater to every child. But, that doesn't mean you can't still make it work. I'll delve deeper into this, but for now, let's get our head around some of the basics.  

There are 4 options for educating kids in Ecuador:

  1. Public schools
  2. Private schools
  3. International schools
  4. Homeschooling

Perhaps you're wondering where the local kids attend? 25% of the Ecuadorian student population go to private schools & 75% go to public schools.

We dive into each of these options below.

1. Public education

The public school system is where the majority of Ecuadorian kids get their education. Like any public system, it's very reliant on the government for funding, syllabus, and teacher quality. You can download the curriculum from the Ministry of Education (in Spanish). 

1. Public education

Casio Edifice EF527D-1AV

Public-School-Ecuador

Pros

  • Cheap. Basic costs are covered (registration & monthly tuition), so you only pay for uniforms, transport & materials such as textbooks.

Cons

  • Only Spanish taught.
  • Quality of learning is the lowest of all options.
  • High teacher rotation.
  • School infrastructure can be limited and not well maintained.
  • Availability can be very limited. This is determined based on the region you live in.
  • Kids need to understand Spanish before enrolling or they'll potentially fall behind.
  • Can be very strict on absenteeism. 

With this option, you're basically trusting the Ecuadorian government to provide learning outcomes that match your child. 

This is the only option for many families in Ecuador. But, it's not a very popular option amongst expat students. 

We decided against this option for our children because we weren't satisfied that the government could provide the quality of education we'd like. The syllabus tends to be very strict and conservative without having the resources to provide the individual attention we desire.

Best choice for:
Low budget, know Spanish already
Not an option for many expats
"We want our kids to be bilingual and reinforcing English at school is a must"
Michelle & Jason EE
Michelle & Jason
Expats Ecuador

2. Private Schools

This is a popular choice amongst expats and the Ecuadorian middle-class. There are many different private school options available throughout the main cities of Ecuador. These schools have more freedom and resources, but they generally fall short of providing a full bi or multi-lingual learning experience. 

2. Private Schools

Casio Edifice EF527D-1AV

Private-education-Ecuador

Pros

  • Better infrastructure, with some offering quality facilities such as pools
  • A higher level of education
  • More willing to use different teaching methods other than mandated by the Ministry
  • May have connections to schools/universities in other countries
  • Wide range of after-school activities
  • More flexibility on kids being absent (they may turn a blind eye to vacations etc whereas government schools only allow absenteeism due to sickness). 

Cons

  • Can be quite expensive ($400 - $800 / month plus materials, matricula & uniforms)
  • Not truly bilingual. More support for non-Spanish speakers to transition, but classes are still taught in Spanish.

This is the option we originally chose (pre-pandemic) for our kids. The quality of learning was high and we specifically sought out schools that had connections with European sister schools. 

Why? Because we wanted to leave the door open to them studying in Spain or other parts of Europe when they're older. Choosing a private school with these connections makes this option become a lot more realistic. 

Whilst every private school is different, you also have a much better chance of finding a school that offers a range of after-school activities such as swimming, football, martial arts & dancing. 

Most private (and even some public) schools will offer to teach the English language as a subject. But, as this is catered towards Ecuadorian students, you may find that this class is of limited value to your English-speaking child. 

The cost is certainly something to consider though, as a fair chunk of our monthly budget was spent on schooling. But, the costs were significantly more affordable than going down the International School route. 

 

Best choice for:
Medium budget with Spanish immersion
Support for transitioning to Spanish! 
"If you want your kids to learn Spanish this may be a good option. Teachers provide good support for foreign kids to adapt to the Spanish language!"
Michelle & Jason EE
Michelle & Jason
Expats Ecuador

3. International schools

International schools can be a great landing pad for expat kids that don't yet speak Spanish. These are truly bilingual with classes also offered in English, German or French languages. But, be prepared to open your wallet as these school programs are not cheap. 

3. International schools

Casio Edifice EF527D-1AV

International-schools-Ecuador

Pros

  • High level of learning
  • Bilingual education, with classes taught in English, German or French languages
  • Networking - your kiddo can make connections with other 'rich' kids.
  • Connections with schools in other countries (for university or exchange etc). 

Cons

  • Expensive. Expect to pay $800 to $1000 monthly
  • Mainly limited to the highly populated cities of Quito, Guayaquil & Cuenca

The curriculums offered at international schools are often based on those from the UK, US, France, or Germany. This can make it considerably easier to transition to other institutions around the globe that are using the same curriculum. This is one of the main reasons international schools are popular with expat families, particularly those that work for multi-national corporations or diplomats. 

We've never seriously considered this option because of the cost. With two kids, you're looking at $2k every month just for schooling. This is 5x the minimum salary of Ecuador. Whilst we do see the value of a bilingual school and the networking, the cost would be a considerable drain on our monthly budget & potentially detract from our overall quality of life. 

Best choice for:
When money is no object
Hard for us to justify the cost
"The cost would be a massive drain on our overall budget & impact our lifestyle too much"
Michelle & Jason EE
Michelle & Jason
Expats Ecuador

4. Homeschooling

This is largely uncharted territory for your average Ecuadorian. Whilst we may be used to this concept, it's really only because of the pandemic (and the forced homeschooling) that this option is starting to gain momentum in Ecuador. It's a popular option amongst expats, particularly those that live in smaller communities. 

4. Homeschooling

Casio Edifice EF527D-1AV

Homeschooling-Ecuador

Pros

  • Flexible time management
  • Complete control over your kids' learning experience
  • Cheap ($50-100 per month)
  • Can be done from wherever, whenever

Cons

  • Not completely recognized by the Ecuadorian government. 
  • Need to go through an established program in another country
  • Big time & effort commitment required from parents
  • Concerted effort required to 'socialize' with other kids

Since the pandemic, lots of families (yours included we dare say) have been able to experience what it's like to homeschool. It's a big commitment, but ultimately can be very rewarding.

We started forced homeschooling like everybody else when Covid 19 hit, but we've made the conscious decision to continue homeschooling even when virtual learning through our private school became available.

Best choice for:
Digital nomads or slow-mads
Freedom to explore Ecuador! 
"Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to explore Ecuador while teaching our kids what's important to us!"
Michelle & Jason EE
Michelle & Jason
Expats Ecuador

Why we homeschool

You see, Ecuador is not an overly tech-savvy nation. So, when the entire school system was forced to operate virtually, it required a substantial change from everybody. It's been hard for educators to properly adapt. For example, asking a 5-year-old student to sit in front of a Zoom call for 6-7 hours a day just wasn't going to provide the learning outcomes we wanted. We ended up doing most of the educating anyway. 

We also weren't completely happy with the ability of the private (or public) system to develop the emotional intelligence of our kids. This is not just an Ecuador (or South America) problem, more so how society has decided how our kids should be educated. But, I'm comfortable in saying that Ecuador is (and is likely to remain) behind how many developed nations are starting to develop better programs to enhance emotional intelligence. 

Homeschooling in Ecuador

We supplement our teaching with specialist teachers in subjects we don't have the capacity to teach such as robotics & coding. 

The freedom provided by homeschooling has been fantastic. We just got back from an extended trip to the beach where we were able to focus on real-world education that just isn't possible any other way. For example, our last class was on how to identify and stay safe in rips and currents. This type of education is not taught anywhere else in Ecuador. 

How to homeschool

Because the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education only recognizes homeschooling in extreme situations  where access is very difficult (ie indigenous tribes living in the Amazon jungle), you'll need to be comfortable living in a somewhat gray area if you decide to homeschool. 

By this I mean you'll need to:

  • Register your child in an overseas program that can issue a certificate each year stating that your child has passed the relevant grade.
  • Have this certificate registered with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education each year if you are considering putting your kids in the system at some point.

By doing this, you're basically working outside of the Ecuadorian curriculum and have complete control to pursue any curriculum you see fit. 

Which homeschool programs to use

There are several programs you can use, but the one we use is based in the US. We pay about $300/year for them to handle the paperwork and provide the certificate at the end of each school year.

That amount is only for paperwork and we spend around $40 - $80 monthly for programs or apps we find useful for the learning process of each child. This is on top of after-school activities.

Feel free to get in contact with us for details of the program that we use for our kids. 

How much do private & international schools cost? 

Glad you asked. We've put together this table showing the registration (matrícula) & monthly (pensión) costs, and calculated the yearly costs based on these. 

This is based on enrolling for "General Basica", which is for ages 7-12. 

We've included a range of private institutions based on those that are popular with expats and we've also included some which may not be so popular, but they score highly on the standardized testing they use for university admission. Data is taken from the Ministerio de Educacion's official site

CityProvinceSchool TypeSchool NameRegistration (Matrícula)Monthly Fee (Pensión)Yearly Costs
CuencaAzuayPrivatePasos$113$180$1,913
CuencaAzuayPrivateParticular Kennedy$90$144$1,530
CuencaAzuayPrivateParticular American School$83$133$1,413
CuencaAzuayInternationalParticular Binacional Colegio Aleman Stiehle de Cuenca$270$417$4,440
CuencaAzuayInternationalParticular Santana$199$318$3,379
CuencaAzuayMixedTecnico Salesiano$33$53$563
QuitoPichinchaPrivateFrau Klier$85$137$1,455
QuitoPichinchaPrivateParticular Cardenal Spellman$136$218$2,316
QuitoPichinchaInternationalColegio Americano de Quito$469$750$7,969
QuitoPichinchaInternationalAlbert Einstein$698$1,117$11,868
QuitoPichinchaInternationalParticular Britanico Internacional$367$586$6,227
CayambePichinchaMixedDomingo Savio$61$97$1,031
MantaManabiPrivateIsaac Newton$126$201$2,136
MantaManabiPrivateMaria Montessori$58$93$988
PortoviejoManabiPrivateRosa Cedeno de Granizo$51$82$871
MantaManabiInternationalGlenn Doman$155$248$2,635
MantaManabiInternationalParticular Bilingue Leonardo Da Vinci$278$445$4,728
ChoneManabiMixedCinco de Mayo$24$39$414
GuayaquilGuayasPrivateInteramericano CEBI$132$211$2,242
GuayaquilGuayasPrivateBoston$107$171$1,817
GuayaquilGuayasInternationalMenor Santiago de Guayaquil$570$912$9,690
GuayaquilGuayasInternationalBalanda Cruz de Sur$384$614$6,524
GuayaquilGuayasInternationalInternacional SEK$371$594$6,311
GuayaquilGuayasMixedFiscomisional Santa Maria Mazzarello$43$70$743
Data taken from the Ministerio de Educacion's official site

Additional costs not included in the above table

The above table only includes the basic education costs. There's also a range of mandatory & optional extras that you'll need to factor in that we've included below. These are all going to differ by school, but we've provided a rough estimate for each of these costs. You'll want to confirm with each school what these costs are going to be depending on your preferences and circumstances. 

Total monthly costs (including additional costs)

So, let's say you're thinking about moving to Cuenca and want to enroll in the Santana school. Your cost breakdown for the school year will look something like this: 

  • Basic costs (matricula & pension): $3,379
  • Uniforms: $200
  • Supplies: $250
  • Transport: $60 / month ($600 yearly)
  • Meals: $50 / month ($500 yearly)
  • 1 after school activity: $50 / month ($500 yearly)

Your total costs for one child are $5429

It's fairly common to offer a discount of somewhere between 10-20% for the second child, so don't be afraid to try and negotiate a little on this.  

Education Costs: Cuenca vs Manta vs Quito vs Guayaquil 

Education costs can be a key driver for expat families deciding where to settle in Ecuador. Indeed, one of the reasons we decided to move to Cuenca was due to the lower education costs & the impact this had on our overall cost of living in Cuenca

You can see from the above table of school costs that Quito & Guayaquil are the most expensive in the country. With Cuenca and Manta having considerably lower school costs. 

Extra payment at the start of the school year

Ecuadorians receive an additional payment from their employer at the start of the school year. The idea being that this helps families better absorb the costs of the one-off payments required to cover uniforms, textbooks, etc. 

Where do Ecuadorian kids attend school? 

The public system is the main option for Ecuadorians in all stages of education (pre-school, school, high school, university) according to the last statistics taken in 2010.

Level of EducationPublicPrivateTotal
Pre-school81,39927,025108,424
School2,463,965673,5873,137,552
High school549,586231,155780,741
Superior Education427,545292,008719,553
TOTAL3,522,4951,223,7754,746,270
%74.2%25.8%100%
Data from Ecuador statistics official site

When do schools start & end? 

This depends on where you're going to live as different parts of the country have different holidays based on the rainy season. In the Sierra (incl Quito & Cuenca), the main holidays are generally over the months of July & August, with the new school year starting immediately after. 

At the coast, they have their main holiday around the months of January & February, with the semester commencing afterwards. 

How long is the school year? 

10 months.

Public holidays

Ecuador has 11 national public holidays and each province may also have its own. These holidays can certainly add up, giving you plenty of opportunities to explore Ecuador over 3 or 4 day weekends. We generally try to use these holidays for beach time (we live in Cuenca) or to visit areas 2-4 hours outside of Cuenca such as Loja/Vilcabamba, Yungilla & Riobamba etc. 

What after-school activities are available?

Many private & international schools offer a range of after-school activities for students. These activities may rotate every semester. Some of the activities offered MAY include: 

  • Football (ie soccer)
  • Swimming (especially if the school has a pool)
  • Martial arts
  • Dancing
  • Basketball
  • Scouts/exploring
  • Chess

The cost for these after-school activities is generally approx $50/month to cover 2 classes per week. 

Uniforms

Uniforms are required at most schools in Ecuador, including public & private. You'll generally need to purchase 2 different types of uniforms. The school will provide you with details of where to buy the uniforms from. 

1. Casual or day-to-day

This is your standard uniform that the kids will wear most days, including for physical education days. We recommend purchasing at least 2 of everything as you don't want to be washing every day. 

2. Formal

You'll also need to purchase a formal uniform that will be dusted off a few times each semester for official functions such as presentations. We only purchase one of these as they aren't used often. 

It's also a good idea to label everything with your child's name. This may even be an official requirement of the school. 

Textbooks and other material

You might be surprised at the length of the school supply list you're expected to go out and purchase at the start of each year. Yes, we are talking about textbooks, but it's so much more than that. 

You'll need to buy a bunch of stuff such as: 

  • Textbooks
  • Educational toys
  • Paper
  • Craft supplies
  • Toilet paper (yes, you may be expected to provide this)

Most of these items need to be individually labeled (not toilet paper...), which can take a whole day of your time as even the smallest items such as individual lego blocks & pencils need to be labeled.

Even if the school doesn't necessarily mandate labeling everything, it's still a pretty good idea as it acts as a deterrent from other kids stealing or 'misplacing' these items. 

You'll need to bring in all of these items on the first day of school. 

Transport

Riding the school bus in Ecuador
Kids riding the bus in Ecuador. Image: Lahora

Cars are luxuries in Ecuador because they are super expensive (at least 2x you'd pay in the US). This means that transport is offered by most institutions for a fee. How much you pay depends on how close to the school you happen to live.

The bus drivers will generally pick you up from your house and they may also have a chaperone that helps with the organizing - ie calling the parents if the student isn't ready.  

Some will organize everything for you, whilst others will simply give you contact details of bus companies that they are affiliated with and it's up to you to organize & negotiate the price directly. 

If you're looking for a ball-park figure, expect to pay around $60/month. 

Parent committees

There is a strong culture of active parent committees in the primary schools that we've enrolled in. We've been involved as representatives of our child's class and it's a great way to really understand how the school functions behind the scenes. It's also a great outlet for keeping up with all the school gossip...

Be prepared to be designated as President of your kid's class if you are the new parent in town. But if this seems a little daunting, you can always play the gringo card and say "no hablo Español". Being part of the committee does require additional effort and it can be particularly challenging if you end up being responsible for collecting funds from other parents. 

Additional participation

Funding is often a topic of discussion, with many schools needing (or choosing) to incorporate various fund-raising initiatives throughout the school year. Your participation in these types of events may even be mandatory. These types of activities may include: 

School fairs

Basically a fun day with lots of face painting, sports & delicious food. I honestly love the school fairs because it's a great opportunity to stuff myself with homemade cakes and other food that I wouldn't normally get to try. 

Clean up days

Community cleanup days or 'Mingas' are common throughout Ecuador. It's basically where the entire community gets together and gives the place a good tidy up. Your school may recommend or flat out require that you participate in these. 

Donations

Sometimes the school will just flat out ask you to donate for a particular cause such as the construction of a new building. 

What school year should my child enter?

Ecuador operates slightly differently to the US. With Kindergarten effectively replacing 1st grade. The following table will give you an idea of where your child would generally fit into the Ecuadorian school system. 

Grade in USYear in EcuadorAge (approx)
Kindergarten1 de Basica5
1 grade2 de Basica6
2 grade3 de Basica7
3 grade4 de Basica8
4 grade5 de Basica9
5 grade6 de Basica10
6 grade7 de Basica11
7 grade8 de Basica12
8 grade9 de Basica13
9 grade10 de Basica14

How to register your child in school?

Obviously, this depends on which type of school you're looking to enroll in. At a minimum, you'll need your child's passport (or cedula) and documentation to show which grade they should be enrolled in.

A report card will generally suffice and if there are any doubts, the school may require the child to take a test to ensure they're in the correct grade and won't be left behind. Sometimes an interview with the parents is also required. 

Our experience is that most education providers are very hesitant to provide details over the phone or via email, showing a strong preference to only answer questions via a personal appointment. This was very annoying for us when we were moving from Quito to Cuenca as the logistics were very difficult.

Perhaps COVID and its inevitable push towards using video conferencing has allowed them to be more open in accepting video calls instead of in-person appointments, but we can't confirm this. If you're having difficulty making contact by yourself, you can consider using a general facilitator that can do the leg work for you.

Wrapping up & your next steps

We hope this guide has helped answer your questions about schooling & education in Ecuador. Ecuador is a diverse country, and there are bound to be many nuances that are going to differ by each region and school.

Please take in consideration that at the moment schools are only offering online classes to avoid the spread of the pandemic.

Feel free to use this guide as a starting point for compiling your own questions to direct towards each school that you're considering for your child. You're welcome to get in contact if you have any questions and we'll try to respond as accurately as we can.

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