Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mara Pia Otero
Carolina Snaider
Victoria Grunstein
Unit for the Evaluation of Education Quality and Equity
Ministry of Education of the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Overview of Education System

Argentina has a federal education system. During the 1990s, school administration was transferred from the national government to state governments.1,2 Still, the national government plays an important role in defining and funding educational policies and targeted programs.

Public school curricula, budgets, and policies are determined by state governments. Argentina comprises the autonomous City of Buenos Aires and 23 provinces, each of which has responsibility for funding and managing its own educational system. The decision making process at the school level is highly centralized with limited autonomy for principals in selecting teachers, deciding curriculum, and administering budgets.3,4,5 Public schools are funded by city budgets and provide free education at the prekindergarten, kindergarten, primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, as well as at the university level in undergraduate programs.

Private schools are granted more pedagogical autonomy but still are required to follow state curriculum standards. Private schools are free to determine their own staffing policies. Private education is paid for by families, although in some cases (especially in primary and secondary schools) the state provides financial aid through a subsidy scheme designed to help finance teacher salaries, wholly or partially.6

Education is compulsory throughout Argentina from prekindergarten (age 4) to the completion of secondary school. The Buenos Aires education system is organized into four levels:

  • Early childhood education comprises prekindergarten and kindergarten, and serves children from 45 days to 5 years old.
  • Primary education comprises Grade 1 (age 6) to Grade 7.
  • Secondary education spans five or six years, depending on the track, and is divided into two cycles: a three year basic cycle and a second cycle, of three to four years, organized by subject discipline or vocational path.
  • Tertiary education depends on the city government and comprises technical or professional education, including basic teacher education programs.

When TIMSS 2015 was administered, there were 880 primary schools and 491 secondary schools in Buenos Aires, as presented in Exhibit 1.

Exhibit 1: Primary and Secondary Schools and Enrollment in the City of Buenos Aires, 2014

  Number of Schools Enrollment
  Primary Secondary Primary Secondary
Public 458 156 146,142 95,772
Private 422 335 134,751 91,046
Total 880 491 280,893 186,818
Source: City of Buenos Aires Annual Statistical Report, 2014

Languages of Instruction

In all public schools in Argentina, the official language and medium of instruction is Spanish. According to the 2010 Census, the proportion of residents identifying as members of an indigenous group was 2 percent.a National Education Law No. 26.206 established Intercultural Bilingual Education (EIB) as one of eight modalities (Chapter XI, Article 52) aiming to guarantee the constitutional right of indigenous people to education that contributes to preserving and strengthening their cultural norms, languages, world views, and ethnic identity; prepares them to function actively in a multicultural world; and improves their quality of life. In Buenos Aires, EIB policies include creating postgraduate degrees in teaching Spanish as a second language and intercultural education; offering ongoing professional development courses in Spanish as a second language and in foreign languages, including French, English, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese; and creating a centralized registry of bilingual teachers of indigenous languages.