República Oriental del Uruguay is a country in the southeastern region of South America. It is bordered by Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to the south and southeast.
Uruguay is the least evangelized country in all of South America and has the highest suicide rate in the region.
Uruguay is home to 3.45 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the metropolitan area of its capital and largest city, Montevideo.
Official language: Spanish
Uruguayan Spanish has some modifications due to the considerable number of Italian immigrants. Immigrants used to speak a mixture of Italian and Spanish known as 'cocoliche' and some of the words are still commonly used by the population. English is common in the business world and its study has risen significantly in recent years, especially among the young. Other languages include Portuguese and Portuñol (a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese). Both are spoken in the northern regions near the Brazilian border. As few native people exist in the population, no indigenous languages are thought to remain in Uruguay.
Education in Uruguay is secular, free, and compulsory for 14 years, starting at the age of 4. The system is divided into six levels of education: early childhood (3–5 years); primary (6–11 years); basic secondary (12–14 years); upper secondary (15–17 years); higher education (18 and up); and post-graduate education.
Public education is the primary responsibility of three institutions: the Ministry of Education and Culture, which coordinates education policies, the National Public Education Administration, which formulates and implements policies on early to secondary education, and the University of the Republic, responsible for higher education. In 2009, the government planned to invest 4.5% of GDP in education.
Uruguay ranks high on standardized tests such as PISA at a regional level, but compares unfavorably to the OECD average, and is also below some countries with similar levels of income. In the 2006 PISA test, Uruguay had one of the greatest standard deviations among schools, suggesting significant variability by socio-economic level.
Uruguay has no official religion; church and state are officially separated, and religious freedom is guaranteed. After independence, anti-clerical ideas spread to Uruguay, particularly from France, further eroding the influence of the church. In 1837, civil marriage was recognized and in 1861 the state took over the running of public cemeteries. In 1907, divorce was legalized and in 1909, all religious instruction was banned from state schools. Under the influence of the innovative Colorado reformer José Batlle y Ordóñez (1903–1911), complete separation of church and state was introduced with the new constitution of 1917. The decadence took its course and in 2012, abortion was legalized. In 2013, same-sex marriage and cannabis were legalized. In 2014 Uruguay was the first country to regulate legal production, sale and consumption of marijuana.