New higher education project launches in El Salvador, aims to boost economic growth

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—On Friday, December 5, more than 250 individuals from El Salvador's government, academia, and the private sector joined the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to celebrate the launch of "Proyecto de USAID para una Educación Productiva " (in English, "USAID Project for Productivity through Higher Education").

The $22 million project – implemented by RTI International - will run through 2019 and aims to improve higher education in El Salvador to boost Salvadoran competitiveness and economic growth. The project contributes to El Salvador's Partnership for Growth Presidential Initiative (PFG).

Senior leaders and officials from USAID and the Salvadoran government and private sector provided messages of support for the initiative, including:

  • Mark Lopes, Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID/LAC
  • Francisco Marroquín, National Director of Higher Education, Ministry of Education
  • Juan Francisco Martínez, President of Salvadoran Chamber of Information & Communication Technology (CASATIC)
  • Leslie Quiñonez, Technical Sub-Secretary of Planning for the Presidency

Her Excellency Mari Carmen Aponte, ambassador of the United States to El Salvador, attended as a guest of honor. The project's Chief of Party Dr. Richard Navarro and Mr. Juan Francisco Martinez signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the project and CASATIC to recognize the information technology (IT) sector as the project's first target sector to benefit from the formation of clusters of innovation with higher education and private sector investments in talent and applied research. 

The project provides capacity building to Salvadoran higher education institutions and seeks to improve education quality by providing enhanced faculty development and specialized training, more relevant curricula, and strengthened institutional capacities. Over the next five years, the project aims to create long-term impact in the following areas:

  • Provide faculty members opportunities to advance their industry knowledge, upgrade their teaching and research skills, and participate in applied research projects with industry partners
  • Develop and update curricula that are more closely tied to the needs of the local industry, economy and employers
  • Prepare Salvadoran students for employment success
  • Facilitate academia-industry-government dialogue on higher education policy

 "The USAID Project for Productivity through Higher Education is an innovative project that can bolster El Salvador's competitiveness and growth by helping higher education better support industry's talent and research needs," said Estera Barbarasa, the project manager for RTI. "RTI is bringing models from our higher education implementation partnerships with USAID in other parts of the world.  We are excited to partner with Salvadoran private sector and higher education institutions that are motivated to improve the quality of teaching, student success in the job market, and research collaborations with industry."

 Project subcontractor partners include the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (and U.S. community colleges of the Trans-Atlantic Technology & Training Alliance), Rutgers University, and World Learning. Previous and ongoing RTI work in El Salvador has included projects on municipal competitiveness improvements, workforce development and crime prevention.

 "RTI knows El Salvador well from our previous 15 years of work in the country," Barbarasa said. "Our vision is to help create successful models of university and industry-linked education and research that can be replicated throughout El Salvador and the region's higher education sector."

 To keep up-to-date on the latest regarding this initiative, please follow the project on Twitter @ESProductiva.


  • RTI International is implementing a project to improve higher education in El Salvador to boost Salvadoran competitiveness and economic growth
  • More than 250 individuals from El Salvador’s government, academia and the private sector joined USAID to celebrate the project launch Dec. 5