Education

In a study published this March by the World Economic Forum, Guatemala was found to have the worst educational system in all of Central America, ranking 125th of 133 countries surveyed. [1] Government-run schools are under-funded, overcrowded, and philosophically antiquated. Private schools are run like businesses—profit takes precedence over educating children.  For these reasons, of every ten Guatemalan children, only eight will ever set foot in elementary school, and all but three will drop out before sixth grade [2].  Less that one out of every ten children will graduate high school and even fewer will continue their studies at the university.  This helps to explain why, in a country with over 20% unemployment, there is still a strong demand for skilled workers, which the Asturias Academy has been training for the past 16 years.

Guatemala suffers from the worst levels of illiteracy in the Americas, with more than 30% of Guatemalans unable to read according to the latest UN Development Programme Report.  This places Guatemala 134th in the world in terms of literacy. [3] Among indigenous populations these figures are considerably worse with more than 65% of indigenous womens lacking even basic literacy skills.  One huge impediment to access to quality better education is the country’s low level of social investment. In 2007 Guatemala spent just 1.8% of its GDP (US $611 million) on education – well below the Latin American and Caribbean average of 4.7%, as well as the UNESCO-recommended 6% of GDP.  This policy helps to preserve the highly unequal socio-economic structure and weighs most heavily on indigenous populations. It also guarantees the continuation of their historical socio-economic exclusion, including the denial of their educational rights. [4]

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[1]    Zecena Leonel Diaz, “Baja calidad marca educación nacional.” Prensa Libre 26 March 2010.  Web. 24 May 2010.
[2]    Richards, R. (2007). “Transforming Education.” Mpls, MN: Need Communications Inc. www.needmagazine.com.
[3]     United Nations Development Programme Report 2009. page 171
[4] Minority Rights Group International, State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 – Guatemala, 16 July 2009, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4a66d9b550.html [accessed 24 May 2010]