Education in Guatemala

During the “troubles” from 1956 to 1996, formal, rural education practically disappeared. People were displaced, disappearances were common and massacres became the norm for Mayan communities.

Many Guatemalans do not attend school, but start working at a young age to sustain their families.

Many parents think girls should not attend school since they should be preparing for motherhood. In other cases, parents feel their children will improve through work, not academic study. Others would like to attend but do not have the money to pay school fees.

Nearly 32% of Guatemalans are illiterate, with illiteracy rates up to 60% in the indigenous population.

With more than half the population living below the poverty line, it is hard for indigenous children to afford the rising costs of school uniforms, books, supplies and transportation, all of which are not supplemented by the government.

Many classrooms, especially in rural areas, do not meet the minimum standards for classroom space, teaching materials, classroom equipment and furniture and water sanitation.

The typical school year runs from January to October.

Primary School – although the first 6 years of basic education is free and mandatory, primary schools are scarce, too small with very limited resources in the rural indigenous areas.

Middle Education – the first 3 years of secondary education, known as basico, provide students with a wide range of subjects.

Secondary Education – the final two or three years are called diversificado and are more specialized. Study areas such as teaching, agronomy, auto mechanics, computers, secretarial services and tourism may be taught. Some such as teaching are three years and others such as tourism are two years.

Only 2 % of Guatemalans attend university and only half of those students graduate.

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