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Education in Guatemala is free and compulsory for six years.[1] In 1997, the gross primary enrollment rate was 88.1 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 73.5 percent.[1] However, only 30 percent of students who begin primary school in Guatemala complete this level of education.[1] Children who do not attend school are concentrated in rural areas, and a disproportionate number of them are indigenous.[1]

List of universities in Guatemala

Issues Regarding Education in Guatemala[edit]

Guatemala has a 3-tier system of education starting with primary school, followed by secondary school and tertiary education, depending on the level of technical training. Despite primary education being compulsory and provided free by the government, mean years of schooling in 2011 still stood at a low of 4.1. The difference in percentages between gross enrolment ratio dropped by more than half from primary to secondary school.[2] Although the Guatemalan government devotes a percentage of its budget to education expenditure, nearly 31.7% of the country’s near 12 million people are illiterate, with illiteracy rates up to more than 60% in the indigenous population.[3]

The current state of education in Guatemala still remains significantly under-funded and many classrooms nationwide, especially in rural Guatemala, do not meet minimum standards for classroom space, teaching materials, classroom equipment and furniture, and water/sanitation.[4]

With more than half the population of Guatemalans living below the poverty line,[5] it is hard for school going children, especially indigenous children, to afford the rising cost of school uniforms, books, supplies and transportation, all of which are not supplemented by the government.[6] This is exacerbated by the fact that, for poorer students, time spent in school could be time better spent working to sustain the family. It is especially hard for children living in the rural areas to attend primary school and most drop out due to the lack of access and largely inadequate facilities.

Gender inequality in the sphere of education is also common, where male literacy and school enrollment rates dominate female rates in all aspects. Out of the 2 million children who do not attend school in Guatemala, majority are indigenous girls living in rural areas. In addition, most families still subscribe to patriarchal traditions that tie women to a domestic role and the majority would rather send a son than a daughter to school if they could afford it.[7]

Moreover, the recruitment and retaining of quality teachers poses a large problem in rural areas of Guatemala. Apart from the meagre pay, most teachers often come from larger towns, where they have been able to receive higher education, and, faced with a daily commute of a few hours in order to reach the rural areas, many would rather seek employment in the larger towns first. The lack of curriculum guides or teaching materials in rural schools also hamper efforts to improve education standards in those areas[6]


  1. ^ a b c d "Guatemala". 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor (2002). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "2011 Human Development Report". United Nations Development Programme. p. 160.
  3. ^ [ Education (all levels) profile – Guatemala. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 22 February 2012.]
  4. ^ The Development of an Educational System in a Rural Guatemalan Community Oscar H. Horst and Avril McLellandJournal of Inter-American Studies , Vol. 10, No. 3 (Jul., 1968), p. 478-479Published by: Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami
  5. ^ [ CIA World Factbook, Guatemala". July 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012]
  6. ^ a b School Efficiency in Rural Guatemala Kathleen S. Gorman and Ernesto PollittInternational Review of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft / Revue Internationale de l'Education , Vol. 38, No. 5 (Sep., 1992), p. 523 Published by: Springer
  7. ^ Education and Poverty in Guatemala, John Edwards, 2002. p. 23 and 30. Retrieved 22 February 2012.

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