Education in Guatemala

Education in Guatemala is free and compulsory for six years. Guatemala has a three-tier system of education starting with primary school, followed by secondary school and tertiary education, depending on the level of technical training. 74.5% of the population age 15 and over is literate, the lowest literacy rate in Central America.

Issues
Despite primary education being compulsory and provided free by the government, the mean average years of schooling in 2011 was 4.1 years per student.

25.5% of Guatemala's population are illiterate, with illiteracy rates up to more than 60% in the indigenous population.

Education resources
The recruitment and retaining of quality teachers poses a large problem in rural areas of Guatemala. Apart from the meagre pay, most teachers come from larger towns, where they have been able to receive higher education and, faced with a daily commute of a few hours to reach rural areas, many 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.

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

School attendance
With more than half the population of Guatemalans living below the poverty line, it is hard for children going school, especially indigenous children, to afford the rising cost of uniforms, books, supplies and transportation -- none of which are supplied by the government. 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 rural areas to attend primary school. Most drop out due to the lack of access and largely inadequate facilities.

Gender inequality in education is common -- male literacy and school enrolment exceeds female rates in all aspects. Out of the 2 million children who do not attend school in Guatemala, the majority are indigenous girls living in rural areas. Most families 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.

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