18 December 2007

The State of Education in Guatemala

As many of you know, I'm involved in connecting donors in the United States with promising Guatemalan students who can't afford to get basic education. We're currently looking for donors, as the school year begins in January. To learn more about the project or donate, go to the website


Below, you'll find a description on the Education system in Guatemala.

The Guatemalan education system is unequivocally incapable of providing a basic education to every student. The Ministry of Education is infamously one of the most corrupt components of the government. There’s several places where the education system lacks.

  1. Small National Budget

Nearly all government services in Guatemala are financially strapped due to a lack of tax income for the government. Property taxes are paid for by only a handful of persons, and Income taxes don’t really exist. The only major source of funds is a national sales tax, but it is only paid for by certain vendors and excludes all sales in open air markets and the massive informal economy, where the majority of transactions occur.

2. Administrative Priorities

The Ministry of Education is known to be one of the most corrupt government agencies in the nation. Thousands of dollars are siphoned off by administrative officials for personal benefit. In addition, the local and national government is known to make investments in adding classrooms, teacher in-services, and computers without supporting recurring costs such as increasing the number of teachers or covering school supplies.

  1. Inadequate Number of Schools, Teachers and Classrooms

While the Ministry of Education claims to provide universal education, international studies show that it only serves 20% of all Guatemalan children. Classrooms are often packed with more than 40 students per teacher, and most public schools cap class sizes below 50 – leaving many students without access to public education.

4.The Family’s Response

To make up for the inadequate education system, particularly the lack of spaces for students, many children send their children to one of the many private schools. Most private schools are run by religious agencies that pull in some funds from local or international church groups. Occasionally non-religious groups also fund these schools.
The funding given to these schools does not cover most of the costs of anything beyond teacher salaries, such as office supplies, furniture, and improvements. The families of students end up footing most of the overall costs directly on top of all the school supplies, utilities, etc. Most private elementary schools (grades 1-6) cost 150-200 quetzals per month, or roughly $20-26. Middle school, none of which are public, cost roughly 300Q (US$40) per month. High school, which less than 20% of all Guatemalans graduate, costs roughly 450Q ($60) per month. On top of the tuition costs, students must purchase school uniforms, all their school supplies, and transportation.

A Glimmer of Hope

While the Chimaltenango Children’s Fund may not be able to change government policies, it seeks to provide scholarships to promising children who otherwise would not be able to afford schooling. We communicate with teachers in schools in the town of Tecp√°n and its surrounding villages, who help us find bright young students in need of financial support. The Fund provides 50% of tuition costs of children attending private school.


Anonymous said...

I'm working ith some folks around developing more educational resources for rural areas om Guate. Drop me an e-mail so we can talk.
Karen Lydon

Anonymous said...

Hey there, my name is Shayla. I'm with a team down here in Chimaltenango working on an ethnography study on the village of Patsun. I would love to have the opportunity to talk to you more about your experiences, if that's a possibility. Are you still in the area? I'll give you my e-mail address if you wouldn't mind just dropping me a line if you have the chance.

Shayla Rusling


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