Education Systems in North America Part IV: Guatemala

The greatest challenge facing the Guatemalan education system today is the high drop out rate. According to UNICEF, the completion rate was only 60% for primary school and 50.1% for middle school. Currently, education in Guatemala is free and compulsory for primary school however because only 60% of Guatemalans speak Spanish (40% speak Mayan languages), it is not universally accessible.

As previously stated, the completion rate of school in Guatemala is very low. However, there has been some progress in the attendance rate for primary school, where, according to UNICEF, the net enrollment rate has reached 95.5%. The school system is organized into pre-primary education, primary education, secondary education, and higher education. Primary education consists of six grades and is obligatory for children ages seven to fourteen, and secondary education lasts for three years plus either two or three depending on the chosen career path.

The grading scales are as follows, with a minimum pass of 51% in government schools and 61% in private schools.

Government schools:

Number Grade

Description

90-100

Excelente (Excellent)

80-89

Muy Bueno (Very good)

70-79

Bueno (Good)

60-69

Aceptable (Acceptable)

51-59

Minimo Aceptable (Barely Acceptable)

0-50

Reprobado (Failed)

Private schools:

Number Grade

Description

90-100

Excelente (Excellent)

80-89

Muy Bueno (Very good)

70-79

Bueno (Good)

61-69

Minimo Aceptable (Barely Acceptable)

0-60

Reprobado (Failed)

The Guatemalan Ministry of Education has established a national curriculum for basic education (through primary school), however due to the low quality of teachers and a lack in resources, this curriculum is not universally applied. The focus of the curriculum is on the following subject areas: communication and language, mathematics, natural sciences and technology, social sciences, art, physical education, and civic education.

The Universidad de San Carlos (USAC) is the only institution of higher education in Guatemala and it is located in the capital, Guatemala City. The rest are private institutions, with many of them being religiously affiliated. The government has granted the USAC complete control over public education and the USAC also regulates the private sector along with the Council of Private Higher Education (CEPS)

Admission into institutions of higher education in Guatemala is based on the completion of the Bachiller en Ciencias y Letras (High School Graduate in Science and Letters). Common postsecondary credentials include the T├ęcnico (Technician), which is awarded following the completion of two to three and one half-year programs and the Licenciado (Licenciate), which is awarded after the completion of four to six-year programs.