Similar to the United States, the educational system in Guatemala is divided into three levels: primary (elementary), secondary (high school), and university. Education in Guatemala is free and compulsory through sixth grade, or between the ages of 7 and 14. Because public schools are often located sparsely in the rural areas of the country, there is an abundance of private schools in Guatemala. Many of these institutions are Marist or Jesuit. In total, there are approximately 9,300 primary schools, which are attended by 1.3 million students. More than 290,000 students attend private secondary schools, and the total university enrollment in Guatemala is approximately 88,000.
Language of Instruction: Although Spanish is the official language spoken in Guatemala, not all of its citizens are fluent in Spanish. Spoken among the nation's high Indian population are over 20 indigenous Mayan Indian languages, including K'iche', Kakchiquel, K'ekchi, Mam, and Quiche, which are used primarily in the rural areas of the country. In fact, only 60 percent of Guatemala's population speaks Spanish; the remaining 40 percent speak indigenous Mayan languages. These dialects are spoken in many of the country's rural schools. One of Guatemala's educational goals is to become uni-lingual, which means that ideally all Guatemalans would be able to speak Spanish. However, students who complete all 6 years of primary school and all 5 years of secondary may have as many as 11 years of English instruction, a trend which began around the time of Guatemala's break from dictatorship in the late 1940s. Since that time, school children, at least in the larger cities, may have also received training in other languages, especially French, German, and Italian.
Instructional Technology (Computers): Lack of adequate educational technology remains a problem for the Guatemalan classroom, especially in the mountainous, rural areas. Absence of funding, limited technical access, and lack of operator expertise prevent all schools from being equipped with state-of-the-art computers and distance learning technology. However, these commodities are making their entrance into the universities, particularly the University of San Carlos, which boasts a fully updated website, student access to the Internet, and other interactive features. Students who can afford the required technology and tuition may participate in online education courses offered outside of the country.
Curriculum—Development: The Guatemalan Ministry of Education supports a progressive, globalized curriculum. One of the country's major educational achievements is its focus on globalization and multicultural affairs. Starting in secondary school, students learn about other cultures and nations, including their Latin American neighbors, other Western-hemisphere countries, and countries all over the world. This attention to multiculturalism aids in Guatemala's presence in international affairs, global commerce, and social development. Curriculum in Guatemala also gives attention to the social issues the country faces and encourages its students to be active in helping solve these problems.
Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceGuatemala - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education