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Honduras - History & Background

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceHonduras - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education

HISTORY & BACKGROUND

Honduras is a Central American nation that shares borders with Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. It has coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. More than three-fourths of the 29,236-square mile country is mountainous. In 1997, its population was over 6 million. Five major cities include Tegucigalpa (the capital), San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, Puerto Lempira, and Santa Rosa de Copán. Ninety percent of Hondurans are mestizo (a mixture of Spanish and Indian), 6 percent are Indian, and more than 2 percent are of African descent. Of these many are Black Caribs (guarifunas), who are of both Indian and black stock. The country, which already had one of the lowest per capita incomes in Central America, was decimated in 1998 by Hurricane Mitch, probably its biggest natural disaster ever.

In 1821 Honduras won independence from Spain and joined the Central American Federation, to which it belonged until it became a separate, independent country in 1841. Honduras has shifted from democratic to dictatorial governments, but in 1981 civilian rule returned. There are 18 provinces (departamentos) in the country, each with its own governor.

Under Spain, as in most Central American countries, Honduran education was an enterprise of the Roman Catholic Church. Normally, the richest families had access to the best education in or outside the country. For many years, most Hondurans attended universities in nearby Central American countries. Formally, education was recognized as a national enterprise in 1880, when a new constitution was approved; in 1881 an Act of Education was promulgated.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Honduras had already established the nondenominational character of public education, although it did provide some financial support for private (Roman Catholic) schools. Education got another boost at the beginning of the twentieth century when several normal schools (teacher training schools) were established. But advances were minimal from government to government. Recently, at the end of the twentieth century, the government of Ramón Villeda Morales established a more credible educational system and began to construct new schools.

The biggest enemy of both public and private education in Honduras is extreme poverty. Most Hondurans live below the poverty level, and many migrate to the United States and to other Central American nations in search of better living standards. It is unfortunate that one-fifth of the population controls more than half of the combined income of all of the families in Honduras.

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