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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Education in Guatemala

Professor Manual Hernandez listens to a question during our session today on rural education.

Today was another really interesting day at Celas Maya. What I really like about this place is that they are open to exposing their students to some social analysis. Today our speaker for the last two hours of lessons was Professor Manual Hernandez, an expert on education in Guatemala.

It was a fascinating talk. He outlined the archaic system of education that exists now in Guatemala. It is a story of powerful invested interests, corruption, attempts at reform and frustration. Prof. Hernandez outlined some of the challenges of a system where rural primary classes can have up to 43 kids in a class. He talked about issues around teacher qualification and tenure and the huge protests that are going on now in Guatemala as education students protest the government's decision to add two more years on to the post secondary education all educators must have.

While it is easy to blame the unions - called the magistry here in Guatemala - and outdated ideas on how schools should work, I think it is more basic than this. In Guatemala as in many other countries, little attention is paid by governments on how education should really work. I would argue that in Ontario this has changed over the past six or seven years, but in Guatemala, vested interests including the rich families who control the government will not allow change to happen. There is no political will here to make a change.

For me this is the greatest tradegy. No country, no people can succeed without a strong, independent, publicly supported school system. Such a system is what builds and nourishes a society. My hope for Guatemala is that the new government will find the political will necessary to make this system flourish!


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