|Abstract: ||The designation of the 1990s as the ‘World Decade for Cultural Development’ has
focused worldwide attention more directly on an ever-widening educational crisis. It is
usually accepted that the most immediate global concern, is the condition of illiteracy that affects the lives of nearly one billion people accounting for 13.8% of the global population.
When literacy is defined as more than merely reading and writing simple sentences, the scope of the problem increases substantially, involving nations at all stages of
development. When children cannot read, it limits their ability to learn other subjects
thereby hampering their participation in the larger society and the economy. Inevitably, those principally affected are groups that are already disadvantaged: the poor, rural populations (mostly indigenous people), and especially women.
The magnitude of the literacy challenge, however, requires political determination
and cooperation to greatly surpass past achievements. The enormous human and financial resources required to meet this challenge can be released only through profound changes in the organization of human affairs, a reprioritization within ministerial sectors, and the acknowledgement of the transformative role that literacy plays in both individual lives and social organizations.
The aim of this research is to identify the main challenges in Guatemala's education
system to achieving higher early grade literacy among its student population and that of indigenous students in particular. The methodology for this research encompasses a literature review comprised of English and Spanish sources (Spanish is the official language in Guatemala), relying primarily on academic publications and reports from international educational organizations.
Roughly 60% of Guatemala’s population aged 15 to 24 has completed at least six
years of primary education, making it the lowest average among the other eighteen Latin American countries. Those with the lowest levels of education have the highest risk of poverty. Indigenous people comprise about 40-60% of Guatemala’s population and they are disproportionately at risk of poverty and underachievement in literacy. Early grade literacy particularly applies to children between ages 3 and 8 years of age. Since the indigenous children are the majority in the classrooms, policies and interventions must be designed to satisfy and excel the needs of this population, in order to increase enrolment, literacy achievements, and transform the entire education system of Guatemala in the direction that will lead to a holistic approach where literacy is intertwined with the development of society.
The challenges Guatemala faces in literacy are enormous – ranging from emergent
literacy programs and primary education systems, which produce partially literate children, to adult literacy training programs. The challenge then is to provide quality education that will lead to prosperous, healthy, and successful populations; the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills for early grade students; the improvement of student learning; and the extension of kindergarten and primary educational services.|