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Education in Central AmericaMany Central Americans are attempting to migrate to the U.S., motivated by the prospect of finding a better life. An understanding of current conditions in Central America is key to understanding the reasons behind migration. Education is a vital component of any region. These 10 facts provide information about this vital component, giving readers a glimpse at education in Central America.

10 Facts about Education in Central America

  1. Many teens and young adults are not in school – Currently, Guatemala’s primary-school-aged population is almost fully enrolled in school. But secondary-school enrollment is not as common. About 2 million Guatemalans aged 15-24 are not in school. In 2017, 60,573 Salvadoran adolescents were not in school. In the same year, 192,262 Honduran adolescents were also not in school. Additionally, unemployment rates are high for this age group. Children in rural Guatemala are also significantly less likely to remain in school than their urban peers.
  2. There is low gender disparity – In 2017,  the number of Guatemalan adolescents enrolled in secondary school was 47.2 percent. Of these students, 47.1 percent of female adolescents were enrolled, while 47.2 percent of boys were enrolled. In 2016, 84.9 percent of girls were able to transition from primary school to secondary school. Additionally, 94.2 percent of boys were able to make the transition. Overall, the disparities between male and female enrollment were not large, indicating a positive trend in regard to education in Central America. Typically, gender disparities in education are higher in low-income countries.
  3. There are low completion and enrollment rates in secondary education – Only about half of Salvadoran children attend secondary school. Even fewer go on to graduate from secondary school. Roughly 300,000 Salvadorans between the ages of 15 to 24 are unemployed and not enrolled in school. High rates of poverty, food insecurity and violence prevent Salvadoran youth from accessing the education and vocational training that they need.
  4. Girls are more likely to complete primary school – On average, Salvadoran children spent about 11 and a half years in school. Girls were less likely to repeat grades and more likely to finish primary school. Boys were slightly more likely to transition from primary school to secondary school, with 91.72 percent of girls and 92.44 percent of boys making the transition.
  5. The Education Law seeks to improve the education system – In 2012, the Honduran government passed the Education Law as part of a major effort to reform its education system. The Education Law redefined “basic education” to extend to grades six through nine. It required preschool attendance and introduced a new system for hiring and monitoring teachers. The Education Law emphasized cooperation with rural populations in need of better schools.
  6. The average amount of schooling is ten years – On average, Honduran children spent about 10 years in school as of 2015. Girls spent an average of 10.66 years in school, while boys spent an average of 9.8 years in school.
  7. Enrollment rates are increasing – From 1999 to 2009, preschool enrollment increased in both Honduras and El Salvador. During the same period, primary school enrollment increased in Guatemala and El Salvador. The first decade of the 21st century saw a significant decrease in child labor, with more and more children in school instead of working.
  8. Literacy is high – As of 2015, 81.5 percent of Guatemalans were literate. As of 2016, 89 percent of Hondurans were literate. As of 2015, 81.5 percent of Salvadorans were literate.
  9. U.S. Congress is now involved – In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation to address education in Central America. The legislation has an emphasis on the Northern Triangle region of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. 70 percent of migrants from the Northern Triangle claims to have received no education beyond primary school. This is a factor that contributes to their desire to migrate with their families. The U.S is currently providing data to the Northern Triangle countries about their educational systems in order to show them the areas that are most in need of attention.
  10. Central Americans are migrating for better education – Current migration rates from Central America to the U.S. are fueled in part by parents’ desires to access better education for their children. Central American public schools are underfunded, and the private schools in the region are too expensive for many families. In some cases, Honduran parents spend over half of their income to send their children to private schools, a practice that is not financially sustainable. They see more opportunity and safety in American public schools.

Improving Education in Central America

Overall, poverty greatly hinders educational progress in Central America. Many adolescents, especially in the Northern Triangle, are not in school and are unprepared to enter the workforce. Fortunately, there are many positive signs as well, such as nearly universal primary school enrollment and low gender disparities in secondary school enrollment. Education drives migration. As a result, aid programs prioritizing education initiatives could decrease migration and improve the lives of countless children. Improving the quality of education in Central America is vital to the future of the region and its people.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in the Kyrgyz Republic
Education breeds confidence and encourages young girls to pursue opportunities otherwise not available to them, which is one reason why it is so integral to learn about the top 10 facts about girls’ education in the Kyrgyz Republic and foster international and local policies that support equality in education. Working towards complete gender equality in education in the Kyrgyz Republic will not only improve the lives of millions of girls and women, but it will also benefit everyone in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in the Kyrgyz Republic

  1. There is virtually no gender disparity in children attending primary and secondary school. In 2017, primary school enrollment rates for girls were at 89.18 percent compared to 90.6 percent for boys; 97.79 percent of girls completed primary school compared to 97.45 percent of boys. Furthermore, 87.06 percent of girls attend secondary school compared to 87.32 percent of boys. Thus, boys in the Kyrgyz Republic are less than two percent more likely to attend primary school than girls and less than half a percent more likely to attend secondary school.
  2. Women and girls in the Kyrgyz Republic have very similar literacy rates to men and boys. In 2009, 98.98 percent of women ages 15 years and older were literate compared to 99.52 percent of men. However, older women who are ages 65 and older have a 5.41 percent lower literacy rate than men in that same age group. Although these numbers are promising, further reading of the top 10 facts about girls’ education in the Kyrgyz Republic gives insight into why more needs to be done to improve girls’ education.
  3. Parents and teachers seldom discuss menstruation or explain the process of puberty to their daughters or students. Aigerim, a 17-year-old from Vasilevka, a village in the northern Kyrgyz Republic, said: “In most families, the mothers never talk with their daughters about menstruation.” This issue is exacerbated by the lack of suitable bathrooms for privacy and the disposal of menstrual products in Kyrgyz schools. A 2011 study found that 85 percent of bathrooms in Kyrgyz schools were pit latrines, only 11.5 percent of rural schools had sewage systems that worked and bathrooms built during the Soviet era did not have individual stalls for privacy. This shame and lack of suitable bathrooms create a block of access for girls in the Kyrgyz Republic and impact the quality of education.
  4. To encourage girls to continue to attend school while on their periods, UNICEF and Save the Children have created training programs about menstruation education as part of the Wins4Girls’s WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) project. The program trained 100 teachers from 100 schools on how to approach the subject in school settings and make education more welcoming to female students. Although there are no statistical results of the training program thus far, Wins4Girls teamed up with the NGO “Our Voice” to spread the WASH program to local youth centers. As a result of these efforts, a total of 403 additional girls received training on menstrual hygiene and awareness.
  5. Sexual education in Kyrgyz schools is extremely lacking. In schools throughout the Kyrgyz Republic, and especially in rural areas, any topics to do with sexual health “are to all intents and purposes not discussed.” As a result, when women marry they know very little about STIs, HIV, AIDS or birth control. In fact, the National Statistical Committee found in 2010 that only 30.3 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 were using any form of contraceptives. Some politicians such as the former leader of the conservative political party, Tursunbay Bakir Uulu, have advocated for the introduction of a religious style of education which would include the elimination of all sexual education courses or information in public schools.
  6. Child marriage in the Kyrgyz Republic robs many young girls of education prospects or any opportunities for future independence. In the Kyrgyz Republic, 19.1 percent of girls are married between the ages of 15 to 19. According to the U.N., child marriage causes girls to leave school early and almost all child brides do not return to school after marriage. In fact, 28.4 percent of girls married before the age of 18 did not complete secondary school. Child marriage is more common in poorer, more rural areas and amongst girls who have lower levels of access to education.
  7. Non-profit organizations are pursuing policy initiatives to decrease the rates of child marriage in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Osh Resource Center of the Interbilim International Center worked to raise awareness of child marriage and trained 20 girls on how to convince their parents not to allow child marriage. This grassroots program focused on such a small group because it was started by a Kyrgyz child bride to help girls in her own community.
  8. Although there is access to education for girls in the Kyrgyz Republic, opportunities to apply that education in the workforce are very limited, both legally and culturally. In 2015, women in the Kyrgyz Republic made up 40 percent of the workforce compared to 44 percent in 1990. The Kyrgyz government actively classifies 400 jobs that women are forbidden from applying to. Furthermore, Kyrgyz laws discriminate against women workers by enforcing shorter work weeks for women in certain areas and designating specific jobs as too dangerous for women such as work that involves heavy lifting or any jobs which take place underground. The lack of female workers costs the Kyrgyz Republic 0.4 percent of its GDP annually.
  9. The Kyrgyz Republic has a very high gender pay gap, which has steadily worsened. In 2010, women made 63.6 percent of what Kyrgyz men earned compared to 67.6 percent in 2000. Although women are slightly more likely to complete primary and secondary education than men, the sectors women enter in the Kyrgyz workforce are generally lower paying. For example, women make up 77 percent of teachers and 71 percent of hotel and restaurant workers in the Kyrgyz Republic. The gap in wages is discouraging and many young girls in the Kyrgyz Republic will have little incentive to seek higher education if their job prospects and earnings continue to be so limited.
  10. Although female presence in the Kyrgyz workforce is modest, there are policy initiatives to rectify this discrepancy which would also encourage more young girls in the Kyrgyz Republic to seek education. The USAID initiative Agro Horizon has helped more than 20,000 women working in agriculture learn to access markets and grow their farming businesses. In addition, the USAID Business Growth Initiative provides training in business and management skills for over 2,000 Kyrgyz women working in the apparel and tourism industries, allowing these women to access new technologies and spread their businesses to new markets. The presence of successful, independent female role models is imperative in order for young girls to stay in school and seek higher education.

Path to Independence

Education is the path to independence and a future of opportunities for young girls in the Kyrgyz Republic. Although these top 10 facts about girls’ education in the Kyrgyz Republic show that there is still gender inequality in the Kyrgyz economy, improving education standards for girls will benefit all of its citizens and lead to a fuller and more equal life for women in the Kyrgyz Republic.

– Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

z1 Borgen Project
A recent report, “Women and Health: the key for sustainable development,” emphasizes why gender sensitive health policy is important. Gender sensitive health policy answers the call to value women, compensate women, count women and be accountable to women.

In the past, women have been excluded from educational and economic opportunities, and this has contributed to the lack of development in many countries, as well as gender inequitable societies.

Oportunidades, a cash-transfer program in Mexico, is an example of the kind of work that gender sensitive health policy supports. Money is provided to families who ensure that their children attend school and maintain the health of their families. The project compensates for the obstacles that girls have traditionally faced in attending school (boys favored over girls) by providing larger benefits to families for specifically allowing their girls to attend school.

It is critical that the environment in which these types of policy are enacted is enabling. Women should be able to fulfill leadership roles in the development of these types of policy to ensure that their voices are heard.

When women secure leadership roles in family life, in addition to political efforts, they are more likely to make decisions that will benefit their communities.

For example, in the Philippines, the money that women provide for their families has helped to increase the consumption of protein and calories to avoid malnutrition.

Gender-responsive programs can be implemented in the agricultural sector. In Burkina Faso, plots owned by women are 30 percent smaller than men’s because they do not have access to the labor and fertilizer that men rely on. Programs that offered avenues for women to access labor and fertilizer for their land would minimize this disparity.

The Women and Health report’s significant conclusion states that gender-responsive policy can “accelerate sustainable development”. Women are valuable assets to their community. When this is recognized and addressed in policy, there is massive potential for reduction in poverty and increased quality of life.

-Iliana Lang

Sources: The Lancet
Photo: Harvard

CARE
A promising and efficient solution to solving global poverty involves educating women, and the nonprofit humanitarian organization CARE aims to do just that. Since its development in 1945, CARE has provided humanitarian and anti-poverty aid to over 97 million people around the globe.

CARE’s programs in the developing world address empowerment and education for women on topics such as economic development, gender equality and health. Education in such areas helps alleviate global poverty because it attacks the issue’s foundation. CARE seeks to expose and positively change the political, social and economic norms that sustain extreme poverty.

Empowering women is not only a moral obligation, but an economic boon. Countries that invest in education for girls and women tend historically to have lower poverty rates. The World Bank reports that every extra year of secondary schooling for girls can increase their future wages by up to 20 percent.

Educating women and girls contributes to the alleviation of poverty in a variety of ways. First, educated women are more likely to marry later and have fewer and healthier children. They can subsequently focus more attention and expenditures on each child. Second, they are aware of their rights and possess the self-confidence to claim them. Third, they are better able to maintain a stable position in the workforce. Lastly, educated women are more likely than men to allocate resources to their children and families.

Yet despite its benefits, education for women is often subpar. CARE reports: “In more than 20 developing nations, illiteracy rates among women exceed 70 percent.” This constitutes a vicious cycle. A lack of education prevents women from rising out of poverty, but poverty also prevents a large percentage of girls and women from attaining secondary education.

Globally, this gender disparity in education remains a firmly established problem. It is neither morally nor economically sound to undermine half of the world’s workforce. In fact, promoting gender equality in an effort to fight global poverty is one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

Therefore, although CARE focuses primarily on girls and women, the organization also attempts to dismantle the social norms of inequity throughout communities. Through education and anti-poverty projects, women gain self-respect and self-reliance. CARE reports that when men witness such transformations in their wives or daughters, they tend to reevaluate their negative perceptions of women.

CARE demonstrates that women’s empowerment is key in the fight against extreme global poverty. When women earn their own income, they lay the foundations for healthier and more educated future generations.

Due to the efforts and achievements of organizations like CARE, foreign aid is increasingly being targeted at women and girls. There is growing recognition that education for women may be one of the most effective ways to combat global poverty.

— Mari LeGagnoux

Sources: CARE, United Nations, UNFPA, World Bank
Photo: Allianz