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

Private Education in PakistanAs in many other nations, private education in Pakistan is filling the gaps created by a struggling public-school system. Public education is a dismal scene; despite being a nation with a school-aged population of 47.8 million, a full 64 percent of public schools are deemed to be in unsatisfactory conditions. This is a relatively unsurprising number considering the newest public schools built in urban areas are anywhere from 40 to 60 years old. Furthermore, many students are unable to enroll in public schools simply due to their scarcity, evidenced by the 10 percent decrease in the number of public primary schools from 2011 to 2016.

With all this in mind, it is of no surprise that 37 percent of the nation’s educational institutions are private. Even more significant is the fact that this private 37 percent is somehow serving 42 percent of the nation’s total population of enrolled students and employing 48 percent of all teachers. Even so, the obvious reality is that private education is often expensive, thus making it out of reach for the most vulnerable and impoverished children. Consequently, a new subset of private education has further entered the scene: low-cost private schools.

Such is where Nasra Public Schools comes in. Despite its misleading name, it is indeed a low-cost private educational institution, and was founded in 1949 in a bungalow living room. Today, it has expanded into a system of private schools that boasts five campuses and serves 11,000 students. By 2020, it is projected to expand to 14 campuses, and will potentially expand further to 70 campuses across the nation.

Nasra is committed to low-cost, high quality private education. It does so through a contained monthly fee, meaning that fees have a maximum limit in the effort to maintain financial accessibility for low-income families. This works extremely well, as an astounding 79 percent of Nasra students are from homes that make less than four dollars a day. Additionally, Nasra rents campus locations rather than purchasing land- diluting infrastructural costs, which is ultimately what allows them to continually expand.

The system employs a staff of roughly 1,000, and teaches in English, a huge draw for the school. Further, it partners with various well-established institutions, such as the British Council and Pakistan’s COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, to provide the necessary technological resources and to create the most modern curricula it can. It also provides various extracurricular activities, such as student council, arts programs, cricket and table tennis, the latter two being supported through a partnership with the British Council’s International Inspirational Program.

Yet, it is still necessary to note that Nasra schools are not currently located throughout the nation, although such is the intention for the future. There is still a myriad of students who cannot afford to enroll in even low-cost institutions, an issue largely due to transportation fees. In many cases, urban and rural alike, students’ transportation fees would exceed that of school fees themselves, effectively making even low-cost private schooling inaccessible as well. Thus, the work of Nasra and its potential for expansion is even more essential; more Nasra schools spread throughout the nation would mean more educational opportunities for those that most desperately need them.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr