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Guatemala Education and Training



One of five Guatemalans cannot read and write. Illiteracy is particularly high among Mayan women in rural areas. In some parts of the country, three out of five women in this group are not literate.

Although Guatemala has increased government spending on education since the mid-1990s, it still belongs to the Latin American countries that are least focused on education. The school system is characterized by major inequalities and a lack of money. Guatemalan girls - and all children from the indigenous peoples - have consistently worse access to education than the average population.

  • Allcitypopulation: Offers a list of biggest cities in the state of Guatemala, including the capital city which hosts major colleges and universities.
  • COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Guatemala, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.

Schooling is compulsory for nine years, from seven to 15 years of age. It is divided into a first stage of six years and a high school of three years. Almost all children start school, but many drop out after only a few years. In spite of the compulsory schooling, not even half of the children attend high school and only one in four continues at the corresponding high school.

One reason why children do not complete schooling is that families find it difficult to meet the expenses for books and school uniforms that exist even though the school is formally free.

In areas with a high proportion of indigenous people, children are entitled to bilingual education.

Founded in 1676, the State University of San Carlos was the only one in the country until the 1950s. With over 150,000 students, it is one of the largest universities in the Western Hemisphere. The head office is in Guatemala City, but there are branches in the country. Nowadays there are also about 15 private universities.

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Proportion of children starting primary school

85.6 percent (2017)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

22 (2016)

Reading and writing skills

81.3 percent (2014)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

23.1 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

23.1 percent (2017)



Criticism against the United States for infected migrants

May 22

President Alejandro Giammattei strongly criticizes his American colleague Donald Trump because the US deported migrants infected by the new corona virus. According to Giammattei, the deportations have led to quarantine centers overlapping with people while there is great pressure on the country's limited healthcare system. Of the approximately 2,000 confirmed cases of coronary infection in Guatemala, about 100 have been found in people sent home from the United States.


The appeal to the United States halted deportations

April 6

The government is asking the US government to reduce the number of deportees returning to Guatemala to be reduced to 25 per aircraft, from between 60 and 90. The cause is concern for those being sent back to bring coronas from the US, the country in the world that now has most cases of coronary cases confirmed. Two people have already been taken from aircraft and discovered to be infected. So far, 70 cases have been discovered in Guatemala elsewhere. Travel within the country has been banned in connection with the Easter weekend.


Exception state due to the corona virus

March 17

President Alejandro Giammattei faces a state of emergency because of the new corona virus that has caused a pandemic in the world. Public transport and all public collections are stopped, and all workplaces, public as well as private, that do not meet specific health and safety requirements must close. The government believes that the quarantine rules are necessary, although only a few cases of coronary infection have yet been discovered in Guatemala. A larger outbreak would have serious consequences given the country's limited healthcare resources. The borders have already been closed to foreigners and the government has presented a stimulus package to support business and industry.


Former state prosecutors are granted asylum in the United States

February 24th

Former state prosecutor, anti-corruption and presidential candidate Thelma Aldana receive political asylum in the United States, where she escaped an arrest warrant (see May 2019). The government has recently said that it intends to request Aldana surrender. Aldana believes that the charges against her constitute revenge for co-operating with UN-supported Commission Cicig, which actively participated in the fight against corruption in Guatemala for twelve years.


Giammattei takes over as president

January 14

Alejandro Giammattei swears presidential nomination and becomes the country's 51st president. He has pledged efforts to attract foreign investment and to fight organized crime by stamping gang members such as terrorists, tightening prison sentences and reintroducing the death penalty. Giammattei is a surgeon and has previously been the chief of the country's prisons, which ended with him serving ten months in detention. The cause was an investigation into the murder of seven inmates, which however resulted in the prosecution being dropped. The now 63-year-old Giammattei has been running for president and mayor in the capital for 20 years, but has never won any election before. He is also a conservative on social issues and opposes, among other things, abortion and same-sex marriage.



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