Reading & Literacy

Foreign Exchange

June 06, 2001 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Guatemala is turning to its young people to help erase adult illiteracy there.

The culturally diverse Central American country last fall began requiring high school students to search out and teach adults who cannot read or write.

The Guatemalan education ministry estimates that some 55,000 students have signed up for the program, along with about 400,000 adults.

Initially, in order to graduate, students had to spend 200 or more hours over six months teaching at least five adults the basics of reading and writing. When some schools balked at the load, education officials backed off, and now let students teach fewer adults and for less time.

Still, the goal of the program is to cut the nation’s 45 percent illiteracy rate in half by 2004.

One of the challenges is overcoming language barriers. Spanish is the major tongue in Guatemala, a country of about 12 million people, but more than 20 dialects of indigenous languages are spoken—and are often the primary languages in rural areas.

Though most people seem to agree that the literacy program is well intentioned, it has its critics.

Some private schools have sued—unsuccessfully—over the government’s right to force them to comply.

Other private schools are making the best of the situation.

Barbara Barillas, the director of the American School of Guatemala, said the 100 seniors in her school in Guatemala City are participating, but had some difficulty finding adults to commit to classes.

On discovering the students were required to come up with adults to teach, some adults tried to charge the youngsters, she said.

While many hurdles have had to be overcome, such as teaching students how to teach, the program is starting to pay off, at least for students.

“In many ways, it sensitizes students to realities they’ve not confronted before,” she said. “But just how successful the program is [at teaching literacy] is not clear.”

—Robert C. Johnston

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2001 edition of Education Week as Foreign Exchange


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on Literacy in Education
In this Spotlight, evaluate the possible gaps your current curriculum may have and gain insights from the front-lines of teaching.
Reading & Literacy Creator of 1619 Project Launching After-School Literacy Program
The 1619 Freedom School, led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, will make its curriculum a free online resource in 2022.
4 min read
Collage of an American Flag.
Collage: Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Supporting Students With Structured Literacy
Structured Literacy is instruction that’s informed by the science of reading. Read this white paper from Lexia® Learning: Structured Lite...
Content provided by Lexia Learning