June 3, 2007

Honduran educational system

I’ve been meaning to blog about the educational system here in Honduras for quite some time so I’m finally getting to it. I had to do a little research on this topic for my Spanish class when we were still in Santa Lucia so that’s why I have some percentages and other data.

Apparently, Honduras’ educational system is the worst one in Central America. There are many problems including lack of resources and schools, lots of teacher strikes, poor teacher training and really no system of teacher accountability. By that I mean the teachers can do whatever they want in their classroom…they can chat with peers and drink coffee all day if they want and there is really no one who will tell them they can’t do that. I’m not saying all teachers in Honduras spend their days drinking coffee and chatting...of course, there are some very good teachers but there are some pretty bad ones too. A lot of teachers are teachers only because it was a good financial decision for them (steady pay, lots of time off, etc). According to one source, Honduras’ rate of illiteracy is 18.3% of the total population, 80% in the rural areas. Many Honduras never finish elementary school and much fewer finish high school.

Schools are divided up into a “ciclo básico” which consists of grades 1-6, a “ciclo común” which consists of 7-9 and then “bachillerato” which is like our high school but with a vocational focus and is from 2 to 3 years. People we’ve talked with have said somewhere around 65% graduate from the “ciclo báico” (through 6th grade) but official statistics are more around 85%. I’ve heard that teachers pass students onto the next grade even if they completely failed so their “numbers” don’t look bad. There will be kids in the 4th grade, for example, that still can’t read but keep getting passed to the next grade.

Schools in the aldeas (village) often times have even more issues to deal with. Teachers of these schools usually don’t live in the aldea and show up only Tuesday-Thursday to teach so they don’t have to travel during the weekend. Some schools only have one teacher for all the grades (think one-room school house back in the days in the US). Due to the remoteness of some of these schools, the teacher(s)/school receive basically no supervision.

Teacher strikes are problems for every school here. The government pays the salaries of teachers, defines their benefits, etc. so when the teachers aren’t getting what they need, they strike, often times for weeks or months at a time. In 2006, students were in school for only 140 days instead of the required 200. The other problem is that school only lasts for about 5 hours. You either go in the morning or afternoon. So it’s common to see kids running around at any hour of the day and impossible to tell if that kid goes to school or not. Very different from US schools where kids are in school from 8ish to 3 or 3:30 and where it’s odd to see any child over the age of 6 running around between those hours.

There has been a big surge in private education in the last several decades. However, there is a lot of disagreement over whether private education is actually better quality than public or not.

Teachers here, for the most part, do not use much creativity in their teaching methodologies. Students are taught by copying what is written on the board into a notebook. Not much work is done to develop creativity, self-esteem, team-work, critical thinking, etc.

Again, please remember that these observations are my own, made from talking with other volunteers that have worked in schools and from our training sessions. Needless to say, there’s a lot of work to be done!


Josh said...

I'm glad you finally had some time to blog about the educational system. It sounds like it needs some help (that’s why your there?) maybe to teach some kids that otherwise would have died if not for you information you gave them.?.? Anyways I hope your on your way to finding your niche and are having a good time doing it!

Love Josh

Anonymous said...

Hello Annie,
I am glad that you are a volunteer in my country and most of all the you have interest in our educational system.I am a teacher but I have been working in private school since I graduated. I know that honduran teachers working in public school are free while they work and they do as much as they can. first let me tell you that one of the big problem in our education is because the way the goverment guide it. you might ask why do teachers do strike? in honduras teachers have to fight for a honorable salary while a congress man get a salary of six or more teachers. teachers at school do not have materials to work with. they develop their classes with the few things they have. I know that teachers must find way to solve the problems they have. I recomment you to give a general opinion about Honduran education but please include the political situation because they are the ones that create this kind of situations. one more thing I graduated from a rural school I finished university and now I am studying in a university in Japan. that mean that there are many honduran that want to have opportunities in life.We have our goals but sometimes is difficult to get them just because there a few people that want to control our country but just for their own profit. will be good if you try to write your blog in spanish your comments will be useful for those that guide the teachers organizations. they are also not good ones.
it a pleasure,