3. Laws, policies and programmes
Inclusion is one of the main action principles within the Strategic Education Plan 2016–2020. The strategic plan recognizes that inclusion "facilitates access to educational services, without discrimination, and promotes diversity of culture, ethnicity, gender, region and ability".
The Policy on Inclusive Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs, with and without Disabilities (2008) defines inclusive education for people with special educational needs (SEN). Educational inclusion means equal opportunities for learning, with curricular adaptations for SEN students.
Special educational needs
The Law on Special Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (2007) states that SEN are "experienced by people who are at a disadvantage and have greater difficulty in benefiting from their age group’s educational curriculum, and therefore require special techniques or resources to facilitate their learning".
Article 47 of the National Education Law (1991) defines special education as "education that includes additional or complementary programmes for people with disabilities in their linguistic, intellectual or physical and sensory development, and/or who show evidence of above-average ability".
The Law on Special Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (2007) defines special education as "education which utilizes specific techniques, strategies, knowledge and pedagogical resources intended to provide people with SEN with a comprehensive, flexible, inclusive and dynamic education, either temporarily or permanently".
In addition to special education schools and inclusive schools, the Guatemalan education system also has special schools equipped with resource classrooms. The Strategic Education Plan 2016–2020 sought to strengthen inclusive school processes to improve the quality of education for people with SEN.
The Law on Care for Persons with Disabilities (1996) states that people with disabilities can receive their education in the mainstream system with the required support services. Students who cannot "have their needs met in mainstream classrooms shall be provided with appropriate services to ensure their development and well-being, including services provided in special education centres”. The Law on Special Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (2007) also states that people with SEN must be educated in special schools if their needs prevent them from being successfully integrated into mainstream schools.
Since 2019, the Ministry of Education has been working to implement resource centres for inclusive education. The resource centres are an educational service that promotes inclusive education in the national education system. They seek to improve access, retention and progress of SEN students in various education levels, promote inclusive education in educational institutions, strengthen teachers’ capacities, provide advice and support to parents and the educational community and manage resources to promote inclusive education in the community. The service will be gradually expanded throughout Guatemala. The General Directorate of Special Education is responsible for expanding these resource centres.
The National Education Law (1991) lays the foundations for the principles of education in Guatemala. This law states that education environments in Guatemala must be multilingual, multi-ethnic and multicultural, reflecting the country’s diversity (article 1). The law defines the various education modalities in Guatemala: pre-primary education, experimental education, special education, art education, distance education, bilingual education, physical education, adult education and accelerated adult education.
The Strategic Education Plan 2016–2020 sought to increase access to education in Guatemala, without discrimination, promoting diversity of culture, ethnicity, gender, region and disability. The plan is based on the values of inclusion, multiculturalism and interculturalism, linguistic and cultural sensitivity, dialogue and social participation and education as a right.
The National Education Law (1991) states that the State has a responsibility to promote and support special, diversified and extracurricular education at all levels. Special education aims to facilitate the comprehensive development of people with SEN and promote the integration and mainstreaming of people with disabilities. The law states that the Ministry of Education shall create, promote and support projects and educational centres for integrating and attending to the needs of people with disabilities.
The Law on Care for Persons with Disabilities (1996) ensures equal opportunities for people with disabilities in areas such as health, education and work. This law states that a person with a disability "has the right to education from early childhood to higher education as much as their physical or mental condition allows them to do so". The Ministry of Education shall "develop the necessary mechanisms to ensure that people with disabilities in rural areas have access to education, through programmes sensitive to students’ geographical and ethnic contexts, providing bilingual education in areas with a majority indigenous population".
In 2003, Ministerial Resolution No. 830 established the Policy and Guidelines on Access to Education for the Population with Special Educational Needs, which states that "people with SEN, with or without disabilities, have the right to special education and to mainstream education with the necessary support".
The Law on Special Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs was passed in 2007. The law sought to ensure access to quality education and care for children, adolescents and adults with disabilities, within a framework of equal opportunities, ensuring gender equity, multiculturalism and multilingualism. The Strategic Education Plan 2016–2020 aimed to increase services for children and young people with special needs by 7 per cent.
Legislative Decree No. 59–2008 ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In 2008, the Ministry of Education approved the Policy on Inclusive Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs, with and without Disabilities. The policy sought to improve access to education and quality of life for people with SEN and to combat educational exclusion. It proposes pedagogical and administrative adjustments in the educational system, and the development of strategic 10-year action plans to provide quality, equitable education which caters to SEN students. An inclusive schools programme is proposed to allow mainstream schools to transform their pedagogical approach and develop inclusive teaching methodologies.
Ministerial Resolution 2815 of September 2019 created the resource centres for inclusive education. The resource centres are an educational service that promotes inclusive education in the national education system. They provide teacher training, support SEN students with or without disabilities and liaise with parents.
Other programmes for the inclusion of people with disabilities include the Educational Inclusion Project funded by the International Bureau of Education; the Attention to Gifted Students Programme, funded by the Ministry of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the Benito Juárez School, which offers education to disadvantaged children with above-average IQs.
According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, Guatemala has made significant progress in achieving greater gender equality in enrolment rates across all education levels. However, quality and coverage continue to be a major challenge for indigenous women at the secondary level. Gender disparities exist at all levels of education.
Article 9 of the 1999 Act on the Dignification and Full Advancement of Women promotes actions and mechanisms to ensure educational equality. These include extending and expanding school coverage at all levels to increase women's access to and retention in education; reducing dropout rates among women; and guaranteeing women equal opportunities to obtain scholarships, educational credits and other subsidies.
Government Resolution No. 302 of 2009 approved the National Policy for the Promotion and Comprehensive Development of Women and the Equal Opportunity Plan 2008–2023. The policy aims to "promote the development of Mayan, Garifuna, Xinca and mestizo women in all spheres of economic, social, political and cultural life". Regarding education, the policy seeks to ensure the entry, retention and coverage of Mayan, Garifuna, Xinca and mestizo girls at all levels and to combat illiteracy. Sex education is guaranteed at all levels of the education system.
There is a strategy and plan for institutionalizing the National Policy for the Promotion and Comprehensive Development of Women and a Ministry of Education Equal Opportunity Plan, with the aim of reducing gender inequality. The strategy proposed a unit responsible for ensuring gender equality mainstreaming and ethnically-relevant comprehensive sexuality education.
The Comprehensive Sexuality Education Strategy sought to reduce the number of schools without institutionalized comprehensive sexuality education by 75 per cent, and to work towards incorporating comprehensive sexuality education into the education system at the primary and secondary levels, including teacher training and professionalization.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and the indigenous population
Article 76 of the Political Constitution of Guatemala, amended in 1993, addresses bilingual education in areas with a predominantly indigenous population.
The National Education Law (1991) states that bilingual education is an education modality that "responds to the characteristics, needs and interests of people in ethnically and linguistically diverse areas, carried out through programmes in the subsystems of school education and extracurricular or parallel education" (article 56). Indigenous languages will be used and embraced at all levels of education and in all areas of study. The purpose of bilingual education is to affirm and strengthen linguistic communities’ identities and cultural values.
Governmental Agreement 22–2004 agreed to incorporate multicultural and intercultural bilingual education in the national education system. This makes the teaching and practice of multiculturalism and interculturalism mandatory as public policies for responding to ethnic and cultural differences among students, in both the public and private sector (article 2).
The bilingual intercultural education model (2009) sought to promote intercultural bilingual education. However, despite attempts to promote bilingual education, indigenous educational demands have not been fully met, and high dropout and absenteeism rates persist in the early grades.
One objective of the General Directorate of Bilingual and Intercultural Education is to expand coverage for indigenous children, develop and provide bilingual schools with communication and language textbooks, train teachers and monitor the quality of intercultural bilingual education at the primary level.
The Look at me: I’m indigenous and I’m also Guatemala report, published by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 2017, identifies some specific needs of indigenous children in Guatemala, where out of every 10 indigenous girls, only six finish primary school, two finish secondary school and one goes to university. Although intercultural bilingual education is compulsory, indigenous children and young people’s right to education has not yet been realized in several communities.
Rural and remote areas
Poverty and inequality disproportionately affect the country's indigenous population. The Strategic Education Plan 2016–2020 sought to increase the public supply of pre-primary, primary and secondary education in rural and marginalized urban areas.
According to UNICEF, Guatemala has the most child labourers of any Central American country. The latest statistics show that around 507,000 Guatemalan children between the ages of 7 and 14 work. These children are one of the most vulnerable groups. UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and other non-governmental organizations, have been working to address this situation with the Save First Grade programme.
The education system has a decentralized and regionalized administration.
At the national level, the two bodies responsible for developing education policy are the Ministry of Education and the National Education Council. At the local level, the Departmental Education Directorates manage financial resources and educational policies for the country’s departments.
The General Directorate of Special Education, created in 2008, is a special unit of the Ministry of Education responsible for implementing laws and public policies on the development of people with disabilities. Prior to the creation of General Directorate of Special Education, the Special Education Unit was part of the Ministry of Education’s General Directorate for Quality and Educational Development. The Special Education Unit was responsible for training mainstream and special education teachers, ensuring the national curriculum catered for SEN students and creating an assessment protocol for SEN graduates.
The National Council for the Care of Persons with Disabilities (CONADI) serves as a coordinating, advisory and promotional body that is involved in implementing general and State policies for ensuring the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people with disabilities in Guatemala.
At the local level, the special education department coordinators provide technical and professional assistance to mainstream teachers in making curricular adaptations and obtaining scholarships for students with disabilities. The General Directorate of Special Education has a coordinator in each of Guatemala’s 22 departments.
The Gender Equity and Ethnic Pertinence Unit (UNEGEPE) advises, supports and collaborates with the Directorates-General and Departmental Directorates in designing and implementing the plan to institutionalize the National Policy for the Promotion and Comprehensive Development of Women.
There is an inter-institutional coordination agreement between the Presidential Secretariat for Women, the Ministry of Education and the Presidential Secretariat for Communication for institutionalizing gender perspectives in laws and policies, promoting comprehensive sexuality education and preventing violence.
Government Resolution No. 526–2003 established the Office of the Deputy Minister for Bilingual and Intercultural Education, which is responsible for promoting bilingual, multicultural and intercultural education and for promoting and strengthening an education policy for developing indigenous communities via their languages and cultures.
The General Directorate of Bilingual and Intercultural Education designs and implements intercultural bilingual education, curricular policies and policies on personal, social, cultural and linguistic diversity at various education levels and in various modalities.
The Policy on Inclusive Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs, with and without Disabilities sought to include the subject of disability and meeting SEN as a cross-cutting theme in initial and continuous teacher training. Teachers who participate in inclusive processes will be recognized.
Training programmes for SEN teachers have been carried out since 2007. The special education centres in Guatemala’s municipalities have trained interdisciplinary teams with qualified special education teachers. These teams receive constant training from the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education inclusive schools programme seeks to ensure that all children and young people can be integrated into mainstream schools, without discrimination. The programme provides special education teachers at all levels of education, trained in technical and administrative guidelines to serve SEN students and foster an inclusive classroom culture.
The resource centres for inclusive education were created in 2019. These centres seek to strengthen teachers’ capacities to adapt to diversity via inclusive education methodologies.
Regarding gender, the Comprehensive Sexuality Education Strategy proposed designing a teacher training programme and support modules for training teachers on comprehensive sexuality education, gender equity and eradicating discrimination and racism. The modules were designed for teachers working in primary education and the first three grades of secondary education.
Governmental Resolution 22–2004 promoted the initial and continuous training of bilingual teachers in each of Guatemala’s linguistic communities. There are several programmes for training bilingual teachers. However, Guatemala’s linguistic diversity, with 25 languages being spoken, is an obstacle to implementing quality intercultural bilingual education across the country. The General Directorate of Bilingual and Intercultural Education is training intercultural bilingual teachers at the pre-primary and primary education levels and providing training in the use of bilingual methodologies and textbooks.
There is no evidence of data collection for monitoring inclusive education in Guatemala.