The majority of the public schools in Guatemala have little or no equipment; the teachers and administration are so poorly trained and irregularly paid that turnover is high; and only the most incompetent stay on… anyone competent leaves to find a better job and a better future.
Other than trying to fix the failed national effort to improve public education in Guatemala, where else can one target very limited resources hoping for effective and meaningful impact? The answer can be found by looking at where the wealthy minority in Guatemala spends their money to educate their own children.
They build expensive private for-profit English-language international-curriculum schools. They do this because they understand that participating in the top levels of decision-making anywhere requires a diploma from a top university. That is how they keep the doors to power closed to any but their own internationally well-educated children.
A diverse and constantly changing group of ex-patriots from many different countries has been working where they live, in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala, to do what they can to address this situation. in 1989, they created the Robert Muller LIFE School, the first English-language international-curriculum school in the department of Sololá. LIFE School now provides a k-6 education.
The Latest Refinement
It has become clearer and clearer to all that the key to national change is not going to be found by providing a basic education, but rather by providing better access to higher education through a high-quality English-language college-preparatory school that enables students from the most humble beginnings to gain access to elite international universities.
This understanding led to the establishment in 2010 of the area’s first true college-preparatory bilingual English-Spanish language international school, Panajachel Colegio Internacional (PCI: www.panajachelcolegio.org). PCI is a nonprofit, Board of Trustees (unpaid) run school that concentrates on preparing its students, from the 7th to the 12th grade, for an English-language university education, something no other school has ever done in this region.
PCI teaches using a United States college-preparatory high-school curriculum, and fulfills the requirements of the Guatemalan national curriculum. 12th grade is optional since students can graduate from the 11th grade in Guatemala.
PCI is tremendously fortunate to have a core staff who are all graduates of U.S. or European universities, several with advanced degrees in their fields of instruction, and who would not work for the low wages they are paid were it not for a deep dedication and commitment to education for all.
The cost of education at PCI is less than one third that of equivalent private bilingual high schools in Guatemala City and Antigua.