Why Girls’ Education

Photo by Livvy Runyon

Photo by Livvy Runyon

Time and again, development studies have proven that one of the most efficient ways to create change on a societal level is to ensure young women can participate fully and become leaders in their community. When you invest in girls’ education, girls earn higher wages, wait to start their families, and have fewer but healthier children. Their own health is greatly improved and they participate in their communities, which collectively breaks cycles of poverty. Globally, countries that have greater levels of gender equality are safer and more prosperous. Educating girls is also among the top forms of combating climate change.

Today, over 32 million girls are currently missing out on a secondary education, according to a recent report by the Malala Fund, and 31 million more start school but never graduate. That means there are over 63 million girls who will not graduate from high school worldwide. In Guatemala, the average Mayan teenage girl has obtained only 3.5 years of education. Only 10 percent of indigenous girls who live in rural Guatemalan communities are enrolled in secondary school, and fewer than one percent continue on to university.

Further compounding this problem is the severely substandard Guatemalan educational system. According to the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, only 10 percent of high school graduates meet international standards of literacy, and only 9 percent reach the standards of math comprehension. It is estimated that fewer than 15 percent of public schools in Guatemala possess the basic facilities needed for teaching and learning, and a recent study revealed that 80 percent of teachers cannot pass the tests they give to their own students (Council on Hemispheric Affairs). Even when families can and do invest in the promise of education, the school system is failing them.

When girls in Guatemala break through the barriers to access an education, they are met with low-quality, ill-equipped teachers and facilities, and administrators who struggle to communicate with their families due to not speaking the family’s native language. And this only covers the academic shortcomings. We know from experience that girls need much more socioemotional support to overcome centuries of exclusion and trauma.