Chapter 42 Early Childhood Education in Guatemala María Eugenia Rabbe Abstract This chapter discusses how the institutional attention to early childhood development and education in Guatemala had to go through a process of acknowledgment of the importance of meaningful and lasting learning during the first 7 years of life, in order to include this age period in the Education Reform of 1998. At present, the National Curriculum (2005) addresses this on two levels: the infant and toddler years (0–3 years of age) and preschool years (4–6 years of age), stating the relevant skills and areas of education and development. It is also discussed in this chapter the fact that the law does not determine exactly which institutional entity is responsible for the attention and education at those levels: the Ministry of Education of Guatemala or the Secretary of Social Works of the First Lady, which poses a problem affecting the service provided to children. Several studies in the country have shown that at this point in time the coverage has not been enough and that greater efforts are needed by the public and private sectors to guide parents, teachers, and the community, for children to be active part of teaching and learning process. Keywords Guatemala • Early childhood education • Preschool education • Research Institutional attention to early childhood development and education in Guatemala had to go through a process of acknowledgment of the importance of the meaningful and lasting learning of the first seven years of life, in order to include this age level in the Education Reform (1998). Now the National Base Curriculum (2005) addresses this on two levels: the infant and toddler years (0–3 years of age) and preschool years (4–6 years of age), where clearly the relevant skills, areas, and profiles are explained. In this chapter, we direct attention to the fact that the law does not determine exactly which entity is responsible for the attention and education at those levels: the Ministry of Education of Guatemala or the Secretary of Social Works of the First Lady, which poses a problem affecting the service provided to M.E. Rabbe (*) London, UK e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018 M. Fleer, B. van Oers (eds.), International Handbook of Early Childhood Education, Springer International Handbooks of Education, DOI 10.1007/978-94-024-0927-7_42 833 834 M.E. Rabbe children. Several studies in the country have shown that at this point in time, the coverage has not been enough and that greater efforts are needed by the public and private sectors to guide parents, teachers, and the community, for children to be active part of teaching and learning process. Guatemala is located in Central America bordering with Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras. According to the projection of the last census, its population in 2011 was 14,713,763 (51% women, 49% men) (Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Guatemala [INE] 2002). The Peace Agreements signed in 1996 between governments and “guerrilla” (Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Socioeconomic and Agrarian Agreement) marked the importance of education since this is one of the pillars to improve economic, cultural, and social levels for Guatemalans (Diseño de la Reforma Educativa 1998). According to the Education Law (Educación Nacional de la República de Guatemala 1991), Guatemala divides the education system in five levels: Initial level: 0–3 years old Preschool level: 4–6 years old Primary school: 7–12 years old Secondary school: 13–18 years old Higher education: 19 to up years old Initial level is offered to children from 0 to 3 years old, seeking the overall development from a comprehensive family support for their full training. Its goals are to ensure as basic responsibility of the State the full development of children, their existence, and right to live in family and proper environmental conditions as well as to ensure biopsychosocial child development through care programs for the mother during pregnancy and after giving birth. Preschool level is the educative experience of younger children before entering the first grade, in terms of age, up to 6 years. Preschool level is oriented to developing self-esteem, certain basic skills, and behaviors, allowing them to be better emotionally and intellectually adjusted for their integration to primary school. The current situation of children between 0 and 6 years of age in Guatemala is not encouraging at all; according to the National Work and Income Survey (ENEI 2004), the population between these ages was 2.8 million, and of those, there were only 50,381 children attending a specialized center (initial level, 266,754 children; preschool level, 23,627 children) according to UNICEF (Initial Education and Public Programs in Guatemala Society 2010). The United Nations Children’s Fund (2008) conducted a study called “Status of Early Childhood in Guatemala” (Situación de la Primera Infancia en Guatemala), in which data was collected by interviewing personnel in the Department of Education and the Secretary of Social Works of the First Lady (Secretaría de las Obras Sociales de la Esposa del Presidente[SOSEP]). This study reported: 1. The private sector has increased the attention to early childhood, with the creation of numerous educational centers that aim for a population for children 42 Early Childhood Education in Guatemala 835 below 6 years of age, but these centers do not have proper quality standards. For example, a large number of these establishments do not have qualified personal to attend to this group of children. 2. The early development programs and projects supported by the Department of Education which include the “Comprehensive Care Program for Children (Programa de Atención Integral de Niños y Niñas [PAIN]), are actually working with a center in each of the 22 states of the Republic of Guatemala, taking care of around fifteen thousand children in the 328 centers. Further, there is also the informal school program “De la mano Edúcame”, that helps 666 families in 4 states. 3.The programs and projects that are supported by the Welfare Secretary and Secretary of Social Works of the First Lady (Secretaría de las Obras Sociales de la Esposa del Presidente [SOSEP]) attend approximately 100 thousand children in programs like Hogares Comunitarios (14 thousand) and Creciendo Bien (82 thousand) from 2200 communities. The private sector has increased the attention to early childhood, with the creation of numerous educational centers that aim for a population of children below 6 years of age, but these centers do not have proper quality standards. For example, a large number of these establishments do not have qualified personnel to attend this group of children. Early development programs and projects supported by the Department of Education, which include the “Comprehensive Care Program for Children (Programa de Atención Integral de Niños y Niñas [PAIN]), are actually working with a center in each of the 22 states of the Republic of Guatemala, taking care of around 15,000 children in the 328 centers. Furthermore, there is also the informal school program “De la mano Edúcame” that helps 666 families in four states. Programs and projects that are supported by the Welfare Secretary and Secretary of Social Works of the First Lady (Secretaría de las Obras Sociales de la Esposa del Presidente[SOSEP]) attend approximately 100,000 children in programs like Hogares Comunitarios (14,000) and Creciendo Bien (82,000) from 2,200 communities. Early childhood education in Guatemala covers infant and toddler years, (ages 0–3), the preschool years (ages 3–5), and the kindergarten years (ages 5–6) (Ministerio de Educación de Guatemala 2008). The fundamental purpose is to provide children with educational experiences in an active way, in an attempt to impact gradually their learning processes and development. The goals of these levels are: To develop a positive sense of themselves, by expressing and moderating their feelings and emotions, to start having initiative and self-determination, and show positive attitude toward learning. To be capable of taking different roles and ability to solve conflicts in games and other activities in and/or out of school. To acquire confidence and extend their vocabulary by expressing and having a conversation. The ability to comprehend the principal functions of written language. 836 M.E. Rabbe The ability to recognize people that have different cultural backgrounds and characteristics. To develop cognitive capacities that allow them to use different strategies to solve problems in a creative way. To be interested in observing natural phenomena and participating in experimental situations, in which they can ask, predict, compare, examine, explain, share opinions, and acquire positive attitudes toward the preservations of the environment. Learn values and principles that are needed for respecting oneself and others. To achieve the goals above, it is necessary to develop adequate activities, with active and differential methodologies, considering individual and developmental characteristics, that allow for the interaction of the students and teachers in a physical environment. The active teaching approach followed in Guatemalan education has been constructed as the process that helps children learn in a meaningful way. By this, it is meant that the child is the leading character of its own learning, and the teacher provides the tools for the child’s development. Teachers propose activities, personal or group tasks, which will develop the critical thinking as well as an effective communication in each of the phases of learning. In early childhood education the best teaching methodology followed in learning centers is the use of different, independent spaces that teachers set up in the classroom. In these spaces, children can move around and engage in some learning activity. Children choose the space they wish to work in and decide the amount of time to spend there. The learning center approach provides a time in which children explore and practice skills to their own satisfaction. These centers provide children with opportunities for hands-on learning, cooperative learning, social interaction, real-life problem solving, autonomous learning, and open-ended activities. Children learn various subjects as they move from one space to another in the classroom. For example, a subject such as life science can be presented in a life-science space in the classroom; such a space may have living animals and plants for children to handle. The classroom may also have an environmental space next to the life-science space. As young children move from the life-science space to the environmental space, they can explore the habitats of some of the animals (Harris 1999). The differentiated teaching provides students multiple options for taking information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn. In other words, a differentiated classroom, with the use of different spaces, provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products so that each student can learn effectively (How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classroom 2001). As part of a new National Curriculum, Guatemala designed in 2005 the Base Curriculum for the infant and toddler years (0–3 years of age) and preschool years (4–6 years of age). In this program, attention to these age levels has a double purpose: socializing and the stimulation of evolving processes (Ministerio de Educación de Guatemala 2005). Socializing is described as a process in which rules that govern the social harmony are incorporated and transformed, leading to a positive interac- 42 Early Childhood Education in Guatemala 837 tion with others, allowing the student to recognize his/her personal identity and as a social human being. Stimulation of evolving processes focuses in the psychological process that relate to the good use of knowledge outlines. Simultaneously, socializing and stimulation of the process allow the student to prepare for life and for the acquisition of future permanent knowledge, because it is considered that in these stages is where the bases of human behavior are established, and the personality is formed based on the infant neuroplasticity, which is the biological mechanism that motivates growth and development and is the one that promotes student learning (Junque and Barroso 2009). An optimum development is guaranteed when it established the importance of tending the needs of certain aspects such as providing preventive health services and, specially, proper training and qualifications of the teachers who interact with the children in order to promote the educational process since birth. In view of this, the Framework for Curriculum Transformation (Ministerio de Educación de Guatemala 2005) has generated ten criteria for initial (0–3 years of age) and preschool (4–6 years of age) being the main purpose to achieve educational quality with the involvement of both teachers and parents: The child as the center of the process The child participation and involvement Reinforce the child development Respect and attention to the individual differences Leadership and involvement from the family and the community The environment and the child interacting as one Cultural relevance Holistic learning Harmony between the activity and communication Specific childhood game The curriculum is based on the development of abilities defined in the proposed curriculum (2005) as a disposition that a child has to develop in order to deal with and find solutions to everyday problems and create new knowledge that will help the child to achieve a permanent and meaningful learning. The curriculum has been organized in five areas: Learning skills Communication and language Social and natural environment Artistic expression Physical education The curriculum establishes a minimum of 2 h of daily activities, during 5 days a week. Class periods last between 25 and 30 min. Regarding children’s evaluations, personal records are used to appraise the maturity of each child to be able to promote him/her to the next grade, as long as they fulfill the requirements related to their age (Ministerio de Educación de Guatemala 2010). 838 M.E. Rabbe It is important to note that there are no fundamental agreements between the Welfare Secretary, Secretary of Social Works of the First Lady (Secretaría de las Obras Sociales de la Esposa del Presidente [SOSEP]), and the Ministry of Education of Guatemala. The first supports early education and grants permits for the operation of initial care centers (Government Decision No. 662–90 1990); however, it was the Ministry of Education of Guatemala, within the National Base Curriculum (2005), who included the educational model that should orient the development of this level. In daily practice, however, in beginning levels of school, the Welfare Secretary and Secretary of Social Works of the First Lady (Secretaría de las Obras Sociales de la Esposa del Presidente [SOSEP]) do not check whether they comply with the model presented by the Ministry of Education of Guatemala. Likewise, it may be noted that these centers provide “care” to children but this does not include providing proper stimulation for cognitive, social, and emotional growth. Another very important factor, in the development of initial and preschool levels, is that although under the Curricular Transformation (2005) detailed the principles for an educational process according to the particular needs of students, they are not met within the methodology developed in the classroom, as teachers in the public sector have shown resistance to change and have not wanted to implement strategies that will take the kids to the powers that arise. With this in mind, the Ministry of Education of Guatemala is making efforts to conduct various trainings, aimed at teachers of this sector, so they can use innovative strategies in the educational process, which are described in the National Base Curriculum (2005). At the beginning of 2014, he made alliances with three private universities (Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Universidad Panamericana, Universidad InterNaciones) onto them to direct the training throughout the Republic of Guatemala, with a new mode of teaching learning face classes once a month on weekends and distance tutoring, through an educational platform through internet. In conclusion, we can infer that the lack of knowledge of the National Base Curriculum, among teachers, has made the early childhood education in Guatemala, continues to have little impact on the children, and, perhaps in the future, may be a factor in determining the failure coverage of elementary level. The following section discusses current contemporary research in Guatemala in relation to early childhood education. 42.1 Research on Early Childhood Education In order to improve preschool education, the research that has been done in Guatemala, in general, aims to develop projects that can improve coverage and provide guidelines to support the immersion of children in the schooled and informal programs modalities, both defined in the National Base Curriculum, preschool level (Ministerio de Educación de Guatemala 2005). The schooled modality, that is, preschool education, is developed within a formal and academic environment involving well-trained personnel, with specific schedule, in a part-time working day, whereas 42 Early Childhood Education in Guatemala 839 in day care centers, children centers or private foster homes are open for 8 h or more. Personnel responsible for the schooling attention are the preschool monolingual and bilingual teachers1 as well as the teachers for the different programs and projects of governmental organizations or nongovernmental organizations. The informal program is defined as the one that is developed with the direct, active, and organized participation from the family and the community, adopting their program and taking into account the local characteristics and necessities, in the teaching aspects, flexible schedules, and other needs. Figueroa Castro (2007) in his study “Acculturation and Identity Formation Process in the Child Preschool Education through Traditional Popular Culture” was able to verify that even though the preschool education is the most important stage of childhood because of its influences in the formation and development of the child, it is not properly oriented in terms of the formation of the child’s identity. According to Figueroa Castro, this is due to the fact that the content of the schooling and teaching approach follows programs that have been developed in other countries and are not adapted to the Guatemalan culture. The author concluded that 74% of preschool teachers do not know the Guatemalan culture (anecdotes, riddles, tongue twister, music, oral and written traditions, tourist places, literature, theater, sayings, proverbs, social events, festivals, pilgrimages, habits, memories, heroes, etc.) so that they reinforce in their students foreign acculturation and the loss of national identity. Preschoolers, influenced by family, school, and social media, embrace other foreign cultures and do not appreciate the values, customs, and traditions of Guatemala culture. In the sample, 94% chose foreign values, customs, and/or traditions, while 6% chose Guatemalan values, customs, and/or traditions. During 2011, a pilot project was held in three “Caritas Centers” (Christian Foundation) (Rabbe 2011) to measure the cognitive capacity of children 3–6 years old. Some of the conclusions of this research were that 3-year-old children showed a deficiency in the area of gross motor abilities, as a result of their low levels of physical activity, which also had a direct relationship with the bone and muscular development and the deficit of iron and protein in their bodies (Nelson and Luciana 2001). The results showed that children who have had the opportunity to attend to a special center like preschool, where they received some stimulation, were closer to reaching the corresponding developmental standards. However, due to the possible precarious condition of food, living, and basic services, their cognitive development still showed significant deficiencies, as well as in the visual and motor areas (Rabbe 2011). In 2012, Hormel Foods Corporation, approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Public Health and Social Assistance of Guatemala, conducted research on the effectiveness of fortified SpammyTM (canned turkey pate) in the physical and cognitive development of children from 3 to 6 years old. To evaluate cognitive development, they used the Bracken Basic Concept Scale- In Guatemala, 21 Mayan idioms are spoken in different regions of the country, and bilingual teacher means that he/she has to dominate Spanish and at least one Mayan language (Diseño de Reforma Educativa 1998). 1 840 M.E. Rabbe Third Edition: Receptive (BBCS-3:R) Revises (2008). This test measures children’s comprehension of basic and functionally relevant educational concepts such as colors, letters, numbers/counting, sizes/comparisons, shapes (School Readiness Component [SRC]), direction/position, self/social awareness, and texture/material (Total Test [TT]). Children in the sample improved in conceptual knowledge over the 20 week intervention. This result showed significant improvements in the School Readiness Component (SRC) and Total Test (TT) raw scores (Rabbe 2012). The researchers also noted that age-adjusted standardized SRC scores improved to a greater degree than anticipated. The SRC focuses on knowledge associated with success in early formal education such as counting, shapes, letters, and numbers; regarding this, greater than expected improvement were found in both treatment and control groups. This improvement may be due to the focus on these concepts at the day care center, the provision of high-quality protein at the beginning of the school day, increased vitamins and mineral intake intrinsic to poultry, or most likely, a combination of several of these factors. This information, combined with teacher reports that children improved their attention after consuming a meal containing SpammyTM, provides compelling evidence for the importance of combining educational programs with improved nutrition for this age group. Within the treatment group, positive relationships were found between end line vitamin D and cognitive gain as well as end line ferritin and cognitive gain. Within the control group, no significant correlations were found between end line blood micronutrient levels and gain scores (Center for Studies of Sensory impairment aging and metabolism [CeSSIAM] 2012). An important point to mention is that for a long time, several government institutions have proposed legislation for the provision of preschool education, but parents still have not seen the importance to take their young children to schools, and they prefer to keep them at home, until they have the age to begin reading and writing. However when children reach the age, parents then decide that it is most important to teach them how to work so they will be able to help in the family economy. To encourage the involvement of parents and to convince them of the importance why their young children must attend school, the new National Curriculum (2001) provides guides that include the use of regional language, give information to parents and community, build more schools, and design professional development programs for preschool teachers. In summary, the research discussed here shows that Guatemalan public and private institutions are worried about early childhood education in the country and are developing programs to improve it. There are efforts for designing a new curriculum. Every school has to develop a curriculum according to the Basic National Curriculum. However, to be implemented, it requires the commitment of teachers and communities, besides of assigning economic resources. 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