October 30, 2015
“I am a product of the public education system. I know it can work!” says Honduran Education Minister Marlon Escoto (pictured second to right). Unfortunately for more than a decade, the Honduran education system was not working. While Honduras spent the highest percentage of its GDP in the region on education, its students had some of the lowest test scores.
The Association for a More Just Society and its partners, who formed the alliance Let’s Transform Honduras (TH) saw the tragic results of this low-quality education. Drop-out levels were high, and even students that did graduate couldn’t compete for jobs with private school students, much less with students from other countries.
AJS and its partners couldn’t remain silent. Starting almost four years ago, they began to investigate why Honduran education quality was so low. What they found was a system hijacked by political interests and powerful teacher unions who, in the words of Let’s Transform Honduras coordinator Blanca Munguia, “didn’t care about the future of Honduran children.”
TH’s study found that in one Honduran province 27% of teachers on the payroll were not in the classroom, and even teachers that were in the correct classroom were often not in classes for weeks on end, participating in politically motivated strikes. In fact, Honduran students were going to school three and a half months fewer than their North American counterparts. That means that by the time a student reaches 8th grade, he has missed four years of school compared to North American students!
After publicizing this information, TH sought out government authorities who were willing to work for change, but made little headway. Finally, in 2011 the president appointed a new Minister of Education, Marlon Escoto, who was willing to work with TH. He cracked down on striking teachers and required all teachers to register online to make sure they were in the correct classroom. TH contributed by training parent volunteers in schools across the country to make sure teachers and students were in the classroom.
Together, they helped Honduran schools get within three weeks of a US school year, and surpass the number of days required by Honduran law. As one of TH’s parent observers said, “The teachers haven’t skipped a day. My son told me ‘Mom! We haven’t been able to rest at all this year!”
And this transformation is already showing results. Honduran children have improved their Spanish scores by 10% and their math scores by 20% in the last three years!
This year, TH will monitor school days with continued support from the Minister of Education, who, in an unprecedented move, was just reappointed by Honduras’ new president.
Minister Escoto closes, “Something important is happening in our country right now. TH has had a continual commitment to education, and we have been able to join them.”