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Improving Education for At-Risk Learners in Rural Guatemala

The Basic Education Quality and Transitions Activity partners with the Guatemalan Ministry of Education to improve education outcomes and keep students in school.


Improve education quality and transition rates from primary to secondary school among at-risk children and youth in rural Guatemala.


Collaborate with local organizations, governments, and communities to advance inclusion in the education system, improve learning activities in and outside of school, and strengthen local capacity for supporting the education sector.


The Activity will improve reading, writing, math, and social-emotional skills among all targeted learners and increase graduation rates from 6th grade to primero básico (the first year of middle school).

Guatemala’s education system is facing a crisis – one deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed schools and left many students without access to education. Dropout rates were high before the pandemic and have grown since, affecting the most vulnerable and at-risk learners disproportionately, with few returning to school.

To address these challenges, USAID is funding the Basic Education Quality and Transitions Activity, a five-year (2022–2027) basic education program supporting Guatemala’s Ministry of Education and local organizations to improve education outcomes and opportunities, and to reduce dropout rates.

The Activity targets interventions in areas with the most need in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, including the departments of Baja Verapaz, Huehuetenango, El Quiché, and San Marcos. It builds on previous USAID investments in Guatemala’s education system, such as in bilingual education, early grade reading, and digital education data.

By improving the quality of education and increasing school completion rates, the Activity aims to reduce irregular migration and improve life outcomes among at-risk children and youth. To achieve this, the Activity prioritizes:

  • Improving in-person and remote instruction for all learners in grades 4-6 and primero básico, including collaborating with teachers to develop evidence-based teaching guides for inclusive instruction, and providing in-person and remote teacher training and coaching.
  • Strengthening school data systems to improve tracking of student enrollment, attendance, graduation, and learning. By increasing capacity to use data to identify students at risk of dropping out, teachers and school leaders can provide psychosocial support and address barriers to enrolling and persisting in secondary school.
  • Engaging families and communities to support students in practicing foundational skills, promoting the value of and reducing the barriers to staying in school, making digital learning materials available at home, and increasing learning activities and community engagement opportunities outside of school.
  • Strengthening the capacity of local institutions and organizations to sustain and drive education system strengthening in the long-term.

A more inclusive education system

The Activity is engaging diverse community members to identify needs, develop strategies, and implement interventions. For example, local partner Funcafé convened community stakeholders to identify priorities, with a focus on engaging marginalized groups, such as indigenous women, in these discussions.

To ensure schools and teachers can meet the needs of all learners, the Activity focuses on fostering inclusion of students of differing abilities, those living in poverty, without online access, and/or from indigenous communities. This includes helping teachers incorporate universal design for learning and social emotional learning principles into classroom instruction, addressing pandemic-related learning loss, and offering hybrid options in secondary schooling in order to improve access, especially among adolescent girls to improve access, especially among adolescent girls.

Fostering long-term education improvements

The Activity is partnering with local organizations to support education system improvement in Guatemala for years to come, both through who it works with, as well as how. Local partners are leading project activities at multiple levels of the system, from data system design workshops with Ministry staff to learning recovery training sessions with teachers, with RTI providing mentoring and support as well as lessons learned from its global experience. For example, the University del Valle de Guatemala (UVG) is incorporating universal design for learning and inclusive instruction principles into teacher education and training programs, using Ministry approved materials. At the same time RTI is leading UVG through an organizational capacity strengthening process to identify ways to improve timely and efficient delivery on donor-funded education activities.

The Activity also aligns with Guatemala’s national strategy for improving education quality and supports the Ministry of Education as well as sub-national governments—from Municipal leaders to Department-level Ministry staff. In seeking to lead from behind and support partners to develop and grow in areas they identify as needing support, RTI is living the principles of USAID’s Local Capacity Strengthening Policy, including the commitment to strengthening diverse capacities through diverse approaches.

Learn more about RTI’s work in international education and in Guatemala.