Finishing school in Central America: The pending challenges - Executive summary

from UN Children's Fund
Published on 18 Apr 2013 View Original

School failure affects more than 3.5 million children and adolescents in Central America

The study notes the progress made in education in the region and the ‘bottlenecks’ that still prevent the universalization of basic education

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, April 17, 2013 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Central American Educational and Cultural Coordination of Central American Integration System (CECC / SICA) launched today, in a joint effort, the report Finishing school in Central America: the pending challenges.

Finishing school is based on official statistics of the educational systems of the Central American countries, Belize and the Dominican Republic.

The results show the great progress that countries have made in enrollment: almost all children and adolescents between 8 and 11 years attend school, since education systems have attained universality for this age.

However, there are many schoolchildren who still don’t go to school and many teens who already left it. The data show that more than 700,000 children and adolescents in primary school or secondary school age who are outside of school. Besides, there are 200,000 preschool-age children who are not attending this level.

There are other more hidden dimensions of educational exclusion, regarding hundreds of thousands of students who, while still in school, don’t finish it and are at risk of dropping out. In this regard, the study shows that 2.7 million children and adolescents enrolled in primary or secondary school with two or more years behind in relation to the degree that they would be entitled if they had a school less tortuous route. That is, it is common to find 13 or 14 years-old teenagers still enrolled in primary school, with all that this implies in terms of self-esteem and educational system costs.

“Countries in the region will not achieve the full realization of the right to education for all children and adolescents if they don’t take consistent, coherent and sustained measures to improve the quality of education, reduce repetition and dropout”, said UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen. “The right to education is the right to learn.”

Meanwhile, General Secretary of the CECC / SICA, Maria Eugenia Paniagua, said that school failure is one of the most serious problems, sometimes hidden by the enrollment growth. Therefore, the CECC / SICA provided technical support to the countries in the region for the identification and monitoring of indicators of school failure. Paniagua said that overcoming the school failure involves a decisive action from educational authorities and teachers to protect students at risk of exclusion, but she warned that “families’ collaboration is also essential, sending their children to preschool and enrolling in the first grade at the corresponding age according to the standard of each country”.


UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:


The Central American Educational and Cultural Coordination (CECC/SICA) is an institution of the Central American Integration System (SICA) which acts as Technical Secretariat in the fields of education and culture and promotes cooperation and integration in these fields. CECC / SICA’s members are Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic. The institution facilitates communication, information, regional decision making and promotes various exchanges between the authorities and officials of the Ministries of Education and Culture. Its highest governing body is the Council of Ministers of Education and Culture of Central America. For more information about its activities, visit:

For more information:

Tamar Hahn
Communication Specialist – UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel. (507) 3017485
Cell (507) 64302505

Jorge Rivera Pizarro
Regional Project of Education-Spain Fund-SICA II
Tel. (506) 2283 7719