Below are three very different pictures. The first is a picture of one of the many private schools located in Guatemala City, where the wealthy send their children. The second is an overcrowded public school in a city and the third of a public school in a rural area of Guatemala.The private school where Mentes scholarship recipients attend here in Xela is much more modest than the private schools in Guatemala City. Beyond the first rate facilities, the private schools for the wealthy in Guatemala City also offer almost all their classes in English. In fact, most of these schools offer AP classes, administer the SAT, provide college counseling etc.. Thus these wealthy students in the capital are graduating with a level of English far superior to children in the rest of the country.
Why is speaking English so important here in Guatemala? First of all, most professionals are expected to speak English and many job postings for professionals are written in English. Furthermore, more and more universities are requiring students to be fluent in English. To apply to many graduate school programs in Guatemala City, one must fill out the application in English, supply a resume in English and present scores from the TOEFL exam.
Though our scholarship recipients do receive five classes of English per week, it is not enough for them to achieve the fluency needed to adequately compete for professional jobs in the future. Many middle and upper class families here in Xela, send their children to intensive English programs here in Quetzaltenango during the three months of vacation. This is exactly what Mentes would like to do, as well.
We are, at the moment, seeking to raise funds that would allow our scholarship recipients to attend an insitute that would provide intensive English classes from October through December, during the time the children are on school vacation. This would allow them to better compete in a world where professionals are expected to read, write and communicate in English.