Guatemala has one of the highest school dropout rates in the region, with one student in every sixth-grade class leaving school at the transition point between primary and lower secondary school. In the context of limited resources, it is important to accurately identify students at risk of dropping out so interventions can be more effectively targeted. Guatemala’s Education Registry System faced several challenges in gathering administrative data for use in creating early warning models to predict dropout rates. These challenges included (i) outdated technological equipment and software that limited the reliability of data collected; (ii) low technical capacities of Ministry of Education staff for managing statistical information; (iii) lack of guidelines and standardized processes for collecting, managing, processing, and analyzing data; and (iv) limited use of existing data for education policy-making.
The Building Statistical Capacities in the Ministry of Education Project aimed to strengthen the capacity of Guatemala’s Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educación, MINEDUC) to collect, manage, analyze, and use high-quality statistical information. The underlying theory was that improving MINEDUC’s hardware (technological equipment and systems) and software (staff technical capacities and guidelines for information management) would increase the quality and reliability of education data and statistics. In this way, MINEDUC would be better positioned to design and pilot the use of an early warning system (EWS) to identify at-risk students and implement low-cost interventions to prevent school dropout.
Between February 2018 and March 2020, the project strengthened MINEDUC’s capacity in the following areas:
Data collection was strengthened by incorporating a new module for student attendance that will produce data disaggregated by gender and ethnicity; updating MINEDUC’s data collection and analysis tools by acquiring hardware and software (laptops, desktop computers, data processing software license); and developing an app for the education registry system (Sistema de Registros Educativos, SIRE), thus creating a new data entry mechanism and facilitating data collection.
Data management was strengthened by implementing an action plan and creating new guidelines on statistical information management, based on a diagnostic of current statistical management practices.
Capacity to analyze and use data was strengthened by training 38 staff members on how to collect, manage, and use statistical information; conducting a EWS pilot in 2018 to prevent school dropout in 3,000 schools, which prevented approximately 850 children from dropping out; and financing workshops to train directors and teachers on the EWS, including guides describing low-cost interventions school directors and teachers can implement with at-risk students and informational videos on both the dropout problem in Guatemala and the EWS. The cost per student of these efforts is low, at around US$3 to US$4 per year. The impact—reduction in dropouts—is comparable to other interventions used to prevent school dropout, such as scholarships, but the cost is much lower.
Bank Group Contribution
The Bank-administered Statistical Capacity Building III multi-donor trust fund provided a grant in the amount of US$350,000 to the government of Guatemala to finance this project.
The Ministry of Education participated as a key partner by acquiring the necessary software updates. Up-to-date Business Objects software is now used by MINEDUC to manage and analyze the data collected through SIRE and to monitor education indicators. The Business Objects software, originally purchased in 2005, had become outdated, affecting the reliability of data. At the beginning of 2018, the Ministry of Education updated this software, at a cost of $100,000, complementing project efforts.
Felipe Suy is a teacher from Jutiapa, Guatemala, whose sixth-grade students formed part of the EWS pilot. “The list of at-risk students [provided during the training] helped me pay more attention to these children. My school had ten children who were at risk of dropping out. We called their parents for a meeting because, even today, there are still parents who do not consider it important for their children, especially girls, to attend school. We made them [the parents] more aware of the importance of [their children] attending school. We also worked closely with the students, talked to them, carried out the activities in the guide. We managed to rescue six of the ten children.”
In 2021, MINEDUC will scale up the project-financed EWS pilot nationwide and will include a revised version of the teacher guide on low-cost interventions to prevent dropouts, taking account of the COVID-19 context.
The Ministry of Education will continue to advance project goals by further developing its statistical capacities. In 2021 a new attendance module will be launched. Teachers and school directors will update attendance information daily, and the data collected will be used to strengthen the EWS.