Unveiling educational Challenges in Honduras: From History to Pandemic

Written by: Laura Dieterle

The Republic of Honduras, situated in Central America with a population of approximately 9.7 million, operates as a constitutional democracy with a presidential governmental system, facing multifaceted challenges in its educational landscape [1].

Rooted in its colonial history, Honduras grapples with enduring political and systemic issues that significantly impact its education system. Scholars, including Edwards et al. [2], highlight the consequences of postcolonial structures, identifying the privatisation of education as a persistent challenge. This privatisation contributes to disparities in access to education, posing obstacles to achieving equal educational opportunities for all.

Moreover, Honduras remains deeply entrenched in a patriarchal societal framework, perpetuating traditional gender roles. This societal structure manifests in expectations that predominantly confine women to caregiving roles. This entrenched gender bias influences access to education, as women and girls often face discouragement from pursuing higher education or continuing their schooling beyond the basic levels [3].

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing educational challenges, bringing to the forefront a range of issues on the country’s social agenda. Notable concerns include heightened school dropout rates across all educational levels, ineffective management within the educational system, insufficient investment in education, and pervasive educational inequalities [4].

Addressing these challenges necessitates a comprehensive and collaborative approach, involving governmental bodies, NGOs, and international partners to develop sustainable solutions. By tackling the historical legacies and systemic issues, Honduras can work towards fostering a more inclusive and equitable education system for its diverse population.


Privatisation and Globalisation

In Honduras, education privatisation faces multifaceted challenges deeply rooted in historical and structural factors. The initial formation of the Honduran State in the late 1890s was marked by significant foreign influence, particularly from the United States. Transnational companies, mainly involved in industries such as bananas and coffee, played a pivotal role in shaping the state apparatus, hindering the emergence of a strong local elite, and contributing to a dependence on foreign aid and markets, which directly influenced the way an educational system emerged [2].

This historical influence has resulted in an economy where foreign capital is utilized to benefit the political party in power, creating a system where privileges are distributed based on party loyalty. The privatisation of education in Honduras has led to an unequal distribution of educational resources, with teaching positions, school buildings, and other benefits being subject to political biases. The political class, rather than strengthening the institutional capacity of the State for public welfare, operates in alignment with the logic of personal and private benefit [2].

The concept of “State failure” in Honduras becomes complex, reflecting the State’s historical lack of capacity to function independently and financial constraints. This challenges the fulfilment of the State’s primary function of public welfare. The combination of historical factors, foreign influence, and political biases has shaped the State’s role in perpetuating a system where clientelism and dependence on foreign actors are taken for granted [2].

Recognising the historical foundations is essential for understanding the challenges posed by education privatisation in Honduras. It reveals deeper historical and structural issues influencing the education system, offering insights into potential avenues for policy change.

In this context, globalisation and capitalist dynamics play a significant role, contributing to the country’s dependence on foreign aid and markets. According to Edwards et al., the challenges in achieving an autonomous and equitable education system stem from the continued influence of historical factors, necessitating a comprehensive approach that addresses root causes rather than merely addressing surface-level issues [2].

While the political landscape in Honduras reflects a system where clientelism and political biases prevail, understanding the interplay of historical legacies, foreign influence, and political dynamics opens pathways for potential policy changes that can lead to a more equitable and autonomous education system in the future.

Patriarchal Structure and its Influence on Education

A huge issue within rural Honduras is the high occurrence of child marriages, which is rooted in visible gender inequality. This is deeply rooted in the patriarchal societal framework in which Honduras can be placed and has a great influence on adolescents [3].

In addressing the challenges faced by adolescents in rural Honduras, the importance of equipping them with life skills, particularly critical thinking, is underscored. Critical thinking is seen as essential for making informed decisions and taking actions based on a deep understanding and analysis of their surroundings. The complex task of promoting social norms reflecting gender equality and combating child marriage within an educational context can be named an educational challenge [5].

An empirical example is the HEY! Intervention, illustrating how critical thinking can be incorporated into the curriculum to tackle gender inequality and prevent child marriage. The study advocates for pedagogies that foster social analysis, change power relations, and challenge oppression, emphasising the role of critical and feminist pedagogies [5].

The implementation of a curriculum aligned with critical thinking principles involves examining assumptions and imagining alternative ways of thinking and acting. Creating a classroom community where boys and girls engage in dialogue and act as critical mirrors is pivotal to inducing cognitive dissonance and making sense of inconsistencies in beliefs, particularly those related to gender inequality.

While the study yields positive initial results, particularly in encouraging boys to challenge gender inequality and providing girls with opportunities to reimagine their roles, a rigorous impact assessment on child marriage and teen pregnancy is pending. The hope is that documenting the processes and impact of HEY! will inform the design of similar programs fostering critical thinking as a life skill for youth in diverse contexts [5]. However, the continuous existence of child marriage, as well as the general gender inequalities are a huge issue regarding education for all, since it excludes young women and girls from receiving an education.

Covid-19 and its Aftermath

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified longstanding challenges in Honduras, a country grappling with high poverty rates and existing educational crises. Mandated lockdowns in March 2020 resulted in a surge in unemployment, and health crises, and exacerbated ongoing educational issues. Even before the pandemic, Honduras faced educational shortcomings, including poor quality, teacher strikes, and inadequate resources [6]. Illiteracy rates had reached 13% by February 2020.

The public education system, already struggling, ceased to function during lockdowns, leaving enrolled children without formal education for months. Many turned to child labor, while others became vulnerable “street children” exposed to violence and exploitation. The private education system also faced obstacles, with students unable to afford technology or internet services [6].

Children’s rights, protected by Honduran law, including the right to education, family, and dignity, are increasingly at risk. The pandemic has laid bare the deep-seated issues, exposing millions of children to the perils of illiteracy, abuse, neglect, and child labour, suggesting a precarious future for their well-being in Honduras.


The challenges facing education privatisation in Honduras are deeply embedded in historical and structural factors. The historical influence of foreign entities, particularly from the United States, has shaped the state apparatus, fostering dependence on foreign aid and markets. This has led to an unequal distribution of educational resources, with political biases determining privileges. The concept of “State failure” is complex, reflecting historical limitations and financial constraints. Understanding these historical foundations is crucial for addressing education privatisation challenges and advocating for comprehensive policy changes.

Gender inequality, evident in high rates of child marriages in rural Honduras, is rooted in the patriarchal societal framework. Equipping adolescents with life skills, especially critical thinking, becomes essential. The HEY! intervention exemplifies integrating critical thinking into the curriculum to combat gender inequality and child marriage. The study advocates for pedagogies that challenge oppression, emphasising critical and feminist approaches. The classroom becomes a space for dialogue, inducing cognitive dissonance and reshaping beliefs, particularly related to gender inequality. Positive initial results indicate the potential for similar programs to foster critical thinking as a life skill for youth.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges in Honduras, intensifying unemployment, health crises, and educational issues. Lockdowns left enrolled children without formal education, pushing many into child labour or vulnerable “street children” situations. The private education system faced hurdles due to technology and internet access issues. The pandemic exposed deep-seated problems, jeopardizing children’s rights to education, family, and dignity. Illiteracy, abuse, and child labour became heightened risks, suggesting a precarious future for children’s well-being in Honduras.

In conclusion, the multifaceted challenges in Honduras demand holistic approaches that address historical legacies, gender inequalities, and the devastating impact of the pandemic. A comprehensive strategy, encompassing policy changes, pedagogical shifts, and community engagement, is essential for fostering an equitable and autonomous education system that ensures the well-being of the country’s youth.

  • [2] Edwards, D. B., Moschetti, M. C., & Caravaca, A. (2023). Globalization, privatization, and the state : contemporary education reform in post-colonial contexts. https://www.routledge.com/Globalization-Privatization-and-the-State-Contemporary-Education-Reform/Jr-Moschetti-Caravaca/p/book/9780367460822
  • [6] Evans, W. (2021). Public Education in Honduras: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Exacerbated an On-going Educational Crisis  – Trauma Psychology News. Trauma Psychology. https://traumapsychnews.com/2020/11/public-education-in-honduras-how-the-covid-19-pandemic-exacerbated-an-on-going-educational-crisis/
  • [3] NGO Our Little Roses. (2021). Inequality Impacts Girls in Honduras’ Education – Our Little Roses. https://www.ourlittleroses.org/blog/how-inequality-impacts-girls-in-honduras-education-system/
  • [4] Portillo Mejía, T. M. (2022). Honduras: Educational Progress Report. https://www.thedialogue.org/analysis/honduras-educational-progress-report/
  • [5] Sorbring, E., Alampay, L. P., Russell, L., & Smahel, D. (2022). Young People and Learning Processes in School and Everyday Life Volume 5 Series Editors. 5, 215–240. http://www.springer.com/series/15702
  • Student An Der Escuela De Saraguro Honduras · Kostenloses Stock-Foto. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2023, from https://www.pexels.com/de-de/foto/student-an-der-escuela-de-saraguro-honduras-19064143/
  • [1] Worldbank. (2022). Honduras Overview: Development news, research, data | World Bank. Worldbank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/honduras/overview

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