University of Illinois at Chicago

Soy Indígena: The Promise and Struggles of an Escuela Normal Bilingüe Intercultural in Guatemala

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posted on 2017-10-27, 00:00 authored by Lydia A Saravia
In 2002, Guatemala created twenty-two Escuela Normales Bilingüe Interculturales (ENBIs), one for each ethnic and indigenous groups in Guatemala. These schools grew out of a Peace Accords (1996) that ended a 36-year violent period in Guatemala, marked by acts of genocide. The violence began in 1960 between Guatemala military and guerilla groups fighting for land reform. From 1978 to 1984, Guatemala entered a series of military-run governments, the height of acts of genocide. The 1996 Peace Accords were signed as a means to establish human rights to devastated communities, predominantly indigenous, rural civilians. One of the tenets of the Agreement to Identity and Indigenous Rights (1995) was to establish an education reform that included indigenous cultures, knowledge and languages in the curriculum, including the recruiting and training of indigenous teachers. The creation of the ENBI system of 2002, or teacher training institutions, was a means to begin to address the tenets of the Agreement (1995) and Peace Accords (1996). This qualitative study began in 2014 and examined an ENBI in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Through participant observation and interviews, this study explored curricular practices in classrooms and school sponsored events. Through a curriculum of urgency and a commitment to an indigenous-centered curriculum, this ENBI in the Western Highlands teaches their predominantly indigenous student body pride for their cultural community. While the school maintains a commitment to a bilingual and intercultural curriculum, two changes are beginning to shift the ways in which ENBIs operate. The 2014 academic school year marked the last year students graduated with a primary school teaching certificate from “normal” schools, including ENBIs. This year also introduced the Duolingo language software as part of a new partnership with Guatemalan technology entrepreneur, Luis von Ahn, and the Guatemala Ministry of Education. Duolingo is set to be part of the English language curriculum at 97 schools, including the ENBI for this study. These two changes become a challenge to the commitment of recruiting and training indigenous teachers as well as disrupts the commitment to include and teach indigenous languages.



Morales, Zitlali


Morales, Zitlali


Curriculum and Instruction

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Ayers, William Stovall, David Schaafsma, David French, Brigittine

Submitted date

May 2017

Issue date


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