School Dropout in Developing Countries: The Case of Indigenous Communities in Guatemala

Dublin Core


School Dropout in Developing Countries: The Case of Indigenous Communities in Guatemala


Patricia Gómez-Luengo




Education is a basic right which any person should have the opportunity to access. However, around 120 million children worldwide are as yet uneducated. A qualitative study was conducted in an indigenous community in rural Guatemala in order to identify the key factors that discourage students to continue from primary to secondary school education. The participants of the study were divided into two groups depending on whether they were students, parents of students or teachers at the rural school. Results suggested that factors of different natures (structural, political and cultural) overlap each other. The factors related to school dropout were related to demography, health, lack of economic resources and Government support, lack of social support and lack of intrinsic motivation to graduate from formal education. In contrast, protection factors to remain at school were related to future aspirations and social mobility, parental support and economic support.


Semi-structured interviews
Thematic Analyses


Data Collection
Data was collected using qualitative, semi-structured interviews to facilitate the discovery of new conceptual and theoretical knowledge (Power & Alison, 2017) about the factors that take place in the process regarding the decision of remaining or disengaging from education. This method has been used regularly by researchers who seek to generate an understanding of real-world psychology (Crandall, Klein, & Hoffman, 2006; Klein & Militello, 2004). The interview sought to achieve a better understanding of the reality that the people interviewed are living through analysing their personal experience.
The researcher who conducted these interviews spent 2 weeks prior to data collection immersing herself in the work environment of the school in the rural area of Guatemala, reading previous literature on the topic, attending school and classes with the children and interacting with teachers, students and families in order to establish a working relationship with each group.
Each interview lasted approximately half an hour, depending on the participants will, in order to prevent participant exhaustion (M = 35). The interview stopped if the participant was perceived to be uncomfortable. Participants were sat in a quiet location and interviewed on a mobile phone. Interviews were semi-structured and included topics such as the characteristic of the educational system, the practices and processes that appear as determinants of the decision for permanently remaining or disengaging from the formal educational process, and personal situations or of the people that the participants knew. Interviews were transferred to a computer and anonymously transcribed, with all identifiable details (e.g., names, locations) removed, for its analysis. Thematic analysis was conducted in order to understand the subjective experience of the participants as the paramount object of the study throughout the organization and reach description of the data set.
Data Analyses
Analyses conducted in the interpretation of the results were thematic analysis, as through its theoretical freedom, it provides a flexible and useful research tool, which can potentially provide a rich and detailed, yet complex, account of data (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
Preliminary analyses were conducted of the notes that were taken during the interview immediately following each one of them. This was to develop an early understanding of the types of challenges identified by participants (Power & Alison, 2017). Analyses continued during interview transcription by keeping notes on the key themes that emerged during transcription.
After the transcription of the interviews, thematic analyses were conducted on the data using NVIVO. Thematic analysis is a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns (themes) within data, minimally organising and describing the data set in (rich) detail (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
According to Braun and Clarke (2006), thematic analyses involved six phases: (a) familiarization with the data through transcription and rereading of the text; (b) generation of initial codes across the data set; (c) collation of codes into themes that captured something important of the data in relation of the research question, and represents some level of patterned within the data set; (d) revision of themes and refinement of categories; (e) definition and naming of themes of the overall story that the data tells; and (f) production of a detailed scholarly report of analyses. Following the example of Power and Alison (2017), it is important to mention that the themes were not quantified. The reasons for this was that the interview style was semi-structured, meaning that not all participants were asked the same questions as prompts were used to probe discussion rather than lead it (i.e., just because the participant did not perceive lack of parental support as an issue in their description of the situations that may lead to students to disengage school, it does not mean that they do not perceive it as a helping factor to remain. Analyses were conducted by the primary researcher, who discussed coding with her supervisor to reach mutual agreement and consensus.


Lancaster University






John Towse








Text (speech)





Nicola Power

Project Level



Social Psychology

Sample Size

A total of 15 people participated in this study. Data was collected from the students of a small school of about 120 in a small indigenous village near Antigua, Guatemala

Statistical Analysis Type





Patricia Gómez-Luengo, “School Dropout in Developing Countries: The Case of Indigenous Communities in Guatemala,” LUSTRE, accessed April 19, 2024,