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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Travel Report: Elizabeth Stoiaken, Honduras

August 16, 2012
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Elizabeth Stoiaken, a Master's student in Latin American Studies, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award to research her thesis in Honduras. Her report:

From May to August 2012, I lived and volunteered in Honduras, where I conducted research for my thesis in Latin American Studies. The goal of this study was to understand the lived experiences of adolescents making decisions about dropping out or continuing with secondary schooling, based on family circumstances, reasons for choosing a particular kind of school, educational goals, perceptions of the value of education and educational experiences.

I pursued this research goal in a city (and country) with very high drop out rates, high rates of poverty and one of the most unequal education systems in Latin America. This study was conducted at a private bilingual school, a public school and an alternative distance-learning center to compare educational experiences. In order to conduct this research, the following activities were carried out to achieve the following results:

  • Classroom observation and volunteering 1-2 school days per week, to participate in the school environment and observe from an insider’s perspective
    Results: 114 hours of observation at private school, 48 hours of observation at distance learning program, 30.5 hours of observation at public school
  • Interview 10 students, with the permission of their parents/guardians, regarding their educational experiences
    Results:
    30 student interviews (10 from each school)
  • Interview teachers, administrators and Directors at each of the schools
    Results:
    20 interviews with staff (public school – 5, private school – 6, distance program – 7)
  • Interview parents of students whenever possible
    Results:
    1 interview with parent
    This research goal was unexpectedly difficult to achieve due to parents’ work schedules, difficultly of arranging a safe time/place to meet, and the task of interviewing students
  • Gather general demographic information about each school
    Results:
    Focused on one grade level at each school; for comparison purposes collected demographic information about classroom population and about the school in general

Other results:

  • Collected survey information of 75 businesses to learn the educational level required for new hires, number of employees and monthly wage
  • Interviewed 7 people outside of school case studies, regarding stories of school drop out

Unexpected benefits to understanding of research problem
I began this research hoping to focus on how a student’s gender might influence their decision to stay in school or drop out, and I did gather information about this topic during interviews.

However, I came to understand that in the Honduran setting, social class is seen to be much more important in understanding educational opportunities, experiences in school and self-perception as a student and future worker.

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