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Quality in the classroom: A peek into Peru’s approach

Middlebury Institute of International Studies Blog: Part 1- Historical, Cultural, and Philosophical Influences in Education

What we’re talking about:

How teachers contribute to the quality of education in Peru. According to UNESCO’s latest data set in the Global Education and Monitoring Report, 94.7% of all teachers in Peru have received official training in education. This data point arguably reflects the quality of education provided to the students.  

How do they measure this?

The training of teachers looks vastly different across the globe; therefore, UNESCO’s definition of “trained” ranges from a full degree in education to a certificate in pedagogical, professional, and content knowledge. The wide variety of certificates and degrees makes teacher training the least comparable indicator in the SDG 4 monitoring framework.

Let’s put this in context of Peru.

In 2007, the Peruvian government required teachers to take a competency exam with the expectation that the scores would prove the need for teacher training. The test scores were later published in the newspapers and the National Teachers Union had reason to believe that the scores would be leveraged to fire instructors. The tension between the two parties have remained and prevented the government from spearheading any educational research.

Furthermore, in 2009, Peruvian students took the PISA and collectively ranked at the bottom out of 65 other countries. In another round of testing in mathematics and reading comprehension, only 30.9% of students reached the expected level in reading and 12.8% in math. These scores in conjunction with the outside push for universal free primary education put pressure on the Peruvian schools and government which they were not prepared to meet.

Some educational policies were passed that followed a structure focusing heavily on inputs. In 2010 one initiative spent $225 million to provide 860,000 laptops to schools across the country. Other initiatives provided textbooks, technology and other materials to students for little or no cost; however, none of these proved to have a substantial impact on student learning. The 2012 Law of Teacher Career form was also enacted and established eight levels of salaries for teachers but had little to offer to support teachers or strengthen the infrastructure of the education system. The policy also failed to provide incentive for teachers to instruct in rural classrooms, further marginalizing the schools that needed the most support.

Are there other solutions?

They trained the teachers! Initially, a variety of barriers made accessing university difficult for aspiring instructors. Cue Peru’s substantial economic growth. The country’s GDP grew each year between 2001-2011 allowing the government to invest more into public education and meet the increasing demand for access to classrooms. The Peruvian Ministry of Education created Pedagogical Institutes that were aimed at training teachers, increasing public respect for the occupation, and incentivizing more professionals to teach in rural areas. These institutions incorporated newer teaching styles. Universities also started to offer certificate programs for students who couldn’t access a full degree.

Several initiatives also were started to support teachers, especially those in rural areas. The Quality of Rural Education Improvement project targeted rural schools by bolstering support and offering extra services to teachers. Countries outside of Latin America jumped in as well. The Canadian International Development Agency funded the Teacher education project which also trained teachers. Finally, a Strategic Learning Achievement Program was also established in order to monitor and evaluate these reforms that were implanted in the educational system.

So teachers are trained and quality is high. Problem solved?

The 94.7% doesn’t tell the whole story. UNESCO reported the following limitations in a report from 2014.

1. Teachers aren’t being trained in the mother tongues of indigenous students which has been problematic for students in rural areas.

2. Outside funders and organizations who create and provide trainings are doing so in English.

3. The training statistics do not reflect teacher attendance. The teacher absence rate was 21% and only 59% of class time was actually used by the teachers. Attendance of teachers is also particularly poor in rural areas where teachers travel to larger cities to get errands done.

4. Teachers are still poorly paid and not supported in the classroom.

5. Principals and teachers in State-run schools are not allowed to make decisions such as what textbooks to use or what teachers to hire or let go.

6. Gender-sensitive teaching is not commonly included in the curriculums for teacher training.

7. Rural areas still struggle to draw in teachers leaving the students behind in education.

8. Not at trained teachers can find a job depending on where they live.

9. Sometimes teachers are hired last minute and do not have time to prepare for the semester properly.

What does 94.7% mean for education quality in Peru?

Peru’s education system has greatly benefited from their growing economy. Public investment resulted in more services and resources for both students and teachers. Teachers are learning how to engage their students and create meaningful lessons. According to the Borgen Project, in 2014, the literacy rate was 90% and the attendance rates of students was continuing to improve. The numbers show progress. However, the 94.7% doesn’t tell the whole story. UNESCO reported that there were still notable margins in learning between girls and boys, students of various socioeconomic classes, and urban and rural schools. Some of these margins have grown despite the increase in teacher trainings. The limitations mentioned above demonstrate the need for further support in how to reach all students. Peru has taken great strides to support teachers but there’s more work to be done.

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