Current Challenges in Teacher Training, Methodology, and Teacher Incentives
After exploring the history and basic structure of the Peruvian education system, I would like to focus in on some of the challenges related to teachers, training, methodology, and incentives that continue to hold back the education system in Peru. Issues that must be addressed are insufficient teacher training, lack of focus on new methodologies, issues in rural schools and with multi-grade classrooms, teacher absenteeism, and absence of financial or personal incentives.
Fortunate enough to secure an interview with a former English teacher trainer working for a project sponsored by the Ministry of Education, I was able to get an insiders viewpoint of the Pedagogical Institutes in Peru. The teacher training structure consists of five years of training at the Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos (ISP) to gain a professional qualification in primary or secondary education. In efforts of the Peruvian Ministry of Education to fill more schools, especially rural appointments, many of these Pedagogical Institutes arose to fill the need for more teachers. According to Katherine Norbeck, former teacher trainer in Peru, the pedagogical institutes are associated with a certain level of quality education. Therefore, they are a good substitute for university admissions and are often more accessible than an academic university track. Many students choose this track because teaching is considered a respectful profession and it is accessible. However, the institutes focus more on content and content competencies than on teaching methodologies. English teachers don’t usually have more than a basic knowledge of English to impart on their students. Even worse, upon graduation, there is no guarantee of work because of the saturation of teachers in specific areas of the country.
Katherine Norbeck spoke about the challenges that many teachers face in Peru. It is often hard to get resources at schools, and if teachers ask, they are afraid of appearing to be too needy. Contractual problems also arise, as teachers have to renew their contract every semester or year. They only find out if they are hired or not five days before the semester begins, thus not giving them sufficient time to prepare classes or develop professional skills. This lack of stability also prevents greater time investment, as there is no guarantee that their professional development will lead to a contract. Moreover, teacher support is weak. Once sent to a school there is little continued teacher development in place. Evaluation of teachers is perceived as a threat as they think they are in the first part of the firing process. One of the biggest challenges Katherine Norbeck stated was the lack of communication between the Ministry of Education and the different institutions. The focus is on quantity not quality and continuing the status quo (Norbeck, 2013).
Additional challenges arise among students and teachers in rural schools. The need for teachers in rural schools in Peru is very high. Oftentimes, this results in teachers from urban centers to be sent on one year contracts to teach in rural areas. Since there is such a need, often younger teachers will enter the profession through an opening at one of these schools. Many of the schools require teachers to use multi-grade classrooms without being given methodology on how to approach various learning levels. As well, teachers have to run errands and deposit their checks in the cities, thus leading to higher rates of absenteeism in the schools. “One recent study examined a non-random sample of 16 rural schools and found that only 59 percent of the scheduled time is actually used, in part because of a teacher absence rate that reached 21 percent “(Alcázar, Rogers, Chaudhury, Hammer, Kremer & Muralidharan, 2006). “Especially in teacher multi-grade schools, the teacher is often responsible for carrying out official business with authorities from the education sector, to obtain foodstuffs, to provide information about matriculated students and to look for material support. All these activities take time out of the teacher’s teaching commitment. There is no system of administrative support for teachers carrying out their official activities and no system of pedagogical support which would help them improve their actual work in the classroom” (Hargreaves, Montero, Chau, Sibli & Thanh, 2001).
Financial and personal incentives also challenge teachers. The typical teacher in Peru makes $211 US dollars per month and many teachers do not even get certified in the first place. A drive to supplement income with side employment may also lead to levels of absenteeism in the classroom. Additionally, teachers are living far away from their family connections at rural posts in temporary contracts, thus promoting a lack of incentive to invest their time in those communities. Moreover, “ teachers appear to have few incentives to avoid absenteeism or minor misconduct, at least in practice. Hiring decisions are ostensibly made on merit but, according to informed observers, are substantially influenced by connections and bribery. Transfers to desirable locations appear also to be mediated by these non-meritocratic factors, reducing the incentive to perform well “(Alcázar, Rogers, Chaudhury, Hammer, Kremer & Muralidharan, 2006).
Considering these various factors, one is led to ask how the situation can be improved. Some initiatives have been created to address issues in multi-grade schools. The Quality of Rural Education Improvement Project (Proyecto de Mejoramiento de la Calidad de la Educacion Rural, PMCER) has the goal of providing better services to rural teachers through new educational networks. It also aims to provide better materials, have teacher-training centers that hold regular courses addressing pedagogical changes and the addition need for bilingual-intercultural training. The PROANDES project, which was sponsored by UNICEF (1997) and working with The National Primary and Grammar Schools Directorate, has addressed many issues such as practical training, monitoring and evaluation, the importance of teacher support groups, dialog with diverse agencies and sectors, and the value of manageable curriculum with set milestones (Hargreaves, Montero, Chau, Sibli & Thanh, 2001). Another project worth mention is the teacher education project (Proyecto de Mejoramiento de la Educacion Basica, PROMEB). It spanned between 2001-2009 and took place in the Northern region of Peru near Piura. It was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and coordinated by AGRITEAM, a development agency in Alberta. Its focus was on the improvement of education in rural areas through a teacher education initiative. PROMEB was able to create supportive teacher networks and facilitate research and new teaching initiatives in each school. It involved seminars and culminated in community presentations based on individual projects (Alsop, Ames, Arroyo & Dippo, 2011).
Overall, it is important to look at these structural and teacher training issues, as well as teacher incentives and support in order to improve the quality of the school system in Peru. Hopefully the role of new government initiatives, as well as the role of international agencies and NGO’s can affect sustainable changes for not only the teacher’s conditions, but more specifically some of these complex issues in rural schools. Solutions could include formal training in multi-grade classroom pedagogy, teacher support systems, financial incentives, or teachers from rural communities teaching in those communities. More monitoring and evaluation, as well as the role of parent group involvement would also support improvements in methodology. Peru faces challenges of poverty, lack of sufficient teaching materials, geographically dispersed schools, and students from various language backgrounds. However, if some of these structural and teacher support issues can be addressed there are great possibilities for improvement.
Norbeck, K., Fulbright Recipient and English Teacher Trainer, Ministry of Education, 2011 (2013, 3). Interview by B Doan [Personal Interview].
Hargreaves, E., Montero, C., Chau, N., Sibli, M., & Thanh, T. (2001). Multigrade teaching in Peru, Sri Lanka and Vietnam: an overview. International Journal of Educational Development, 21, 499-520. Retrieved from www.elsevier.com/locate/ijedudev
Alcázar, L., Rogers, F., Chaudhury, N., Hammer, J., Kremer, M., & Muralidharan, K. (2006). Why are teachers absent? Probing service delivery in Peruvian primary schools. 1-28.
Alsop, S., Ames, P., Arroyo, G., & Dippo, D. (2011). Programa de fortalecimiento de capacidades: reflections on a case study of community-based teacher education set in rural northern Peru. Springer Science Business Media, (56), 632-649.
International Association of Universities (IAU). (2001). Education system of Peru. Retrieved from http://www.foreignconsultants.com/peru-educ.php
UNESCO International Bureau of Education, Ministry of Education. (2001). Peru: The development of education. Retrieved from website: http://www.ibe.unesco.org/International/ICE/natrap/Peru_En.pdf