New initiatives to increase access to education in the Amazon, improve classroom facilities, and incorporate technology into lessons has given the sector a much-needed boost.
The Peruvian education system has made strides in recent years though it still lags behind the rest of the region in producing skilled and capable students able to face the challenges of the global economy. Leaders in the education sector agree that the uneven quality of education around the country is one of the key obstacles to progress; standardized test scores in Lima and the urban coast are consistently higher than in rural provinces. To overcome this, a number of initiatives are being implemented with the goal of bringing high-quality education to each and every Peruvian. These initiatives generally fall into two categories: modernization and infrastructure.
Kerry Jacobson, the Superintendent of Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in her interview with TBY, succinctly summed up the task the Peruvian education system faces: “The basic challenge is making high-quality education universally available [in Peru]… Geography provides a challenge in this respect, as do many cultural, linguistic, geographic, and economic differences throughout the country.” The sheer differences between the country’s regions combined with insufficient infrastructure and a lack of qualified teaching professionals has led to standardized test scores well below that of its neighbors in the region. In the 2012 round of testing for the Program for International Student Assessment administered by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Peru placed last among the 65 participating countries in math, science, and reading.
Government officials recognize that changes need to be made, and several new initiatives have emerged in recent years in the hope of boosting student achievement. One recent infrastructure-based scheme is Plan Selva (Jungle Plan), a project from the Ministry of Education (MINEDU) that targets the Amazonian region of Peru. A major obstacle in this region is the poor quality of educational facilities, and Plan Selva attempts to improve this through providing prefabricated modulates made of wood and steel that can be used to construct classrooms, libraries, and administrative areas. Developed in collaboration with a team of Lima-based architects and interior designers, the materials are guaranteed for 15 years and are designed to be easily replaceable with local products upon wearing down. The program has received over PEN160 million in funding, and the first modules are expected to benefit more than 1,000 students in the Amazon. This is just one of several new initiatives aimed at ensuring that all Peruvian schools have the materials necessary for success. Another recent MINEDU project invests PEN95 million into furniture for schools, including desks, chairs, lockers, and first aid equipment. The funds will be split between the coast, the mountains, and the jungle to ensure that each region receives the appropriate benefits.
On the modernization side, Peruvian education leaders try to ensure that the education system teaches students the skills they need to succeed. This has at times meant adapting traditional education procedures to fit a new reality; Jorge Yzutsqui, the general manager of Innova schools, explained to TBY that “one of the biggest challenges we have in education is determining what to teach to all the students…[They] want to multi-talk in other aspects of their life, yet our expectation is for them to be in the classroom, remain quiet, and pay attention to a [teacher]. Technology is being used to change the environment of the classroom.” One example of investment in classroom tech comes from the Fundación Telefónica project, which uses the telecommunication giant’s experience and resources to provide technological support and supplies in classrooms. Banco Central de Peru (BCP), the country’s largest bank, also recently announced a PEN252 million investment in education that includes information technology upgrades. Teachers also need to be trained to utilize these new resources. Jacobson explained that “IT tools and technologies are a fundamental part of [Colegio FDR training]. Every student has a laptop… We use different educational platforms to do some of our work in a way that is integrated into the cloud.” Another Telefónica collaboration with Universidad Continental seeks to give teachers training in digital competency skills. In the online course, teachers will receive over 380 hours of in-depth training with the goal of learning how to integrate new technologies into traditional teaching plans.
Change will not come overnight, but the innovations provide a source for strong optimism that improvements are coming. If Peruvians have the patience to trust the process, they will reap the ultimate rewards in the long run: a well-educated population equipped with the skills and adaptability needed to succeed in the modern world.