Feliz Dia del Maestro! Yesterday, Sunday, July 6 was Teachers’ Day in Peru, so it was celebrated in schools on Monday. We visited two schools in Lima, the Universidad del Pacifico which is a Jesuit college specializing in the business field, and the Colegio Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a private Catholic elementary school--known as Carmelitas. Both were wonderfully hospitable and allowed us to get a real glimpse into the education system here in Peru.
At the Universidad del Pacifico, we learned much about the socio-economic aspects of Peru from Dr. Vanina Farber, the Chair of Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Social Inclusion, and an overview of the education system including student testing and teacher evaluation from former Vice-Minister of Education, Mr. Martín Vegas. Peru has one of the fastest growing economies (up 75% since 2002) in Latin America, yet it is in the bottom three for educational achievement. Despite the sustained growth of 6.5% in GDP yearly, only 3.1% has allocated to education for the last 10 years. Overall, there has been vast improvements in Peru: low inflation, increased stabilization, lower the public debt, widening of the middle class, increased employment and exports, increased enrollment and accessibility to education, and narrowing of the gender gap in education. They have accomplished a lot in the last several years, but also have a ways to go. Child labor, “decent work” levels, multidimensional poverty , and disparity between rural and urban schools were areas mentioned as needing more attention.
When discussing the economy, Dr. Farber, expertly explained the rampant informal economy of Peru that comprises over 70% of the employment and contributes to growth of the ‘working poor’ class. These are workers providing house cleaning, taxi service, and others services without “decent work” levels such as contracts, health care, pensions, minimum wage and controlled working hours. Such ‘informal’ practices are part of the cultural norms and continue to contribute to the economic and educational divide. It was surprising to see the class break downs were labeled: not poverty, poverty and extreme poverty. Also the rate of multidimensional poverty—those without electricity, health services and potable water—is 36.6%, with the majority in the rural areas. Dr. Farber has had some affiliation with ViewChange.org with the belief that the people, especially women, can be empowered through education.
Mr. Vegas provided us an overview of the three levels of the basic education in Peru: Initial (preschool), Primaria (K- 5) and Secundaria (5 year program equivalent to middle school and high school). Peru has over 13 million student in basic education, 104,467 schools (78,590 urban and 25,877 rural) and over 510,474 teachers (407,776 urban public, 107,698 rural public and 167,325 private) making it one of the largest school systems in Latin America. These totals include both public and private schools as prior to 2000, private institutions were primarily responsible for education as the country was in political and economic crisis. He explained that even though educational accessibility has increased (more schools, more students, more teachers), the budget has remained the same. The average spending per student in Latin American countries is $5,000; in Peru it is $929. The challenge today is to provide equitable and quality education for all Peruvians.
We learned that the school calendar is March 1 through December 20, with a two-week break in July. The typical school day in a public school is 4 hours, as some schools and teachers have to have two and three sessions to all students can attend. Although the cap size for a classroom is 25 in primary and 30 in secondary schools, urban classrooms often exceed the amount and rural schools may only have 5 students. Teacher preparation is a 5 year program at a technical college, and at this time there is no extra training for principals except that they have at least a level 4 (more years experience). Beginning salaries for teachers who work 24 or 36-hour weeks is approximately $450 per month, with those with 15 years of experience making $1200 per month. Due to the low pay, teachers often have to have part-time jobs as tutors. Currently, only second grade students are tested in math and reading, in 2013, 33% met reading comprehension competence and 16.8% met math comprehension competence.
Some changes coming soon are the addition of 6th grade testing, an optional master’s level program for principal training, and a meritocratic system for teacher and principal promotion/retention. The national evaluation which includes a test for teachers on classroom management and pedagogical knowledge has been met with differing viewpoints from new vs. experienced teachers as well as some derision by principals who are currently suing the government as they have to now earn (not be appointed) their positions. Student performance is not included in the evaluation process as there is not evaluation of students at all grade levels and a student score cannot be assigned to just one teacher.
Our day ended at the Colegio Nuestra Señora del Carmen. This charming Catholic parochial, private school is led by Norma Soberón who has served as principal for 12 years in her 33-year career with the Carmelites. In the last three years, the school and its 60 teachers have gone through a pedagogical transformation from a traditional program to one that is now more child-centered, project-based and inquiry driven using the philosophy and methodologies of Reggio Emilia. The social-emotional growth of students and their communication skills appear to play an important role in the daily instruction. The school is dual-language (Spanish and English) and teachers work in pairs of English and Spanish speakers; Math taught in Spanish. As a religious-based school, they only enroll Catholic students and hire Catholic teachers. The overall sense of this school is well-organized with open communication and shared leadership among the staff and administration. It was delightful to watch dismissal with parents coming to the rooms to pick up their child and teachers giving students hugs and kisses good-bye as well as some after-school extra-curricular activities that included art, dance and physical education.
Lastly, to culminate our evening, we dined at Madam Tusan, a well-known Chifa restaurant in Lima. Chifa is one of the many delicious types of cuisines found in Lima. It is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian food. Unfortunately for me, it was not enjoyed for long, for a soon after falling asleep Atahualpa’s Revenge (the Peruvian version of Montezuma’s) was upon me. Luckily, I am making a speedy recovery so I can get out an experience more of Peru.
|Our group is greeted at the Universidad del Pacífico by Ms. Patricia Icaza. In the U of L group, LaRhondolyn, Sarah, Carla, Cabrina,Stephanie, Dr. Jean-Marie, Ashley, and Deborah.|
|Dr. Vanina Farber during her presentation on Peru's economy and education.|
|Posing with Dr. Farber after her presentation: Dr. Aliaga, Dr. Jean-Marie, Stephanie, Ashley, Deborah, Cabrina, Sarah, Carla, and LaRhondolyn.|
|The U of L group with former vice-minister of Education, Mr. Martín Vegas, who provided an overview of the education system in Peru. Dr. Jean-Marie, Sarah, Cabrina, Carla, Ms. Patricia Icaza, LaRhondolyn, Stephanie, Ashley, and Deborah.|
|A stop by the Universidad del Pacífico main auditorium, where Dr. Jean-Marie greeted students who were about to defend their thesis.|
|Visiting the Carmelitas school where Dr. Pentecost and Meredith spent their day. Cabrina, Deborah, Ms. Catherine, Ms. Norma Soberón, school principal, Carla, Ashley, Sarah, and Dr. Jean-Marie.|
|The Carmelitas gymnasium.|
|Visitng one the primary school classrooms. Deborah, Dr. Pentecost, Stephanie, Sarah, Cabrina, Carla, Meredith, and LaRhondolyn.|
|Our music expert, Ashley, in the music room trying the "cajón peruano" (Peruvian wood box), a percussion instrument now played in several countries.|
|Waiting for our table at the Madam Tusán restaurant, where we tried Peruvian chifa: Dr. Jean-Marie, Sarah, and Carla.|