There are two types of schools in Peru: public and private ones. Public schools are financed by the state and are supposed to be free. In practice, that is not the case. Parents have to buy school materials (notebooks, coursebooks, etc.) and uniforms and they pay a small amount of money when they enroll their child at school at the beginning of the school year. However, private schools are much more expensive and receive a contribution of the parents every month.
As is the case in Belgium, there is compulsory education in Peru. Thus, every Peruvian citizen should complete the three levels of education: three years of nursery education from three to six years old, six years of primary education from six to twelve years old and five years of secondary education from twelve to sixteen years old. However, the law on compulsory education only exists in theory and is definitely not the norm in everyday life. Many children do not go to school from a very young age onwards. Instead, they help out at home, sell stuff on the street or work on the fields. When children do complete their entire school career, it is often only because their parents want their children to have a good education, not because it is compulsory.
Another problem apart from school absenteeism is the quality of education. According to most people, the quality of education is mediocre or even bad. It is clear that the Peruvian education system is faced with a crisis of confidence. Many of the problems that cause the system’s bad quality have to do with the teachers’ inadequate training and the lack of resources allocated by the state.
Some national figures
- Up to 40% of pupils drop out of primary school.
- Approximately 15% of all six to eleven year-olds do not have access to education, mainly outside of the cities. This figure even amounts to 30% for 12 to 16 year-olds.
- Only two in three girls aged between three and five go to nursery school. In villages in the countryside this number even amounts to only one in two girls. (Source: Plan België, 2012)
- The average level of Peruvian pupils and students ranks 63th on a list of 65 countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
- Approximately 11% of Peruvians who live in the cities is illiterate, the majority of them (8%) are women. The numbers are even higher in the countryside: 11% of men and 35% of women cannot read or write.
(Source: Instituto National de estadística informática, Peru, 2009)
Nursery education in Curahuasi
There are no recent and concrete figures about nursery education in Curahuasi. However, we noticed several problems during observations and talks with schools.
Private schools only have a limited number of pupils and have only been offering nursery education for one or two years. They only have one classroom, in which toddlers from three to six years old are all taught together. Usually, they do have a well-trained and motivated teacher, but little to no school materials.
Public schools located in town have more pupils and more teachers, so they can split up into age groups. They have received a lot of materials the last couple of years – a catch-up operation by the state – but they lack the knowledge (and motivation) to use them.
Public schools outside the centre also have the necessary materials at their disposal, but they have very few pupils. This is because parents do not recognize the importance of education, because children go and work on the field from a young age onwards, or because it is too difficult for the parents to prepare their children and bring them to school. It is easier to take them with them to the fields in a sling.
Thus, the schools’ needs for support are different:
Private schools: How can we develop educational materials without additional costs? How do we cope with different age groups within one classroom?
Public schools: How do we work with all of these materials? How can we motivate the parents to bring their children to school?
There are also different interests. Teachers from private schools and schools located outside of Curahuasi are more motivated to retrain themselves and work together. Teachers with tenure who have enough pupils are more skeptical.
Primary education in Curahuasi
The local teachers are not trained to deal with children with a learning disability. Differentiation is still unknown to them. Consequently, children who are already struggling with the subject matter, often sit in the back of the classroom. In order to absorb this, the children who have graduated from Oye LENA, receive homework support on the project.