Interview: Fernando D’Alessio

Peru currently invests 4% of its GDP into education. How important is it to increase this amount?

FERNANDO D’ALESSIO: It is important that government spending on education is increased from 4% to at least 8% of the country’s GDP before the end of 2017, even if this means decreased public investment in other sectors. The two fundamental pillars in the development of any country are education and health. The government should be responsible for the development and improvement of both. Although the Humala administration has improved the quality of education, the reality is that much still needs to be done to raise the standard and quality of Peruvian education at all levels.

There are six key areas the government should focus on. First, pre-school education should be regulated and supervised, given its role in providing the foundation for education. The relevant authorities should design a curriculum to be followed by all pre-schools. Second, enforcement of quality standards for private schools should be strengthened, and the quality of public schools should match that of most private institutions. There are many private institutions that do not meet the official standards of quality for teachers, curricular structure and management of extra-curricular activities. Third, sports should become a major component of academic programmes, given the key role they play in teaching values and discipline. Likewise, technical skills should also become an important part of curricula. The fourth pillar to developing education should be improving the quality of universities, both private and public. Much has been achieved through the creation of the National Superintendence of Higher University Education, but standards need to be raised to guarantee quality improvements. In fact, the number of universities should be decreased from 142 to no more than 71 tertiary institutions. Fifth, and although the level of post-graduate education in Peru is remarkable, more emphasis should be placed on incentivising research. Finally, the government must improve its capacity to supervise how the different regions of the country invest public education funds. Increasing public investment in education will have little effect if the different regions are not held accountable.

What role can online and distance learning play in expanding education opportunities for people in remote parts of the country?

D’ALESSIO: It can play a very important role as it is the only type of education that can reach all corners of the country. Distance learning has made major quality improvements in recent years, and is increasingly being regarded as a viable alternative that can meet educational quality standards. However, the challenge to increasing the impact of online education is its cost. Few institutions can afford the sophisticated and costly software required for many online courses. Availability of professors that are certified to teach online is also an obstacle. Furthermore, internet access must first reach remote areas in order to revolutionise education; this will happen once the layout of the national backbone network has been completed.

How can entrepreneurship be incentivised?

D’ALESSIO: The most important barrier to entrepreneurship in Peru is bureaucracy. Processes to set up businesses need to be simplified in order to decrease their length. To incentivise entrepreneurship the government must first acknowledge that there are three categories of entrepreneur: first, those with low financial means and levels of education that set up companies with small capital investments for their self-sustenance; second, those with university degrees and higher access to financing; and third, those with post-graduate degrees and experience in medium to large organisations. By understanding the different types of entrepreneur, the government could increase its capacity to create a sustainable and encouraging framework for entrepreneurship in Peru.