Interview: Jaime Saavedra
To what extent can scholarship programmes such as “Beca 18” facilitate greater access to tertiary education for lower-income segments?
JAIME SAAVEDRA: “Beca 18” is a programme that changes lives. It gives young people from lower-income families the chance to access high-quality universities and technical institutes. The programme has attained ISO 9001 quality certification, and around 70% of its beneficiaries come from schools in rural areas. We have already awarded over 45,000 scholarships to advance progress, while students from the programme have gone on to win international competitions in the fields of robotics and engineering.
What can be done from a policy standpoint to expand provincial education infrastructure?
SAAVEDRA: Education in Peru is below the level it should be at. We must make unprecedented efforts to make changes and strive for excellence. In order to do so, the education reform has four pillars: strengthening the teaching profession, improving learning quality, management modernisation and reducing the gap in infrastructure.
We are aware that, to improve, we need well-trained and well-paid teachers. More than 50,000 teachers have had their salaries raised based on their performance. We have implemented a contest-based entry to the teaching profession that has been very demanding and that 200,000 teachers have taken with an entry rate of 4%. To modernise the education system, we have already selected 15,000 school principals through a merit-based evaluation. Moreover, we are increasing the proportion of students who have additional afternoon tutoring. Alongside this, we have extended the school day, from 35 to 45 academic hours per week, in 1000 schools nationwide This has allowed us to increase the number of hours devoted to studying English, mathematics and vocational Education, among other subjects. Similarly, we are placing a greater emphasis on learning English, with the eventual aim of all high school students in Peru meeting the upper-intermediate level of the Common European Framework by the time they graduate. Further to this, we have established 14 high-performance state schools, where our most talented high school students will be able to have an education according to their needs and where they will be part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. In the past three years we have invested $1bn annually in Education infrastructure, a record amount. However, the gap is so large that we need to double the pace of investment to close it in 10 years. To implement the reform we have increased the budget allocated to education significantly from 2.8% of GDP in 2011 to 3.9% in 2016. Our goal is 6% by year 2021. As a country, we need to continue the financial and political effort in the coming years.
What steps can be taken to equip graduates with skills that are relevant to the local job market?
SAAVEDRA: The quality of higher Education is mixed and, on average, lower than we would like it to be. Our national policy on higher Education focuses on four areas: licensing, information systems, development policies and a system of accreditations. Since the passage of the University Act in 2014, the state has worked to ensure that all universities meet basic quality standards. It has also launched Ponte en Carrera, the Centre for Education and Employment, which features information about the employability and income of graduates from different universities and institutes. We have sent to Congress the Institutes and Schools of Higher Education bill, which is aimed at improving the quality of higher technical Education through a new model based on a flexible academic framework, licensing processes with standards of quality, upgrading of public institutions and the creation of a public teaching career based on merit.
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