Peru: Getting teachers up to speed
Shortly before the holiday break, Peru’s minister of education, Patricia Salas O’Brien, announced two major initiatives to improve teaching quality by providing additional teacher training and reforming the public teaching career track.
When President Ollanta Humala took office in July 2011, he emphasised the need to prioritise education in promoting his agenda for social progress and inclusion. Since then, however, the new administration has remained relatively silent on issues of education reform, making Salas’s announcements the first of their kind under the new government.
In mid-December, Salas informed local press of a new campaign entitled “Cambiar la Educación: Cambiemos Todos” (To Change Education: We Change Everything). This new initiative will provide training in “basic capacities” to 160,000 teachers in Peru’s public school system. Additionally, 21,000 schools will receive further teaching support services.
Shortly after announcing the new campaign, Salas said the current public teaching career path (CPM) would be maintained into the next year, but with several improvements. In addition to creating better evaluation processes for teachers, the career track will be divided into five stages. Well-prepared teachers will be able to reach the fifth and final stage around the age of 45.
Both of these efforts correspond with the National Education Project that began in 2006, under the administration of former President Alan García. It is of little surprise that the Ministry of Education would begin to tackle education reform in Peru starting with teachers. While Peru has historically had an ample supply of teachers, the quality of teacher training institutes has often been called into question.
According to a report by the National Education Council, as of 2006 approximately 30,000 teachers graduated from training programmes annually, while only 6800 new teachers were needed to fill new positions and replace retirees.
However, many of these graduates were trained in low-quality teaching institutes. One report revealed that out of 120 teaching schools evaluated by the Ministry of Education, only 29 met basic requirements.
Santiago Cueto, a principal researcher at GRADE, a private, non-profit development think tank in Lima, told OBG that despite the low wages, in the past many people were drawn to the teaching profession for its reliable paychecks, easy seniority-based promotions, and long summer vacations.
The last administration took steps towards reforming this system by shutting down several hundred low-quality pedagogy schools. Now the Humala administration will be charged with continuing the effort to improve teaching quality in Peru.
“In general, it’s a good idea to begin educational reform with the teachers,” Cueto told OBG. “Studies have shown that good teachers are an essential component of improved overall educational quality. However, in addition to more and better training, we also need to think about taking a new approach to the teaching career path in general, by encouraging merit-based promotions and finding ways to remove bad teachers from the system.”
While minister Salas did not mention either the institution of merit-based promotions or plans to remove poorly performing teachers in her recent public statements, she did emphasise new efforts to reform the public school administrative system in general.
Bureaucratic processes are often at fault for delays at the start of the school year in March. For example, it is not uncommon for teachers to wait months past the start of the school year before they are assigned to a classroom. Additionally, complex vendor bidding processes delay the delivery of school materials and books to schools. Salas informed local press that this will not be the case in 2012: “We are committing to [Cambiar la Educación: Cambiemos Todos] to ensure that all school texts, that used to arrive between four and 10 months late, will now arrive on time.” Cueto told OBG that delays in teacher assignments and books have historically impacted schools in poor, rural areas more than schools in urban centres. However, the Humala administration’s policy of social inclusion is likely to push the Ministry of Education to more specifically address rural educational needs.
Though the details about how the ministry plans to deliver on its promises remain unclear, there is strong public support for Salas’s plans to train teachers and make sure classrooms nationwide are prepared for the start of the upcoming school year.