Education and Social Issues in Peru and Ancash-Updated

In response to one of our most well-read (albeit) outdated blog posts, I have taken this opportunity to update with excerpts from a recently well-written report from our University of Texas volunteer duo from the past summer.  

Pre-med students, Grace Gannon and Marc St Cyr, spent the summer helping and supporting Teach a Teacher projects and looking for opportunities for further projects in education and social needs in our area, in hopes that the University of Texas will be able to collaborate with Teach a Teacher in the future.  Below are some excerpts which should help update some of the readers out there that find our blog in search for data on the present situation:

The beautiful South American country of Peru, has seen economic gains in the past few decades but still lags behind in important measures such as education, health, and the environment.  While some may look upon this as a liability, we see it as tremendous opportunity for growth.  In June and July of 2015 we lived and worked in Caraz, Peru, a town located in the Ancash region at the base of the Peruvian Andes. Founded in 1856 by Simón Bolívar, Caraz is a popular town for tourists looking to hike the Santa Cruz trail through the Cordillera Blanca mountain range or to spend time in the beautiful Huascaran National Park. While Caraz is only 67 km from the more well-known city of Huaraz, it is a lengthy 470 km from Peru’s capital city of Lima and is very much a rural town that preserves traditional cultures of the Peruvian people (Waterson et al., 2015).

Peru is a country with a fascinating history and rich cultural traditions that persist to this day. In the mid-1500s Francisco Pizzaro arrived at the Inca stronghold of Cajamarca in northern Peru and demanded the natives renounce their religion and gods and pledge their allegiance to the ever-expanding Spanish empire. The Incan king’s refusal of this proposal led to four decades of the steady eradication of the Inca peoples in Peru and the establishment of a dominant Spanish presence in the country (Steinberg-Spitz, 2015). The sharp divide of racial and ethnic discrimination created by this conquest can still be felt today. In Caraz, as in almost every other rural town, Spanish descendants are treated as superior to the Quechua natives. The poverty rate for the Ancash region—the region that includes Caraz and the only area for which data is available—is 42.6%, mostly comprised of rural farmers who cannot speak Spanish and therefore have no chance for upward mobility. Other common forms of employment are in the service industry, such as food and restaurant businesses, hair salons, and taxi services, and small merchants who specialize in commodities such as shoes or clothing. The official unemployment rate for the Ancash region is 3.84%, but frequent protests and strikes serve as proof that there is a higher percentage of underemployed and underpaid workers. Additionally, the region still falls short in access to basic resources; for example, there are only 21 hospitals in the entire Ancash region (roughly 14,000 square miles, slightly larger than the state of Maryland), and the region has 4.31 physicians per 100,000 people. The population lacking at least one basic need, though declining, remains at almost 20%4. ????

However, important health measures recognize the Ancash region as steadily improving; the infant IMG_20150317_111857_294mortality rate has seen a dramatic decrease between 2000-2011 from 50% to 15%, and the average life expectancy for the region is now over 74 years of age. Similarly, the percentage of people with secondary (42%) and tertiary (26%) education has greatly increased over the past decade. Even better are the numbers for primary education; the gross enrollment rate for children ages 3-16 in some form of education is nearing 94%, while the primary school attendance rate is above 99%.  Furthermore, the illiteracy rate in the Ancash region is below 10% for the first time in recorded history (Knoema, 2011-2015).


Education and Ecological Assessment

 While one may initially judge the people of Caraz for their poor behavioral choices and neglect of the environment, these are ultimately the result of a poor education system. From pre-primary education in the home through secondary education there is a startling lack of emphasis on quality education and the potential economic benefits it can bring a community (McMahon, 1999). The extremely high attendance rates, especially in primary school, leads to the conclusion that the onus to improve the educational system does not fall on the students, but rather is dependent upon the teachers, principals, and government officials involved in education.

Teachers in Peru face a number of challenges and complications unique to developing nations, and these are most easily identifiable in rural areas such as the majority of the Ancash region. For example, Norma is a primary education teacher, exceptionally gifted compared to her peers, that worked in a rural school a few kilometers north of Caraz. Every weekday she had to take a collectivo (shared taxi) to and from her school since her family does not own a car. However, her meager salary, per day, barely covered the amount she had to pay for the commute and she was forced to accept that it was better for her family if she worked closer to home. Not only did she have to give up a job she loved, but this rural school, and more importantly Norma’s former students, lost arguably their best teacher.

The teachers in rural regions of Peru are not held to an acceptable standard of accountability and often do not make choices in the best interest of their students. A teacher may choose one day, for reasons unknown to their school or students, to simply not show up for work. The students who often walk for an hour or more to get to school in the morning are then forced to turn around and return home, there are no substitute teachers for these occasions. Unfortunately, this occurrence is not rare and a teacher may miss a dozen or more days over the course of the academic year. The only common repercussion is that the teacher does not get paid for the day of work they missed, but this is not enough of a deterrent.

Administrators and government officials also contribute to educational misuse of time, insisting onIMG_20150627_121320_305IMG_20150627_110500_955 participation in elaborate parades through the city, meaning that children and teachers spend many hours in marching practice. While events such as these are important to the preservation of culture and tradition, they detract from the school day, which is the most critical factor in ensuring that the country evolves and IMG_20150705_103335_621progresses through future generations.IMG_20150717_105854_285 Currently, there is not an adequate balance between time  honoring the culture and time devoted to instruction.

These issues of education are pervasive throughout the entire country. In 2012, Peru was ranked last in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey of 65 countries and regions in terms of student achievement in reading, math, and science (Chase, 2013). The World Bank Independent Evaluation Group found that the $350 million that has been invested in education in Peru since 1995 has led to many successes, but that “underlying conditions suggest that improving teacher capacity and the governance of primary (and secondary) education are crucial to improving quality and to increasing efficiently the amount of schooling taken by each student” (Dwyer and Wooten). These findings clearly indicate that if there is to be lasting improvement in the quality of education, Peru must address these underlying issues and lack of structural support within the government.

 Administrative and Policy Assessment

 In contrast to many other regions of Peru, the current administration of Caraz and the surrounding areas are eager to encourage community development projects. During our first week in Caraz we met with the mayor  to inform him about Teach a Teacher’s planned summer projects.  He was interested in the proposed programs and quickly put us in touch with other community leaders who were also enthusiastic about the possibilities. Influential community leaders such as the director of the hospital and even the mayor were enthusiastic about promoting community development projects.

But while the administration fully supports community development project upfront, they greatly lack follow-through in completing projects. Many times during our stay in Caraz we received confirmation from an administrator that they would help with our efforts, and help never came. In Peru, there is a pervasive cultural norm of wanting to appear important, successful, and working for the good of others without ever taking action. This makes it extremely difficult to rely on officials and many other community members to accomplish goals. Furthermore, because very few people have home computers or easy access to the Internet, it is difficult to disseminate information quickly and accurately to members of the community.

These issues stem from inefficiency and corruption in the highest levels of government. The current president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, can be seen as an unfortunate example of the types of people elected to influential government positions in Peru. As a former Lieutenant General in the Peruvian army, Humala has been charged with orchestrating the escape of a political refugee, inciting an insurrection against the government, and committing human rights crimes against an opposition faction. Despite these numerous charges, Humala was still elected the 49th president of Peru in 2011 which subsequently caused the greatest single day decline in the Peruvian stock market (Hollar, 2015). Unfortunately, the inadequacy of the government is present in all levels from federal to local government establishments. The current head of the Ancash region, a man named Waldo Rios, was elected because he made a false promise to give each family 500 soles per month (roughly $150). Now he shows immense favoritism towards friends and family, using government resources to further his own agenda and leaving his electorate forgotten.

One of the saddest examples of this corruption is evident in the UGEL (Unidades de Gestión Educativa Local, or Local Education Management Unit). While this governing body is supposed to oversee and improve standards of education, it is full of teachers who were fired from their jobs for inappropriate conduct with students, violence, and abysmal teaching skills. The UGEL is known as the most corrupt government body in all of Peru, and has been marked with many shady promotions and even deaths. When we met with the UGEL to gain support for educational workshops, they promised to contact and invite teachers but did not deliver on a single commitment.

With governing bodies such as these, teachers have very little hope for improvement and therefore have no incentive to do their jobs well. This is especially evident in how teachers are compensated; teachers in Peru are only paid for the hours they are physically in the classroom teaching, with no payment for hours spent grading, developing lesson plans, or pursing continued education. Because of this, teachers simply hand their students government-designed workbooks and assign the students lines to copy. Thankfully, there is now talk in the Department of Education of changing the payment structure to full-time or half-time salary, but it will take a lot more than this to change the country’s minimalist mentality towards education.

Inroads are being made with many distances and roads to cross ahead.


Steinberg-Spitz, C. (2015). The Inquisition in the New World. Sefarad. Retrieved July 8, 2015.

Knoema. (2011-2015). Key Indicators for Ancash Region, Peru. World Data Atlas. Retrieved July 18, 2015.

McMahon, W. (1999). Measuring the Returns to Education. In Education and Development: Measuring the Social Benefits (pp. 1-15). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chase, R. Peru ranks last in international survey of student progress. (2013, December 3). Living in Peru – International. Retrieved August 11, 2015.

Hollar, S. Ollanta Humala | biography – president of Peru. (2015). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved September 3, 2015.


Teach a Teacher – Learning by Sharing

This July I volunteered for two weeks with Teach a Teacher in Peru. Thanks to Kelly and Mac, I had the opportunity to meet with secondary science teachers in Lima and in the Callejón de Huaylas (Ancash) and share with them some classroom experiences about Inquiry Based Learning.

Taller de Capacitación en Caraz, Ancash.

Taller de Capacitación en Caraz, Ancash.

When I contacted Kelly at the beginning of this year, as a Peruvian myself I was very excited about the possibility of running Inquiry Based Teaching workshops for rural secondary teachers and sharing my experience in this topic with teachers interested in learning and implementing this approach in their classrooms. As a Physics high school teacher at a Canadian private school for the last 8 years, I have had the opportunity of working using this approach with science students and see first hand how motivated students can become with this approach. Little I knew then that this was going to be a great opportunity to learn some things about the current initiatives of the Peruvian Ministry of Education, some Latin American experiences related to Inquiry Based Teaching, and Peruvian high schools, among many other things. Today on this blog post, I would like to talk about some of the things I learned.

Peruvian Ministry of Education Current Initiatives: Given the PISA results of two years ago, where Peru was ranked 65th out of 65 countries or regions, the Government has been working during the last two years in modernizing the education system. One of the initiatives was to create specific guides called Rutas de Aprendizaje that give teachers very detailed information about new teaching approaches. The guides focus mostly on competencies rather that content and give contextualized examples for the different regions of the country. In Science, one of the approaches touched upon is precisely Inquiry Based teaching. These documents, I think, are a very good resource for teachers to learn about an approach to teaching that is based mostly on developing competencies rather that content. However, the government has not been able yet to reach all teachers in the country, especially those in rural areas, to train them in these new approaches. Kelly and Mac have recognized that and this is one of the reasons why the work of Teach a Teacher is so important for teachers in the Callejón de Huaylas.

Some Latin American Initiatives on Inquiry Based Learning: During the preparation of the workshops, I came across some interesting examples of Inquiry Based Learning initiatives in different parts of Latin America. Here are a few of them:

I shared some of the ideas described in these experiences with the workshop participants so they can refer to Spanish sources when thinking of implementing Inquiry Based projects in their courses.

Peruvian High Schools: I learned that in the last 20 years or so, the Peruvian government has managed to build high schools in many very remote areas. It used to be that most students from remote areas had to walk for two or three hours to get to school and nowadays this is not that common because most have a school in their community or a community close by. The downside is that this increased the number of high school teachers hired by the government, many of whom have little to no opportunity of professional development given the remoteness of their workplace. Nevertheless, many of these teachers value immensely any opportunity for professional development and it was nice to see that some of them showed up for our workshops.

Overall this was a wonderful and inspiring opportunity to establish a connection with Peruvian high school science teachers interested in Inquiry Based Learning, a connection that hopefully will lead to future collaboration opportunities. I will be forever grateful to Kelly and Mac for making this possible.

Giselle Lawrence, volunteer from British Columbia, Canada

Barring and Opening the Door to Quality Education

Barring and Opening the Door to Quality Education 

A Volunteer’s Perspective on Education

Police Line

After spending almost two full weeks in Caraz, I am still amazed whenever I think of the beautiful sights, the great weather, the kindness of the people–but I am also saddened when I think of the education that children in this region receive.  Last Wednesday, an eleven-year old girl asked me for help with her homework, which was to write a full page describing a famous person–in English. The problem was that her teacher never taught her any English, and did not offer assistance with the homework. This leads to a situation where the children of wealthy parents pay someone to “tutor” them (aka do their homework), and those who cannot afford to IMG_4796do that are left to fail the assignment. Either way, the children do not learn. But these inefficiencies are not restricted to just learning another language; daily homework for every child in Caraz consists of spending several hours copying sentences from one notebook to another. It saddens me to think that these special years of childhood, when kids should be excited by learning, are spent performing this mindless activity.

peru And when teachers and workers decide to go on strike, the whole system grinds to a halt, at the expense of the children. Just last week in the main city of Huaraz, we saw a line of


policemen barricading the Department of Education to prevent protesters from entering in. In Peru, this kind of incident rarely leads to improvement and leaves both sides–the teachers and the government–resentful and dissatisfied. Thankfully, community leaders in Caraz have displayed genuine interest in improving standards of education. They are passionate about allowing students to learn and take charge of their own future, and willingly dedicate extra community resources to benefit learning initiatives. This kind of cooperation and emphasis on education ensures that students have their best chance to enjoy learning and receive the education they need to chase their dreams. This summer, I have the opportunity to work alongside Teach a Teacher to offer assistance in facilitating this kind of positive change. We will be inviting science teachers from schools all over the region to give them resources and instruction on how to introduce project-based learning into their classrooms. Hopefully, this will excite and engage students to take an interest in their own learning. At this point, the possibilities are endless, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Grace Gannon –  Volunteer from Austin, Texas

mountaina light


Why Should I Support Teach a Teacher Nonprofit ?

                                                                                                                                       By H Mac Wooten

As with any organization whether it is a for-profit or nonprofit, before you offer support, you should ask questions (of yourself and most certainly about the organization).

  • 1. How is the organization structured?  Teach a Teacher is a 501(c) (3) tax exempt under the guidelines of the IRS. Your donation is tax deductible. We are set up as a corporation (in Montana) per the requirements of the IRS.  TaT has an International Board of Directors as well as a Board of Advisers.
  • 2. Who does this organization benefit?  This organization benefits the school teachers who volunteer and their students as well as the educators that learn from them, and ultimately, society at large.  School teachers in Peru learn better basic teaching skills and receive professional development from experienced Teachers from a variety of developed countries.  Our Volunteer Teachers can also learn from this very different environment and take their experiences back to share and use with their students (your children) in their home countries.  This is certainly a win – win situation for both sets of educators.  TaT has no paid personnel.  We operate with Volunteer teachers and other professionals who generously give their time, talents and experience. 
  • 3. How does Teach a Teacher use my money?  We do purchase some teaching materials but first ask that our Volunteer Teachers bring materials with them through the support of co-workers, friends and/or other organizations.  We do not require our Volunteers to speak fluent Spanish, so we hire translators to work with our Volunteers to translate to Spanish and/or in many cases Quechua.  Often many of the teachers we work with are in schools located high in the Andean hillsides.  Transportation for our Volunteers and translators is another expense.  TaT continues to operate on a very low budget so your donation goes to where you expect it to go.  Your donation goes to help teachers learn to teach more effectively. Teach a Teacher would like to one day provide scholarships to our Volunteer Teachers to help them offset the expenses of traveling here.  Our Volunteers pay their own way here.  When working in the classrooms, we try always to provide some basic materials to the children.  The gift of something as simple as pencil and paper could produce the next poet laureate, author, artist or merely someone who will be able to support his or her family.   

    This child works before getting to go to

    This child works before getting to go to school.

  • 4. Is this organization meaningful to me?  Education is a global concern to all of us.  It affects each of us everyday in so many facets.  The mentality of “It’s ok as long as it’s not in MY back yard”  is simply ignorant.  The quality of education worldwide makes it to your “back yard”  whether you realize it or not.  For example; What did you have for supper last night? It’s quite possible that some of the food you ate came from Peru.  Peru is a developing country with a large percent of the population living at or below the poverty level here. Many of this population are subsistence farmers who have little to no reading / writing skills or general education.  These farmers use the restricted and prohibited pesticides that have been banned in most of the developed countries (but still manufactured in developed countries) and sold elsewhere.  Don’t think that because these pesticides can’t be used in your country, that it doesn’t find it’s way back to your table …. where you feed it to your family.  There is a direct correlation regarding poverty and education.  As in many countries, the opportunity for girls to be educated are usually hit the hardest. Families in some of the poorest area depend on their children to help with the care of the animals, siblings and livestock.  This chore generally falls on the girls more that the boys because it’s culturally more important for the male to be better educated.  


  • Why should I help?  It’s your world.  It’s your back yard.  It affects your future and the future of your children and it most certainly affects the people in Peru (a developing country). 
  • Two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are female and over 65% of its poorest people are women and girls”. The MDG Achievement Fund (MDG-F);
  • “In agriculture, women make up more than 40% of the labor force, but only represent between 3 to 20% of landholders.
  • “Discrimination against women and girls – including gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities, and harmful traditional practices – remains the most pervasive and persistent form of inequality.” UNFPA;
  • “Despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They usually have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, credit, training and employment.“Studies have shown that women with even a few years of primary education have better economic prospects, have fewer and healthier children, and are more likely to ensure that their own children go to school. Development would be accelerated if girls were kept in school to complete a quality secondary education”. Jon Lomoy, Director OECD, Helsinki High Level symposium UN 2010 Development Cooperation Forum.“
  • Women usually invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men.  A study in Brazil showed that the likelihood of a child’s survival increased by 20% when the mother controlled household income.

 EDUCATION is The Key to The Future    

Empowered women = empowered families and communities X future generations

Women constitute one half of the world’s population, They do two-thirds of the world’s work, They earn one tenth of the world’s income and  hey own one hundredth of the world’s property including land.  Source: United Nations (1979) State of the World’s Women, Voluntary Fund for the UN


      Mission Statement

 It is our mission to improve the quality of education in Peru, a developing country with a strong desire to find its way. We serve to connect Peruvian teachers to professional development opportunities provided by volunteer teachers from developed nations. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life and promoting empowerment by strengthening education in all countries that participate.

                 Our Vision:            

It is our hope that by providing teachers from developed nations a venue for teaching the skills they cherish in their professions to Peruvian teachers, who are eager to learn and use new skills in their instruction; not only will both parties of teachers grow and benefit from the experience, but this will allow the students influenced by these teachers to glean something new from their teachers’ experiences while continuing to and creating greater value for all cultures.

Teach a Teacher is committed to make a real difference in the lives of people.  Education is the most effective means of combating many of the most profound challenges to human development. Education systems the world over continue to paid a heavy price for the failure of governments to invest in children’s earliest years. Like health systems worldwide that struggle desperately to cure illness and disease instead of investing in prevention, teachers and educational experts have wrestled with illiteracy, school avoidance and underachievement – forever playing catch-up with problems that would have been significantly reduced if sufficient attention had been paid to children’s first years of life.

How Can I Help? Donate

Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills  to Teachers in some of the poorest areas in Peru.   Please visit us at and and at teachateacher on Facebook.
H Mac Wooten is President and Kelly J. Dwyer is Executive Director of Teach a Teacher Nonprofit.  We live and focus most of our work in the Ancash region of Peru.


Poverty’s affect on Education and Where Are My Car Keys? Part II

                                                                                                                                       keys_1By H Mac Wooten
A nation’s future is only as good as its children.

Educating children gives the next generation the tools to fight poverty. Educating girls, has a ‘multiplier effect’. Educated girls are more likely to marry later and have fewer children, who in turn will be more likely to survive and to be better nourished and educated. Educated women are more productive at home and better paid in the workplace, and more able to participate in social, economic and political decision-making.

Education Expenditures in South America

Peru 2.8% of GDP (2012)  Bolivia 6.9% of GDP (2011)   Chile 4.5% of GDP (2012)

Columbia 4.4% of GDP (2012)   Argentina 6.3% of GDP (2011)  Brazil 5.8% of GDP (2010)

Venezuela 6.9% of GDP (2009)   5.4% of GDP (2010)  *4

2014 Cognitive Skills Rank *5

The most current list of Countries with the highest ranking Education Systems

#1 Flag for SingaporeSINGAPORE 

#2Flag for South KoreaSOUTH KOREA

#3 Flag for Hong Kong-ChinaHONG KONG-CHINA

#4Flag for JapanJAPAN

#5 Flag for FinlandFINLAND

#6 Flag for CanadaCANADA

#7 Flag for NetherlandsNETHERLANDS

#8 Flag for United KingdomUNITED KINGDOM

#9 Flag for RussiaRUSSIA

#10 Flag for IrelandIRELAND

# 11 Flag for United StatesUNITED STATES

*** Not exactly Apples to Apples ***

East Asian nations currently continue to outperform others. South Korea tops the rankings, followed by Japan (2nd), Singapore (3rd) and Hong Kong (4th). All these countries’ education systems prize effort above inherited ‘smartness’, have clear learning outcomes and goalposts, and have a strong culture of accountability and engagement among a broad community of stakeholders.

Scandinavian countries, traditionally strong performers, are showing signs of losing their edge. Finland, the 2012 Index leader, has fallen to 5th place; and Sweden is down from 21st to 24th.

Notable improvements include Israel (up 12 places to 17th), Russia (up 7 places to 13th) and Poland (up four places to 10th).

Developing countries populate the lower half of the Index, with Indonesia again ranking last of the 40 nations covered, preceded by Mexico (39th) and Brazil (38th).

Now …….. having looked at these statistics you need to remember, these rankings don’t represent a true picture of education worldwide much-less the quality of education worldwide.  It goes without saying that the values and very diverse cultures, much-less the needs and priorities of the countries in this list aren’t exactly comparing apples to apples.  Your neighbor buys a new bass boat while you choose to put money into a 401(K). In a country with an agricultural based economy versus one with a manufacturing or service based economy, there are widely different needs (in education).

Singapore; The teachers receive comprehensive pre-teacher training at the National Institute of Education (NIE) and have many opportunities for continuing development. Apart from the academic curriculum, the students can develop themselves in music, arts and sports through co-curricular programs and community service as well as life skills essential in a rapidly changing world. Primary school students learn three core subjects: English Language, a second language (MotherTongue) and Mathematics. These core subjects help the students to develop literacy and problem solving skills. Students also take up other subjects like Arts & Crafts, Civics & Moral Education, Music, Social Studies and Physical Education. Science is introduced from Primary 3 onward. After the initial foundation stage (Primary 1 to Primary 4), the three core subjects are taught according to the abilities of the student. At the secondary level, students are placed in the Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) course based on their PSLE scores.  Students in the Express course are offered 6 to 8 subjects. Those with exceptional academic ability may offered a 9th subject. Students in the Normal (Academic) course will be offered academically-based subjects while those in the Normal (Technical) course will follow a curriculum that is more practice-oriented and hands-on. Students with a passion for the arts, music and languages can select from a range of elective programs that focus on these specific areas of interests. Students can also choose to take up
advanced elective modules in applied areas such as Information Technology, Business, and Engineering. Besides content knowledge, life skills are an integral part of pre-university education. Students are given ample opportunities to engage in activities that will help them cultivate important qualities such as initiative, leadership, social responsibility and strength of character. *6
Israel;  Israel states that the main role of Israel’s education system is to produce well-prepared graduates capable of succeeding in a rapidly-changing global village, of actively and meaningfully participating in the labor force, and of contributing to Israel’s economy. Graduates who will forge an Israeli society based on love of one’s fellows, unity and mutual responsibility, social justice, building up and defending the homeland of Israel, charity, giving, and peace. With a rapidly growing population, Israel’s education system has successfully absorbed hundreds of thousands of immigrants throughout the years, including pupils, university students and teachers of different backgrounds. Immigrants with little education were added to the poorly-educated population already living in Israel. At the end of 2010 about 3.5% of those aged 15 and up had little education (up to four years of schooling). The rate of those with little education aged 65 and up is 13.2%.  *7.  In 2011, regarding the Jewish population, 73% had been born in Israel, most of them from first or second generation Israelis, and the rest of the population made aliyah (the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the land of Israel) from over 80 countries around the globe. At the end of 2013, about 74.4% of the students are Jewish, 23.4% of the students are Arab (mainly Muslim), and the remaining 2.2% are Druze and other ethnic groups. The Israeli formal education system includes both Hebrew-speaking and Arabic speaking educational institutions. The structure and curricula of these institutions parallel those of the Hebrew-speaking sector, with appropriate adjustments to fit the different languages, cultures and religions. The state education system for the Hebrew-speaking sector consists of two educational streams: State education and State-religious. In the 2011/12 school year around 56% of the pupils in the Hebrew education system attended state schools, about 19% attended state-religious schools, and some 25% were enrolled in ultra-Orthodox schools. In the 2012/13 school year there are approximately 2,008,000 pupils in the Israeli education system, from pre-primary school through Grade 12. The Ministry of Education’s budget increased from NIS 21 billion in 2000 to NIS 36.3 billion in 2012. (an increase of 41%). National expenditure on education in 2012 was 8.4% of the GDP 78% of the national expenditure on education was from public spending. Between 2000 and 2012 the number of students grew by 23.2% while the budget increased by 41%A recent decision of the government, compulsory education will begin from ages 3-4. Concerns with pre-primary education was prompted by the growing awareness towards developmental problems of early childhood, as well as the social dilemmas faced by Israeli society.
Grades 1-6 in Hebrew education requirements;                                                 Reading, writing and literature 7.7
Mathematics 6.0
Science and technology 3.0
Social studies** 3.3
Foreign language 2.0
Art 2.0
Physical education 2.0
Religious studies 2.3
Other (life skills studies) 1.0
Compulsory flexible hours 2.0
Total*** 31.3  hours per week
Primary schools in Arab and Druze Education                                                                   Reading, writing and literature* 10.3
Mathematics 6.0
Science and technology 3.0
Social studies** 3.3
Foreign language 2.0
Art 2.0
Physical education 2.0
Religious studies 2.3
Other (life skills studies) 1.0
Compulsory flexible hours 1.8
Total*** 33.8  hours per week
EDUCATION  State Ed. 35.7 hrs / wk   State Religious Ed. 36.4 / wk                           LOWER SECONDARY SCHOOL (GRADES 7-8-9) IN THE ARAB AND DRUZE EDUCATION 35.7 hrs / wk.
EDUCATION 36.3 – 38.3 hrs / wk.  (State School)  43.3 – 45.3 (State Religious School)

The United States, well………

most of us are always trying to figure out what’s going on.  The federal government allocated approximately $141 billion on education in fiscal year 2014. Calculating that figure is challenging. Federal programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education appear in two separate parts of the federal budget, and other agencies administer large programs as well. Furthermore, measuring spending on the federal student loan program is not straightforward, and the government provides significant subsidies for higher education in the form of tax benefits.
Therefore, the $141 billion figure includes the annual appropriation for the U.S. Department of Education, spending for the U.S. Department of Education not subject to annual appropriations (i.e. mandatory spending), school meal programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Head Start program in the Departments of Health and Human Services, the forgone revenue and spending on education tax benefits for individuals, and military and veterans education benefits.
The federal government spent a total of $3.5 trillion in fiscal year 2013. That means the approximate $141 billion in education spending accounts for approximately 4 percent of the entire federal budget.  In my opinion, the U S government has too many pockets and it’s impossible to tell what the true figures are for most any expenditure.
Federal Education Spending, FY 2014 ($ billions)
Dept. of Education: Appropriation 67.3
Dept. of Education: Mandatory (excludes student loans) 9.9
School Nutrition Programs 14.8
Head Start Programs 8.6
Education Tax Expenditures for Individuals 21.3
American Opportunity Tax Credit (Refundable) 6.2
Student Loan Subsidies (Newly Disbursed Loans)* N/A
Servicemembers Education Benefits .6
Veterans Education Benefits 12.2
TOTAL 140.9
Sources: New America Foundation; U.S. Departments of Education, Health & Human Services, Agriculture, Defense, and Veterans Affairs; White House Office of Management and Budget; Congressional Budget Office

4. CIA Fact World Factbook




Some pictures are courtesy of Google Images.  Thanks to Google Images


Mac Wooten is President of Teach a Teacher Nonprofit and still can’t find his car keys but will x-ray the dog before placing final blame.  A native of Greenville S.C. We live and focus most of our work in the Ancash region of Peru.

Poverty’s Affect on Education and Where Are My Car Keys? Part I

                                                                                                                                       By H Mac Wooten


Most everyone agrees that the current state of education has problems, everywhere…. IF they are as intelligent and you and me, correct?  Well, what do we Fix First?  Not all children wear size 10 shoes and no one answer is the correct answer to the education problems. So the question becomes, where do we start?” And the answer I suspect is, everywhere.  We start with one classroom, one district, one community at a time.  A grand problem with this is education policy makers world-wide didn’t get the memo.  So many have decided globally, that one-size fits all. The children that don’t wear size 10 shoes will walk barefooted to the employment line.

We have to make a starting point (the children) and go from there to a point where the individual child gets a strong educational foundation. From there we must create education that provides for the individual, a greater span of choices in how to participate and contribute to community and society at large.

My poor attempt at an analogy; “Where are my car keys?”           Step #1. I was going to the store, got in the car and … What happened since I realized my keys were missing?   What is their socioeconomic background.  Where did they start in school? Did they have parents who supported and helped them? Do they have the ability to learn at a pace with the majority of other children?

Step #2.  Retrace my steps.  Are they being taught?  If not, Is the problem the Teacher or the Child? … HINT …. The correct answer is NOT  TEST  TEST  TEST!  If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they can learn. Michael J Fox

Step #3.  Check my pockets one more time.  Go back to step #2 and Hire a Consultant, Blame the Teacher and Design a New Test. Just kidding …..  I believe the majority of educators will agree that their colleagues are some of The Very Best and  Less Than The Very Best people in the field of education.  Sadly, too many of the best are getting tired of fighting the good fight and leaving, but, none the less, the very worst are leaving also and that opens the door for corporations and consultants to keep the poor and uneducated in poverty while … the rich get richer.  This seems to be the pattern in many countries, both Developed and Develop-ing.  My personal short-term fix is that I now keep an extra set of car keys and X-ray my dog often!

There is no quick fix.  All the children out there have different shoe sizes and too many politicians are listening only to the people who put money in their pockets.Dutch Boy

 In recent years it has become increasingly clear that basic reading, writing and arithmetic are not enough anymore as our now global economy continues to evolve.  And so, the dilemma in developing nations grows even more complex. Making sure children are taught the right skills early on, is much more effective than trying to improve skills in adulthood for people who were let down by their educational system.  However, developing countries must teach basic skills more effectively before they start to consider a broader agenda of skills. There is little point in investing in pedagogies and technologies to foster 21st century skills, when the basics of numeracy and literacy aren’t in place.

“The world economy no longer pays for what people know but for what they can do with what they know.”- Andreas Schleicher, OECD deputy director for education.

Poverty is a persistent problem throughout the world and has damaging impacts on almost all aspects of family life and especially impacts the futures of children. Poverty affects a child’s development and educational outcomes beginning in the earliest years of life, both directly and indirectly. School readiness, and the child’s ability to utilize and benefit from their education, has been recognized as playing a distinct role in escaping from poverty in the U. S. and other developed countries but even more so in developing countries.

The economic definition of poverty is typically based on income measures, with the absolute poverty line calculated as the food expenditure necessary to meet dietary, recommendations supplemented by a small allowance for nonfood goods.  Half of the economic growth in developed countries in the last decade came from improved skills.


*1 Many poverty researchers use a broader definition suggesting that “poor” means lacking not only material assets and health but also capabilities, such as social belonging, cultural identity, respect and dignity, and information and education. Poverty is a dynamic process, with many families cycling in and out of poverty in a relatively short time, resulting in intermittent rather than persistent poverty.  In a study of 30,000 households in India, Peru, and Uganda, Krishna *2 concludes “Up to one-third of those who are presently poor were not born poor; they have fallen into poverty within their lifetimes, and their descents offset the success stories of those that have managed to climb out of  poverty.”  Many studies suggest that the factors that move families out of poverty may differ from the factors that
lead them in to poverty however, the majority of studies show that education has the most positive effect.

The World Bank states that the poverty level in Peru is (Nationally) at 23.9% down from 25.8% in 2012.  

Make no mistake about it. There are two Peru’s. Lima, with about 10 million and a growing middle class and falling poverty rate and the rural Andes and Amazon areas where there is little change. There are still plenty pockets of poverty around Lima and many shanty towns.  According to the World Bank, people in Lima earn 21 times more (in general) (2011) than a resident of the outback, where the rural poverty rate is a staggering 54 percent. *3 Many of Peru’s indigenous children live in poverty.

Poverty Cycle

Poverty Cycle

Poverty does not necessarily lead to malnutrition ,but malnutrition certainly leads to poverty.  Generally, the answer has to lie in educating women as a malnourished mother will have malnourished babies and children. It is a daunting task since there is a window of about 1000 days (from pregnancy to about 2 years of age) when brain and physical development will deteriorate if it is not nourished properly. When that window is closed, by the time children start formal education it is too late hence the high rates of dropouts and educational failure. What future can these children have? A life of menial jobs and subsistence farming and struggling to make ends meet. The circle then continues when these children grow up and start having children themselves. Governmental programs of health and education are largely out of sync with the cultural and environmental needs of indigenous people. Too often, governmental revenues for social aid is transferred to the hands of local municipalities, who don’t have the expertise to build sustainable infrastructure that arrives at long-term growth for the people. Funds are horribly misused, and programs fail or are never finished. Melissas Pictures 125 Because of the low literacy rate, candidates solicit votes with their name painted (on the sides of homes and walls) and often exchange a bag of rice in return.  In a recent election here in the Ancash region of Peru, a candidate was elected because he promised S/500. (soles) to each family for their vote.

1. RAVALLION, M. 1992. Poverty Comparisons: A Guide to Concepts and Methods. Living Standards Measurement Study Working Paper 88, World Bank, Washington.

2. KRISHNA, A. 2007. Escaping poverty and becoming poor
in three states of India, with additional evidence from
Kenya, Uganda, and Peru. In Moving Out of Poverty:
Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Mobility. D. Narayan .

3.Marie Arana, a journalist, and adviser to the library of Congress

Some pictures are courtesy of Google Images.  Thanks to Google Images

Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to Teachers in some of the poorest areas in Peru.   Please visit us aT http://WWW.T and and at teachateacher on Facebook.

Mac Wooten is President of Teach a Teacher Nonprofit and occasionally loses his car keys and x-rays the dog before placing blame.  A native of Greenville S.C.   We live and focus most of our work in the Ancash region of Peru.

A Picture and a Bag of Rice – Un Dibujo y Una Bolsa de Arroz

A Picture and a Bag of Rice

by Laura Landstrom, Teach a Teacher Volunteer June 2014Laura p 3

My usual commute to work involves gazing out a metro window into blackness or looking out a car window at bumper to bumper DC traffic.  And so as I peered out the bus window at the immense desert coastline and the rolling mountains of the Cordillera Blanca on my initial  ride from Lima into the Ancash region, it became clear to me that my visit to Peru would not only be beautiful,  but it would be like nothing I had ever experienced.

Laura p 2As we got closer to my home for the next few weeks in Caraz, we drove through several small mountain villages.  In each of these villages, I noticed a curiosity – painted onto the sides of houses, fences, and businesses there are small, brightly colored pictures.  While there were various pictures from people, to a single letter in a circle, to a tree or sunburst, the pictures were repeated throughout the towns.  They piqued my interest, and I began taking pictures of them during my travels, wondering what the significance of these small creations were.

Laura p 1

I arrived in Peru the summer after I completed my 9th year of teaching – all in public Title I schools in the United States.  I have taught in schools in Texas, Georgia, and I currently am starting my 10th year of work in Washington DC.  Working in Title I schools, I have spent a great deal of time working with students and families living in poverty.  While there are many challenges facing students and teachers in the schools I have taught at in the United States, many of those challenges pale in comparison to the challenges faced by many of the teachers and students I encountered in Peru.

One of the things I was most surprised by as I got to know some of the teachers better, is that there is no formal training process or certification required for teachers – including attending college. Basically, many teachers show up to their classrooms the first day and are told to “Go for it!”

While I was inspired by the effort and dedication shown by many teachers with limited resources and education, this deficit in pedagogical knowledge was apparent in many of the teaching practices I observed.  In the pre-k classroom I visited, students devoted a large portion of their morning every day to marching practice (as in “Attention! Forward March!”).  And while in the classroom there was evidence of learning the alphabet, they were learning the letters and their sounds in isolation.  They were not spending any time showing students the connection of the sounds of letters to their sounds in words.

Reading instrucleyendotion in most classrooms primarily consists of either copying sentences a teacher has written on the board into a notebook or the whole class reading sentences or a short passage from a workbook and then answering questions independently on a worksheet. Teachers do not read aloud daily to their students, do not utilize graphic organizers, and no teacher I met with had heard of Guided Reading.  Students never spend time independently reading to themselves, which makes sense when one realizes classrooms do not have books for students to read or even a school library.


When I visited a classroom in Caraz, I looked through the one reading resource for students- workbooks (and each family buys their own child their workbook which might cost a family a whole day’s salary). Within the entire READING workbook there was not one story!!!! I quickly understood why many teachers were asking me what to do for students that hate to read.

Despite the many differences between schools in the United States and schools in Peru, I surprisingly found many similarities and I was also able to learn ways to improve my personal teaching practice from teachers there.

While I feel majority of educators in the United States are grossly underpaid for the work they do, I feel an even deeper issue is not a lack of pay, but a lack of respect.  Comments surrounding teachers choosing their profession in order to get summers off or the assumption that the primary reason schools are failing is because of ineffective teaching are sadly accusations thrown at teachers every day.

Likewise, there seems to be a belief among many (but not all) of the education departments or administrative personnel in Peru that teachers do not desire learning opportunities, like those offered by Teach a Teacher, so why would the Education Department go out of their way to help organize them? I, however, was impressed by the passion and enthusiasm of the teachers I worked with to improve their skills as an educator.

Kelly’s sweet neighbor, Anna, informed us the night before a workshop in Caraz was to take place that the teachers at her children’s school never received the invitation from the education offices to the workshop. When she and Kelly visited the school to talk to the director and ask if he would announce the workshop to the staff, he told them that they should invite the teachers themselves. So Kelly, Anna, and I went around the morning of the workshop to each teacher’s classroom to invite them.   Despite the short warning, we still had a large group of dedicated teachers show up to the workshop eager to improve their instruction and to take advantage of a learning opportunity.stripes

At the first workshop I facilitated, I had modeled for teachers completing a readaloud for your students and we focused on character analysis using the book (in Spanish) A Bad Case of Stripes. For those who have not read this fantastic book, basically a girl is so worried about what others think of her that she will not be true to herself. She literally wakes up one morning covered in rainbow stripes form head to toe. If a person calls her a color or shape, she morphs to match it. In the end she realizes the only cure, of course, is to be herself!

IMG_4799Quechua is the native language of many people in Peru, however, the school system is moving to all Spanish. All I could think of was my experience teaching at a highly bilingual school in Texas. We were so quick to transition students from Spanish to English, and many times what would happen is our students would end up not truly fluent in either.

It scares me how quickly the whole world seems to be moving to English. Don’t get me wrong – there is great value in being able to share a common language with others for communication purposes. I just worry about students losing a valuable part of their identity – their native language – in their quest to learn English.

One teacher made the profound connection with the text to many of her students whose native tongue is Quechua feeling the need to deny their culture and speak Spanish only. I have read this book aloud to my students many years, and not once had I made that connection with my English Language Learners.

With all the above and a long history of low funding for education taken into consideration, it’s no surprise in many towns there is a low literacy rate. As my trip came to an end, I learned the significance behind those small pictures painted on the walls of buildings I had seen on my bus ride to Caraz. Kelly disclosed that these pictures stood for candidates running Waldoin elections. All Peruvian citizens are required by law to vote.  Since many citizens cannot read, they vote in elections by picture. Many candidates have handed out bags of rice to people with their picture logo attached. They can get the rice by voting for their picture. One, candidate whose logo is painted on rocks and trees and countless unsightly places, like a mad graffiti tagging binge, is even offering every family 500 soles a piece for their vote!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

In my time in Peru I was lucky enough to encounter many small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens: A group of teachers wanting to improve their practice were determined even after a hard day at work to make it to a training they learned about just hours before.  Two Americans who have chosen to make Peru their new home and have become involved in changing their community for the better in so many ways. Generous neighbors who pitch in at the last minute to prepare a training space when the initial venue fell through, a teacher who attended my first training and set up an additional training for me to hold in Lima where over 30 teachers and two representatives from the Ministry of Education attended. Most teachers attending that SATURDAY workshop had to travel long distances on buses (some from over 9 hours away) and combis (small, public transport, packed to the gills, mini-vans) to arrive. (Take that Department of Education, Administrators and the like- teachers do want to grow professionally!) And every teacher I encountered in my travels who wishes for more and better for their students and who has come to the Teach a Teacher workshops with an open mind and heart.thumbs 2

While many seem to think they will solve all the problems in education by implementing a new teacher evaluation tool, raising the standardized testing bar, or purchasing the latest research- based curriculum,  I truly believe any real, valuable, and lasting change that will happen must come from  the teachers themselves.  Having an opportunity this summer to work with teachers and help build teaching efficacy together is an experience that has forever changed how I look at my profession.

A quote was shared with me during my time in Peru that resonated with my overall experience – “God is in the details”.  In the seemingly small day to day interactions I had with Mac and Kelly and the teachers I worked with during my time with Teach a Teacher I saw tremendous possibilities.  And I do think with thought, commitment, education, and compassion – we can change the world.

There is too much at stake in life to base important decisions on just a picture and a bag of rice.