Educational Issues in Peru Today

Realizing that this article is the most often found and read of our blog posts, I want to take the opportunity to link your research to some of our other posts that provide more up to date information. Although some of the stats are still relevant, we must be conscientious to steer you to some newer stats. Please check out the Learning by Sharing, post written by our most recent volunteer, Giselle Lawrence, which points out the recent efforts in the Ministry of Education.    And Poverty’s Effect on Education Part II, which gives some recent comparison figures.   And the latest Education and Social issues in Peru/Ancash updated.

Peru is one of the most geographically and culturally diverse countries on the planet.  It stretches from the Amazon, across the Andes to the Pacific Coast and boasts some of the worlds’ highest mountains, diversified tropical rain forests and driest desserts.  In the area of 496,225 square miles (1,285,216 sq km) it’s roughly double the size of Texas and slightly smaller than the state of Alaska.  It is home to 82 of the 108 identified life zones of the world.

Although Spanish is spoken by the majority of citizens, other prevalent languages include Quechua (approximately 13%) and Aymara (<2%).  It is estimated that 92 languages and dialects are still considered living languages in Peru!  The ancient Incas spoke Runasimi  which was mistakenly called Quechua by the Conquistadors.

Peru has less than 3% arable land as compared to  just over 18% in the U.S. Peru borders Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador and the Pacific ocean on the western side.  Peru ranks as the 4th most populous country in South America with approximately 29.5 million.  Peru ranks 4th in the most bio-diverse countries in the world behind Brazil, Columbia and Indonesia and is home to 84 of the 117 life zones in the world and has 28 world climates out of a global total of 32.  This Andean country has more than 25,000 flora species, which represents 10 percent of the world’s diversity   Peru ranks second (behind Columbia) among nations with the most bird species and is seventh among the nations with the most mammals.

In a recent survey of expenditures for education (%GDP), Peru ranks 108 out of a list of 132.  The US was ranked at 37th.  The average years of schooling for adults is 7.6 years out of a compulsory 11 years.  The average school day is much shorter in comparison to the length of a school day in the U.S.

In a 2007 Peruvian report, Peru listed the country’s total poverty at 30.2%, which includes 13.7% in extreme poverty.  It is high in the rural areas of this country, with 64.6% and among them, of which 32.9% are extremely poor. This country suffers from low income jobs, poor teaching skills in the rural areas, no full benefits for the primary health care and chronic problems that the country has. The poor people are at greater risks for health illness because of the rural area that they live in due to the lack of clean water and sanitation.  Peru is literally divided into three distinct areas, the coastal, mountainous and jungle regions.  The concentration of wealth in the country is in the capital city of Lima.  Half of the country’s population lives in Lima.  Outside of this concentration of money and population, the numbers for poverty, unemployment, and health care and education issues rise sharply.  Many of the children in these rural areas do not attend school regularly.  Poverty is particularly acute in rural areas in the Amazon and Andean regions, which is precisely where the indigenous population is concentrated, so that parents are often forced to put subsistence concerns above the decision to send their children to school.

The greatest problems faced in terms of enrollment in rural areas – which is where most of the country’s indigenous people live, are found in preschool, between the ages of 3 and 5, and in secondary education, from age 12 to 17.
According to the 2002 National Household Survey, 56 percent of girls and 58 percent of boys in rural areas are not in preschool, which is free and compulsory in Peru. In the 12 to 17 year-old range, 26 percent of teenage girls from rural areas drop out of school, while the dropout rate for boys stands at 18 percent.
Inequalities are highlighted when comparing rural and urban figures. In urban areas, 72 percent of youngsters complete the five years of secondary school, compared to only 36 percent of rural students, according to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Education.  In the district of Bagua in the Amazon region, 17.4 percent of women don’t know how to read and write, and this figure climbs to 18.9 percent for all Peruvian rural women between the ages of 25 and 29. Their illiteracy prevents them from helping their children in their efforts to learn to read and write.  The hurdles to access in schooling are compounded by the poor quality of education.  In rural areas, eight percent of all students repeat a grade in primary school, compared to 4.6 percent in urban areas, according to official data, from 2007.   More than 10 percent of all schools in Peru are bilingual, teaching in both Spanish and indigenous languages.  Barely 10 percent of all bilingual schools have a teacher per grade, while 57 percent have only one teacher for every two or more grades, and 39 percent have a single teacher for the entire school.


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