Reporters Notebook: Education in Peru

World Today

Reporters Notebook

Part of the CGTN series Education in Peru: Making the grade.

Peru’s last few presidents had got used to soaking up praise from international financial institutions and nations like China looking to invest and boost bilateral trade. For several years Peru was the ‘golden boy’ of Latin America and even with a dip in growth since 2014 it’s been difficult to rub the shine off the country’s robust annual GDP growth.

To its credit Peru slashed poverty in half in a decade, along with malnutrition. In less than 20 years it went from being a country where most people were poor to one where most people could be called “middle class”.

But some problems need a more concerted and long-term approach, like education. As the middle class grew there was a boom in higher education institutions but many of them could not seriously be called universities.

“Peru was a star for ten years of economic growth, but the results of international tests showed us that our education was in a bad way,” the director of the Institute of Peruvian Studies, Ricardo Cuenca, told CGTN.

“It’s a terrible sign that you can grow economically with bad education.”

With the best will in the world, it is the students in rural areas who struggle most; particularly in Peru’s Andean and Amazon regions (Part 1 of the series).

At the higher education level (Part 2), tens of thousands of young people are the first in their families to have the opportunity to go to university. But, all too often, they are let down by the for-profit institutions where they study.

“I believe a lot of young people are being swindled by the poor quality on offer,” says Cuenca.

“What’s worse is that many know they’ll come out with a poor quality diploma… so there’s a double swindle,” he added.

With the notable exception of some high quality universities – almost all of them in Peru’s capital, Lima – standards can be extremely patchy. Anecdotal accounts include ‘universities’ situated on top of takeaway restaurants and others which do not even have a library.

Education is the tool “par excelence” to tackle inequality, says Hugo Ñopo, chief investigator at Peru’s top development think-tank GRADE. It won’t improve until the teaching profession is given more kudos and gets more recognition, he believes.

Poor higher education means poor quality professionals, concludes Cuenca, and that means “condemning the country to continue what’s already happening; it looks like we’re doing well but we’re not really doing that well.”

Tune into episode 3 of the series to see why Peru’s prime minister Mercedes Araoz is hopeful country can push its way nearer to the top of the class.

Part of the CGTN series Education in Peru: Making the grade.