This blog is in response to a post on the blog, “Educational Equity, Politics & Policy in Texas.” As a part of my AP fellow position, I feel that it is important to express my views and what I have seen firsthand in working with SKIP. Hopefully, I can spread awareness of this issue beyond Peru, because education is truly a universal right that is due to these children.
From the perspective of someone currently working in Peru with an education-focused NGO, I do not think this reaction by the teachers is understandable.
In the past 15 years, teacher strikes have caused students to miss 167 days. Since the entirety of public school is 10 grade levels, this amounts to almost two-thirds of a school year missed over those 10 years.
This strike isn’t the first time the teachers have responded in a negative way to attempts to elevate the quality of teachers. For example, after it was announced last year that they would be required to take an exam, the teachers union got a hold of a copy and posted it on their website. Once a new one was created, they demanded teachers boycott the test. Four out of five teachers still took it, but half of these teachers failed the elementary-level math questions and a third failed reading comprehension.
It’s no wonder the students in Peru do so badly in comparison to other nations. In the 2000 PISA test of 15-year old students from 43 countries, Peru children had the worst average score in all three tests of reading, math, and science literacy. To put this into perspective, in mathematic literacy the United States ranked 20th out of the 43 countries. Peru’s average score was lower than the scores of 95% of the children in the US, with similar results on the other three exams. Throughout my education classes in college, I constantly lamented about the state of education in the US, especially for those students who were perpetually stuck in the lowest-performing schools. Imagine an entire country where the norm is those schools.
During this most recent strike, some of the teachers have been involved in violent protests— blocking roads and airports, fighting with police, and even killing a child who got caught in the middle of a rock-throwing fight between teachers and police. Now that the law has successfully been passed that forces teachers to pass an exam, they have changed their position in order to continue the strike. They are now demanding more government spending for education before going back to work.
It’s understandable that these teachers are worried about losing their jobs, judging by the results of the last exam. However, why not demand more teacher training or support for these exams instead of refusing to be held to any standards? It is also understandable that these teachers want more money from the government for education, and I completely agree. But it’s hard to justify that by striking they are really helping the children when these kids are kept out of the schools and not able to learn.
Anticipating a long strike, the teachers gave the children stacks of worksheets as “homework” to do during the strikes, and sent them home to somehow learn this material on their own. With parents who often did not attend school, a lack of educational resources, and a weak foundation of basic skills and education, how do they expect these children to understand new material on their own?
The children enrolled in our program have been coming to SKIP every day, some in both the morning and afternoon. When some of the older children beg me to teach them more English, or another asks for help with learning fractions (starting from what a fraction even is and going all the way through to adding, subtracting, etc), how can I say no?
Peru has solved one of the first major problems in education, in having 90% of the school-aged children enrolled in school and getting these children excited to learn. I see it every day, when our kids line up at the SKIP offices before we even get there or fight over what new vocabulary they want to learn in English. The government and the teachers both need to do their parts to make sure it is worth it for these children, and that they are getting the education they desire and deserve.
Now, the trouble is getting that message through to both groups…
Sixth grade girls Maria and Vanessa practicing their new vocabulary (and correcting each other)
Posted By Sara Zampierin
Posted Jul 15th, 2007