Servicios en comunicación Intercultural

Peru: The bleak Future of Intercultural Bilingual Education

Photo: Blog by Elmer Torrejón

By Jahve Mescco

Servindi, June 29, 2011 - More than 90% of 4th grade students, whose native language is Quechua, Aymara, Awajún and Shipibo, do not achieve the expected performance for their grade. The result is not surprising, given the many deficiencies in the implementation of the public policy of Intercultural Bilingual Education (IBE).

The right of more than one million indigenous Peruvian children and adolescents to quality intercultural bilingual education is based on the Peruvian Constitution (Article 17), the Education Act (28044) and the Intercultural Bilingual Education Act (27818).

The legal framework includes the 2021 National Education Program (2007), the Act on Equal Opportunities between Women and Men (2007), the Act to Promote the Education of Rural Children and Adolescents (2001), among others.

It also comprises international regulations such as Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


In spite of the extensive legal framework, the application of the IBE policy, starting with the state proposal, would actually be limited to rural primary schools, excluding children that do not have access to a learning institution.

It also fails to include students with an indigenous mother tongue that attend standardized and non-standardized early childhood centers (118,281) and high schools (264,652) or indigenous students, who attend primary school and live in urban areas.

The problem is exacerbated by the poor recruitment of teachers, who are bilingual and specialized in IBE. This happens because of a failure to identify IBE teaching positions and the lack of information about total regional IBE openings.

Furthermore, it is also due to the failure to verify bilingualism and the IBE specialization of teachers aspiring to these positions. This was evidenced in an Audit carried out by the Ombudsman's Office between 2008 and 2010.

The Audit corroborated that only 12 of the 50 Local Education Management Units (UGELs) had specialized IBE teachers (with undergraduate training). In 2010, nine UGELs hired 530 teachers without IBE education or training and 87 teachers without teaching degrees.

Limited Availability of Teachers

The training of IBE teachers is a separate issue, since it was severely affected when the score of 14 was established, through Supreme Executive Order 006-2007-ED, as the minimum passing grade to be accepted to study teaching at Teacher Training Institutes (ISPs).

Due to this provision, only 4, 8 and 4 students were accepted at institutions that train professors in intercultural bilingual primary education in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively.  No one pursued the specialty because it was not offered due to the lack of students.

The score of 14, the supposed purpose of which was to improve the quality of education, shows that the policy of the Ministry of Education (MINEDU) does not respect the particular conditions of intercultural bilingual education.

That approach is also reflected in the examinations for entry into the teaching institutes. They are not prepared taking into consideration cultural differences, and the intercultural knowledge of indigenous teachers is not valued in the score.

In 2010, MINEDU established that IBE specialty applicants, who obtained between 11 and 13.99 points, would pursue an 8-month remedial course. Afterwards, the only people admitted were those who obtained a minimum average of 14. As a result, 79 applicants were accepted.

It is ironic that the regulation has not been revoked, but rather made even more flexible.  In 2011, MINEDU decided that by the end of the remedial course, applicants, who fulfilled specific requirements, such as applying to the ISP admission process in rural areas, could pass with the score of 11.

In order to progressively implement this amendment, a pilot plan was established in the region of Ancash.  While 127 applicants were registered for the IBE courses of studies this year, the lack of teacher IBE training in previous years increases the gap between supply and demand.

In December 2010, the Congressional Commission on Education, Science, Technology, Culture, Cultural Heritage, Youth and Sports unanimously passed two bills that aim to repeal this minimum score in order to be accepted into the IBE specialty in ISPs.

Nevertheless, Bills 4306/2010-CR and 3949/2009-CR are expected to be debated in the Standing Committee of the Legislature.

Additional Aspects of the Problem

IBE implementation is a complex issue that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. Other existing problems include the homogeneous training of IBE teachers and the lack of official statistics and information on BE management at a national level.

We also know that resources are not allocated to IBE programs. This allocation is not given priority in initiatives to improve the quality of spending, such as Performance Budgeting.

In addition, only a small percentage of children receive these educational services. According to the principals of the schools interviewed in the 2008 School Census, only 38% of the total number of public elementary school students, who speak an indigenous mother tongue, attended an IBE school that year.

Therefore, the schools, where most indigenous children and adolescents study, have more infrastructure problems and less access to basic services, such as electricity, water and drainage connected to a public network.

In spite of the problems, the work carried out by entities, such as the Teacher Training Institute of Loreto (ISPPL) and the Bilingual Teacher Training Program of the Peruvian Amazon (FORMABIAP) promoted by the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), which train bilingual teachers in more than 10 Amazon languages, is praiseworthy.

The work performed in the Amazon region was probably one of the determining factors for the increase from 0.1% to 0.2% of people, who learned indigenous languages in their childhood. The data was recorded by the 2007 National Household Survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI).

The research mentioned shows declines in the learning of Quechua (3.3%) and Aymara (0.5%) in relation to the 1993 census. Although the percentages do not seem to be significant, they represent around 20% of the Quechua and Aymara population that has stopped learning their language. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) already indicated that both languages are in danger of disappearing forever.


Traducción para Servindi de Sylvia Fisher.


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