Peru’s Educational Predicament

By Roberto Carlos Ventura

How Peru’s failing education system is causing a domino effect on their economy.

Education should not be overlooked as it plays a pivotal role in development, whether it be the development of a single individual or an entire country at large. Peru is experiencing a lack of economic diversity, an underproductive workforce, and major economic inequality, all triggered by a prodigiously poor education system. The quality of its educational system is encumbering the country’s economic growth and overall development.

According to an article by the University of Maryland School of Public Policy in Peru, public education is substandard because the government does not adequately invest in it. If there were more funding, investments would create improvements in human capital, enhancements in labor productivity, and upsurges in economic diversity and growth. However, in a Borgen Project article, an organization devoted to fighting global poverty, it was highlighted that funding from the government is not the only part of the solution. Although the funding is essential, its allocation is key in yielding effective results. The article mentions a perfect example: in 2012, the Peruvian government spent $225 million dollars on 850,000 laptops that were given to schools throughout the country. Despite this funding, the laptop program did not increase students’ levels in mathematics or reading comprehension. This example identifies the possible problem of allocation, but the setback may also lie within the actual use of the tools that were bought. Furthermore, if students were better prepared or trained to use this technology to their benefit there could have been better results. Arguably, the funding could have been allotted to more practical educational instruments.

Inadequate infrastructure poses detriments to the education system. With poor infrastructure, schools fall short on providing an environment with an appropriate atmosphere to engage in learning. It may then be expected that investments made on infrastructure simultaneously help develop the education system. Moreover, it is noted by the University of Maryland post that a deficient education system does not offer workers with skills crucial to prosper. In turn, the massive uneducated, poor population of Peru is inflexible in its employment options. Peru’s undiversified workforce, desperate to achieve greater earnings for their labor, is then attracted to the infamous and lucrative informal sector of the economy.

Despite being illegal, the informal sector is a magnet that entices 75 percent of the workforce in Peru. Additionally, this great percentage of laborers are subject to the absence of social benefits for their work and the government is stripped of any revenue it could have made from this substantial portion of economic activity. In fact, 60 percent of Peru’s GDP is rooted in these informal pursuits. Peru’s unofficial sector includes key economic activities such as gold mining, farming, and fishing, which themselves are not illegal unless they are conducted privately without government awareness. The fact that informalities are non-taxable means that potential government revenue, that could have otherwise funded projects concerned with the advancements of the education system and infrastructure, is unobtainable. On another note, the economic uniformity seen in Peru coupled with the huge profits of informalities have ensued major income inequalities amongst different regions.

According to the Borgen Project and to a ranking conducted by the Program of International Student Assessment in 2009, Peru is near the bottom of the 65 countries evaluated on reading comprehension and science and ranked second to last in mathematics. In another article by the Peruvian In Me, which concerns itself with poverty and education in Peru as well as gender equality, it is stated that only 43 percent of rural women between the age of 20 and 24 had finished secondary school. Both statistics beckon Peru’s failing education system which, as previously remarked, has inevitable ramifications. Yet, there is another factor to this failure in the education system that lies within the layer of infrastructure problems, particularly in rural areas where approximately 6.7 million people live as of 2015. People in rural areas experience a complete absence of transportation; in some cases kids have to walk an hour to get to school, and safety is a concern for students who are at risk of danger while returning home during the night after the school day.

Nevertheless, there is hope to achieve a solution to Peru’s principal economic problem in the long run. The aforementioned School of Public Policy suggests that reducing informalities is absolutely necessary in order to promote overall economic growth. However, to do so there must be improvements in the quality of and access to education. There must also be greater training of workers to then encourage them to participate in the formal economy which would be a more lucrative deal to them than informal endeavors. Investments on Peru’s infrastructure and education system are pivotal. As for funding in education, it is imperative to carefully allocate resources into effective programs promoting educational progress and to ensure students’ ability to make the most of the tools made available to them.

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