In urban areas, children eat a light breakfast of bread and jam before going to school. In poor rural areas, children are more likely to have nothing for breakfast before leaving early to walk to school. (Many families live on the equivalent of US$1.00 a day, so food is scarce for them.)
School generally begins at 8:00 in the morning and is done at around 2:00 in the afternoon. Kids will usually walk or ride a public transportation bus to school, depending on how far from the school they live. Parents who can afford to do so might either drive their children to school, organize car pools, or participate with others in the community in hiring a private transportation company to take their children to and from school for a monthly fee.
In the most rural areas, native Indian children may walk as far as two or three hours in mountainous areas in order to get to school, which means they must leave home before 6:00 a.m. In these cases, where possible the children will stay with a family who lives closer to the school during the week, and return home on the weekends. However, school is important to improving living circumstances, so parents try to do whatever they can to ensure that their children get to school somehow.
Peruvian schools are very careful to teach the importance of knowing the national identity as a Peruvian. In connection with that strong feeling of nationalism, the school uniform is a sort of military cadet-looking uniform.
Elementary schools are found throughout the country. Peruvians feel very strongly that the younger children must get an education in order to improve their life situation. However, secondary schools are much less available. The educational ministry simply does not have enough resources to build all the secondary schools that are needed, and many children drop out of school after elementary in order to work.
Most schools will have a plaza or courtyard where the students gather at the beginning of the day. On the positive side, the government has done a very good job of building schools; however, they have not done well at maintaining them. Therefore, many schools and the teaching resources in them are in poor condition.
In rural areas, school buildings are often simple and poorly equipped. Students might sit around sawed-off tree stumps instead of at desks, and often only the teacher will have a book—no students. The poorest families cannot afford to give their children notebooks and pencils, and computers cannot even be thought of. Fortunately, for these children, the school tries to often provide a simple breakfast, which they would otherwise not have.
Interestingly, sometimes when temperatures in parts of Peru become unseasonably cold, school schedules will move to later in the day in order to avoid early morning cold hours.
Children are required to attend elementary school for six years (ages 6-11), followed by five years of attendance in secondary school (ages 12-16). Classes are usually taught in Spanish, although that depends to some extent on where the school is. In some areas with high populations of native peoples, their local language is also taught in school. These tend to be in rural areas removed from cities and larger towns.
There are five major subjects taught in Peruvian schools: communication (writing, speaking, etc.), math, social studies, science, and religion. Until recently, the Roman Catholic church was the official religion of Peru
; it no longer has that status, but it is viewed as being very influential nevertheless. If non-Catholics want their children to be taught in their own religion, they must provide their own teachers for doing so.
There are three national languages in Peru
—Spanish (spoken by 70 percent of the people), Quecha (one of the main languages of Native Americans in the country), and Aymara (another Native American language). English is also learned and spoken in much of Peru
. The biggest source of revenue in Peru
is tourism, so being able to speak English is valued as a way to make money.
Because of poorly trained teachers, large class sizes, and inadequate teaching resources, the quality of education in Peru
tends to be lower than what is available in most other Latin American countries.
After School Activities
Most schools do not have the resources to offer extracurricular activities. Sports are organized by clubs rather than by schools, and even academic clubs are rare in Peru’s public school system.
What children do in the evening at home will depend on their family economic situation, for the most part. Children in upper income families spend time with friends playing sports or, as they get older, hanging out in local social centers (café’s, movies, etc.). However, for many of Peru’s families, the children will have jobs of various kinds as soon as they get out of school. Much of their energy will be spent on supporting the family in any way they can just so they can get food to eat and maintain a place to live. Families are therefore important social and economic units throughout Peru at all levels.
Like much of Latin America
, education has been on the rise for several decades. The adult literacy rate has risen from approximately 40 percent in 1940 to over 90 percent in 2005.
Public education is free and required for children between the ages of 6 and 16. However, many rural children stop attending after elementary school because of too few schools and too great a need to work to support their families. The drop out rate nationally after elementary school is nearly 50 percent. Also, although Peru
does a fairly good job of getting their children into the schools, the teachers there are not as successful at teaching the children. In 2000, Peru
entered a 43-country education test—and came out at the bottom, lower than any other Latin American country by a significant amount. Since then, the educational leaders of the country are slowly trying to improve the quality of schooling in Peru
. They still have a long way to go, however, to catch up to the rest of Latin America
Besides the public school system, there are a number of private schools, primarily in the larger cities. However, these are often too expensive for most families.
Several decades ago, nearly 40% of all Peruvians spoke only a Native American language. Frequently, Spanish-speakers were better educated and received better-paying jobs. Others were looked down on. As a result, people in rural and largely native areas looked to schools as a way of learning Spanish and avoiding prejudice. Perhaps because of this, an important part of each school’s mission is to teach nationalism and a common national identity, in addition to standard subjects taught throughout the world.
Well educated people are viewed highly in today’s society, and people are often addressed by their advanced degrees (Doctor So-and-So, Engineer So-and-So, Profesora So-and-So).
The school year in Peru, as in many Latin American countries, runs from April through December, with no school being held during the hotter summer months.