Despite big strides in education in recent years, Peru trails its peers on multiple measures, including years of schooling, tertiary enrollment, and math and science scores. As with other measures of wealth and well-being, there is significant regional variance in education, and some cities score much worse than others.
Peru has halved its illiteracy rate (to 5.5% in 2015), increased secondary-school enrollment (to 78% in 2014), and shown significant increases in early-primary-school-knowledge test scores from 2012 through 2015. But the country’s illiteracy rate is 3.3 percentage points higher than the average of Peru’s peers, secondary-school enrollment is 8 percentage points lower than its peers and the country lags considerably in its scores on the global Programme for International Student Assessment.
Young students are not spending enough time in school: only 46% of early-education schools comply with minimum classroom hours. Peru is also behind the times with respect to basic tools such as textbooks and technology. Schools, curricula, and programs in Peru do not necessarily promote the skills needed by workers in the Peruvian economy, which has a big shortage of skilled workers. This holds back both individual incomes and national growth.
One of the main reasons that Peru trails its peers in education is funding. The country spends only 3.7% of GDP on education, well below the peer average of 4.5%.
In addition, education policy is set at the national level, but regional and local governments have substantial flexibility in implementation, which results in inconsistent content and the lack of a standardized program nationwide. Peru also has a problem with both the quantity and the quality of its teachers. At current rates, the country will face a shortage of more than 157,000 teachers by 2021. And less than 15% of teachers nationwide passed the most recent test given by the Ministry of Education.
Peru can make rapid strides with four actions.
Tighten management and quality control. Peru needs to tighten the administration and management of the education system. In our assessment, the most effective systems operate as so-called closed-loop instructional systems. They base curriculum, strategy, and instruction directly on educational objectives. They embed frequent and ongoing evaluation into the system and provide for appropriate interventions. Perhaps most important, they track outcomes and learnings, which are used to modify or adjust objectives.
The government can also reduce bureaucracy in the education structure, moving toward lean organizations and processes, and limit local and regional governments’ ability to change the content of educational programs. One concrete step is to empower the Superintendencia Nacional de Educación Superior Universitaria to regulate the quality of tertiary education.
There is a major need to standardize educational materials across regions and to employ digital technologies much more widely to improve materials and their use.
Focus on needed skills. Peru must focus its programs and content on high-impact areas. Germany offers a model for consideration: its dual-track system provides both general and vocational paths.
Address infrastructure. Peru needs a national multistage education infrastructure plan. A government entity should be in charge of setting priorities and making investment decisions. PPPs can play a role, especially if projects are grouped so that there are sufficient volumes of work to attract private investment, which could also result in lower costs for government.
Motivate teachers and teacher development with incentives. Peru desperately needs a new teacher evaluation system that is focused on professional development and has multiple evaluation sources. The system can use digital tools to increase scope, ease the learning process, and obtain accurate information about performance. Peru also needs to continue current efforts to make teaching more attractive by increasing salaries and using incentives such as bonuses to reward performance and to encourage teachers to work in rural and other underserved areas.