Teachers enjoy considerable privileges in the culture of Peru, especially in the areas farther away from the major population centers where a teacher is likely to be the only person with postsecondary education within an area. Traditionally, teachers fulfill a role as educators and town advisers in the smaller centers of population. Because of their great influence, teachers were, until recent years, prohibited from holding public office due to the belief that they, like a priest, might hold excessive power within the community. Because of the opportunities for advancement afforded by a career in teaching, many have sought this path, especially those from the lower and middle classes who find in teaching a richer opportunity for achievement than might be found elsewhere. Given Peru's limited career opportunities for women, it is not surprising to find that teaching has proven an especially attractive path for women, a fact that is reflected in their representation within the profession.
One of the challenges facing the education system has been the recruitment of sufficient numbers of qualified teachers. Of 110,000 candidates presenting themselves for entrance into the profession in 1999, a total of 29,256 were selected for consideration, yet only17,000 of these candidates passed the test. Only 1 percent of those passing the test managed to score a 14 or higher on the 20-point scale where 11 is the lowest possible passing grade.
Eighty-five pedagogical institutions and more than 50 university education programs provide the initial and continuing training for Peru's 350,000 teachers. While the pedagogical institutions provide a very consistent program of instruction, the university programs vary widely. The training of both initial (preprimary) and primary school teachers is a responsibility of both the nation's universities and non-university institutions. This training typically consists of a course of study spanning 10 academic semesters. Secondary school teachers (professores) receive their training through the Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos through a five-year course of study. Some secondary teachers are also trained in the universities. Secondary teacher studies culminate with the granting of the professional qualification of Profesor. This certification also includes the mention of the teacher's educational level and disciplinary specialization. Teachers serving the institutions of technical education receive their training at the Institutos Superiores Tecnológicos, completing a three-year course of study before being granted the title of Profesional técnico (technical professional).
The training of teachers for the nation's institutions of higher education is conducted by the universities. Candidates advance through a series of categories of teaching and learning in their given discipline. Educational councils operating independently within each university appoint qualified teachers to one of the professional categories, making their selections through open competitions. The time required for the granting of tenure in each category and the requirements for promotion to a higher level varies both between departments and between universities. The most common model of teacher assessment is for an academic evaluation to be conducted every three years for auxiliary professors, every four years for associate professors, and every six years for principal professors.
Most Peruvian teachers are represented by the Sindicato único de Trabajadores de la Enseñanza del Perú (SUTEP), the Trade Union of Education Workers of Peru. Serving 280,000 teachers of initial, primary, secondary, adult, and special education, SUTEP is governed by a national executive committee composed of 24 members elected at the biannual National Congress. The union was founded in 1972, unifying in the process a wide group of different unions serving different levels of education and diverse geographic territories. In the intervening years, SUTEP has experienced persecution and lack of legal recognition by various governments. In recent years the union's most important objective has been the resistance of a move proposed by various government representatives to privatize education. SUTEP also successfully fought a proposal in 1992 to fire all teachers and rehire them to temporary contracts. Membership in the union is voluntary.
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