The recovery and advances in the educational system of Peru between the years 1990 and 2000 were remarkable, not only in terms of budgetary outlays but also in curricular and school quality programs. One of the primary challenges for current and future governments will be to be continue the trajectory of progress begun during the Fujimori years. Where success in meeting that challenge depends largely on economic prosperity coupled with political will, success in other areas presents more complex obstacles. Historically, the most significant impediment to universal quality education in Peru has come from the deep social divisions that have existed for centuries along racial, geographic, economic, and linguistic lines. Although progress has been achieved in addressing these divisions, creating an education system far more fair and open than existed a half century ago, considerable progress remains to be made to allow each student the opportunity to fully explore his or her potential.
According to the Ministry of Education, one of its principal obligations is to develop an ability to respond to new situations in a useful and relevant manner. Progress on the ten-year reformation of education started in 1997 has been a significant attempt to develop that ability; however, more progress is needed to achieve the Ministry's goals. Among those goals are the extension of preprimary education to all children aged 4 and 5, and the elimination of illiteracy among all Peruvians under the age of 40. Despite the progress suggested by curricular changes, centuries-old cultural impediments continue to challenge the education system. In 1999, UNESCO recognized Peru's efforts in the area of literacy, noting their achievement in dropping the rate of illiteracy from 13 percent in 1993 to 6 percent in 1999. Also in the area of illiteracy, a 1999 study by the National Institute of Statistics and Information placed the number of illiterate Peruvians older than the age of 15 at more than 1.9 million, more than 10 percent of the adult population. Of this number, three times as many were women, with the preponderance coming from lower social classes and traditionally deprived regions of the country, illustrating the power and persistence of some of the cultural impediments to equality.
The dream of universal and equal education can only be realized if barriers between races and classes can be breached. Perhaps the most intractable of these barriers is that between the Spanish-speaking majority and the significant indigenous-language-speaking minority found mostly in the Amazonian area east of the Andes. Although progress has been achieved in reaching this population, this challenge promises to remain for many years to come.
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Vásquez, Amelia Pacheco. El gobierno de la universidad en el Perú. Lima: Fondo de Desarrollo Editorial, Universidad de Lima, 1997.
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