Saturday, July 14, 2007

Peru Teachers Strike to Protest Competency Testing

Without knowing much here as so little info is provided, one can only surmise that at issue is the purpose of this assessment. If used to terminate rather than provide needed resources, the reaction to this apparent reform is understandable. Also, reasons for test failure among teachers really merits greater explication. -Angela

July 6, 2007
Peru Teachers Strike to Protest Competency Testing
By The Associated Press

Lima, Peru
Peruvian public school teachers walked off the job Thursday to protest an education reform proposal that would require them to pass periodic competency exams.
February test results showed almost half of public school teachers cannot solve basic math problems and one-third are deficient in reading comprehension.
Congress began debating a bill Thursday that would fire teachers who fail the test three times, a move the teachers' union, Sutep, says will lead to "arbitrary" firings.
Protesting teachers surrounded the regional education building in the central Junin department, and threw stones, burned tires and blocked roads, state news agency Andina reported.
Education Minister Jose Antonio Chang called the effort a failure, saying only 15 percent of Peru's approximately 350,000 teachers failed to show up for work in the country, where it is winter and the middle of the school year.
The government has declared the strike illegal.
President Alan Garcia has promised to revamp the country's ailing public education system, widely looked down upon for its poor infrastructure and untrained staff.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Vol. 26

1 comment:

  1. From the perspective of someone currently working in Peru with an education-focused NGO, I do not think this reaction by the teachers is understandable.

    In the past 15 years, teacher strikes have caused students to miss 167 days. Since the entirety of public school is 10 grade levels, this amounts to almost two-thirds of a school year missed over those 10 years.

    This strike isn’t the first time the teachers have responded in a negative way to attempts to elevate the quality of teachers. For example, after it was announced last year that they would be required to take an exam, the teachers union got a hold of a copy and posted it on their website. Once a new one was created, they demanded teachers boycott the test. Four out of five teachers still took it, but half of these teachers failed the elementary-level math questions and a third failed reading comprehension.

    It’s no wonder the students in Peru do so badly in comparison to other nations. In the 2000 PISA test of 15-year old students from 43 countries, Peru children had the worst average score in all three tests of reading, math, and science literacy. To put this into perspective, in mathematic literacy the United States ranked 20th out of the 43 countries. Peru’s average score was lower than the scores of 95% of the children in the US, with similar results on the other three exams. Throughout my education classes in college, I constantly lamented about the state of education in the US, especially for those students who were perpetually stuck in the lowest-performing schools. Imagine an entire country where the norm is those schools.

    During this most recent strike, some of the teachers have been involved in violent protests— blocking roads and airports, fighting with police, and even killing a child who got caught in the middle of a rock-throwing fight between teachers and police. Now that the law has successfully been passed that forces teachers to pass an exam, they have changed their position in order to continue the strike. They are now demanding more government spending for education before going back to work.

    It’s understandable that these teachers are worried about losing their jobs, judging by the results of the last exam. However, why not demand more teacher training or support for these exams instead of refusing to be held to any standards? It is also understandable that these teachers want more money from the government for education, and I completely agree. But it’s hard to justify that by striking they are really helping the children when these kids are kept out of the schools and not able to learn.

    Anticipating a long strike, the teachers gave the children stacks of worksheets as “homework” to do during the strikes, and sent them home to somehow learn this material on their own. With parents who often did not attend school, a lack of educational resources, and a weak foundation of basic skills and education, how do they expect these children to understand new material on their own?

    Peru has solved one of the first major problems in education, in having 90% of the school-aged children enrolled in school and getting these children excited to learn. I see it every day, when our kids line up at our offices during the strike before we even get there or fight over what new vocabulary they want to learn in English. The government and the teachers both need to do their parts to make sure it is worth it for these children, and that they are getting the education they desire and deserve.

    -Sara Zampierin