It is hard to believe our time in Peru has come to an end. As I am writing this final post on the flight home, I find myself reflecting on the experiences of this past month. Though this month flew by, it feels like I have been in Peru for so much longer. This last week in Cusco has given me an entirely new layer and context to my overall understanding of Peru. The Andean context is so different than that of Lima, the lifestyle is different, and the culture is different, giving schools in the Andes unique strengths and challenges. These various contexts do matter when it comes to education because it determines the needs of a school and the aims of education. For example, in the Andes students will often walk hours to and from school because transportation and schools are not as accessible as they are in Lima. Additionally, the language and culture of Quechua is something that many students are a part of, but it is looked down upon by the rest of Peru. Since the soil is not ideal for growing many fruits and vegetables a lot of students are lacking these nutrients. These are just a few of the major challenges that are specific to an Andean context, that are not present in Lima.
When it comes to an “equal education”, if there is anything I have learned from this month, it is that this term is anything but black and white. Of course education is not going to be exactly the same in both Lima and Cusco, because of the totally different contexts and ways of life. An “equal education” does not mean providing the exact same materials or teaching in the exact same way to two populations with different needs. In fact, this would be giving one group the short end of the stick, despite it being equal by definition. Therefore, no, the education in Lima and the Andes is not equal, so the question is, is it equitable, or fair considering the circumstances and ultimately, is it just? From the perspective of the Fe y Alegria school we visited in Cusco and having that be the only example of a school from the Andes, education is equitable- to an extent. There is also an important caveat regarding which education in Lima we are comparing the Andean education to, since as we established in our time in Lima, education in El Agustino is far different than education at La Inmaculada or Roosevelt. This all being said, I would say that the education at Fe y Alegria is most equitable to the education at La Inmaculada, due to the dual language component, relatively high-quality facilities and many excellent teachers, all present in both schools. It is also important to note that these two schools served students from different social classes, but both had Jesuit pedagogy coming into play. Also, I do not think that this judgement can extend to schools across the Andean region, as from what we learned at Fe y Alegria, there is inequity within schools in the Andes, specifically those that are in more remote areas. Those schools have a lack of resources, the most important of which being teachers and social workers to best serve their students. This shows that disparities in education are present everywhere, but also vary depending on context.
Much of the reason for the disparities in education among different communities we have seen in both Peru and the United States is due to segregation. Segregation in schools was ended by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, but as Gloria Ladson-Billings points out in her article, “Landing on the Wrong Note,”this landmark decision caused other issues within schools. Though integration happened, black culture within classrooms and black teachers were lost as integration was forced into white schools. Additionally, overtime schools became segregated again as white families moved out of the cities, and schools once again operated within the bubble of its specific neighborhood. Though segregation is illegal, it still happens, and it was even more obvious in Peru because we came face to face with it. Power also comes into play here when it comes to resources and inequalities because the schools with the people who hold the most power will get the best resources. When this happens, the achievement gap between communities, races or social classes will widen. I noticed this context in Peru when we were in Cusco and the woman at Fe y Alegria was talking about how Quechua culture is not the norm and is therefore often forgotten in areas where it is not practiced. This relates to segregation because the Andean communities are geographically isolated, and it results in the same effect in terms of who gets the most resources and support.
This relates to our shift in mentality of what we are going to do with what we have learned in Peru when we get back to the United States. When thinking of solutions, it is important to consider all contexts and come at things from an asset-based approach, seeing the strengths of every community. When it came to Brown, I do not think an asset-based approach was used because it disregarded both the needs and positives of the African American schools, and they suffered in the long run. Sometimes the easiest or most seemingly obvious solution is not the best one. It requires a lot of forward thinking, time and consideration from all parties involved in order to come up with the best solution to such big issues such as the ones we have discussed this summer. Even after this, solutions will still always need to be reevaluated and tweaked, in order for them to continue working, as populations are always changing. Ultimately, it will take a lot of work to make a dent in the educational disparities that we have seen this month. However, we have a good foundation by considering and having in-depth discussions about these issues and what we can do going forward in our professional lives. This time in Peru has been unforgettable and I am taking so much back home with me, including a greater appreciation for various pedagogies, my own education and Peruvian culture and people.