We spent this past week in Cuzco, moving around a lot to visit our last school and afterschool program, as well as visit various ruins and experience more of the Andean culture. I did not know what to expect from Cuzco and I did not realize how much I missed the sun! During our time in Lima, we had only a few hours of sun on one Saturday; however, in Cuzco, I think it was sunny almost every day. Our bus trips up, down and around mountains as well as our train rides made me feel like I was in another country because it was so different from Lima. The geography, languages, weather, and culture all differed from what I had experienced in Lima with my host family and while visiting our different educational contexts there.
Cuzco was mountainous, open and sunny, whereas Lima was congested, the air was polluted, sky cloudy, and car horns could be heard at all hours. Spanish, while it was dominant in Lima, seemed to wrestle with Quechua in Cuzco, linguistically and culturally. These differences were only replicated and echoed in the schools and educational contexts in both Lima and Cuzco. One thing that we saw in both contexts was how privatization impacts education. In Lima, we worked at La Inmaculada for a week and in Andahuaylillas we spent time at Fe y Alegria, both schools have some degree of Jesuit influence. Fe y Alegria is a public school, but more so of a charter school, as the Jesuits fund the social programs for the school.
The mission of La Inmaculada, in the spirit of Jesuit pedagogy, is whole person formation with an emphasis on social justice. One of the ways La Inmaculada cultivates this is through the service learning program, which I’ve mentioned in another blog. The purpose of the service learning program is to build relationships between students from Pamplona Alta and La Inmaculada. One of the key aspects of the Jesuit Pedagogical Paradigm is experience, a way to tie in what students learn in the classroom to their personal lives. Creating relationships with students in Pamplona Alta provides students at La Inmaculada with not only friendships but insights into what they learn about in school. This was one of the important aspects of Jesuit education at La Inmaculada.
A central component of the mission of Fe y Alegria was perpetuating and reinforcing the existence of Quechua culture in students’ lives. During our orientation to Fe y Alegria, we watched a video that detailed the importance of integrating Quechua culture into the curriculum. Classes for the younger students begin in Quechua and bilingual education (Quechua and Spanish) begins in older grades. Students learn traditional practices from Andean culture, like dying yarn and weaving. In one of the classes that I observed, the teacher asked the students about their connection to Quechua. She asked how many of the students’ parents spoke Quechua, and majority of the students raised their hands. She then asked how many of the students spoke Quechua, and one student raised their hand. She then proceeded to ask her students why they did not speak Quechua. From the students’ responses and what we have learned about the perception of Quechua and Andean culture, it was clear that parents did not want their children learning Quechua because of the dominance of Spanish and the perception that Spanish is better. The Jesuit mission at Fe y Alegria is to break these perceptions and stereotypes about Quechua and work with families and students to incorporate it into students’ lives. Although both La Inmaculada and Fe y Alegria have Jesuit influence, their missions differ because of their contexts. While La Inmaculada works to provide its students with experiential learning and emphasize the importance of relationships through its service learning program, Fe y Alegria concentrates its attention on the importance and relevance of Quechua, the culture and language prominent, but also preyed upon, in the Andes. The different contexts of Lima and Cuzco play an important role in determining the direction and aims of education for schools in these areas.
In addition to context, privatization was something we saw with La Inmaculada and Fe y Alegria. The article “Worldwide, Public Education is Up for Sale,” by US News, discusses the possible ramifications of privatization. The article discusses how public education is under attack and notes how many people argue that public education is failing so as to advocate for increased privatization of education. However, the article discusses how privatization does not necessarily mean better quality education and better outcomes. It offers the example of Chile, where privatization led students “to self-segregate by religion, social class, race, and family income,” which hurt students and outcomes (page 3). Cabalin’s article, “Neoliberal Education and Student Movements in Chile: Inequalities and Malaise,” also looks at Chile and the impact of neoliberalism and privatization. Cabalin discusses how neoliberalism in education has resulted in the increased privatization of education and thus, disregarded the concept of a just education. In Chile, privatization resulted in more segregation and the further allocation of privileges to the wealthy. The resulting stratification has not bettered the quality of education. In turn, it has generated more inequality. Since the Jesuits play an important role at both La Inmaculada and Fe y Alegria, it is important to consider these schools within the context of privatization. At these schools, the Jesuit mission and its goals for the students are woven throughout the curriculum and schooling experience. Without the Jesuit influence, I doubt the students at La Inmaculada would build relationships with students from Pamplona Alta and I question whether Quechua would hold a privileged place at Fe y Alegria.
In the United States, I’ve heard privatization discussed in the context of outcomes, namely the idea that children educated in private schools perform better. However, this is a misconception, and one that has consequences for equity in education. In Peru, private influence at La Inmaculada did seem oriented to outcomes but with the shadow of Jesuit pedagogy, embodied in supplemental programs, lurking in the background. Conversely, at Fe y Alegria, Jesuit influence seemed more concerned with the incorporation and survival of culture and language native to the Andes, in addition to student success and outcomes. To me, this was another contextual difference between Lima and Cuzco, and one that is incredibly important. The emphasis on preserving and respecting culture is something I loved seeing at Fe y Alegria and it was not something that was only espoused, I physically was able to see it at work in the classroom. As a teacher, care and recognition of culture is something that I want to always be aware of and working towards because I think it is one of the ways that teachers can connect to students and their families in a genuine way.