It’s crazy to me that our three weeks in Lima are coming to an end, and that this week I will be in Cusco. We have seen so many examples of the different types of educational systems in Lima that really enforce the fact that educational inequality is present.
We have visited La Inmaculada, a bilingual private school; Casitas, an after school program in El Agustino; IE Tupac Amaru, a Lima public school; Colegio Roosevelt, an American school in Lima; and PEA, an alternative night school for ages 16–40. All of the schools show how the different social classes are educated and it was really interesting to see the contrasts between them.
In my opinion, educational inequalities cannot be fixed until economic inequalities are fixed. Borman & Reimers Compensatory Education states that inequality is still reproduced across generations in terms of lower-education chances for the children of the poor. The last people to access education are the low-income groups and they have even less of a chance to achieve higher education. That is solely due to the amount of money they have, and how high the cost of education is.
The amount of money they have not only determines how much school they go to, but also the level of education for their teachers, the amount of instructional time they receive, and if they can access basic instructional resources.
Money is the deciding factor when receiving a quality education, so communities with lower income definitely have to find other ways of educating not only to learn about basic educational skills, but also skills that can allow them to make money after they graduate. For example, IE Tupac Amaru, the public school we visited, teaches students trades from a young age, and they connect the different trades to math, science, etc..
Money is a major power figure in the different contexts of education. La Inmaculada and Roosevelt, both very wealthy schools, have huge libraries, many athletic facilities, tons of computer rooms, and instructional resources such as smart boards, projectors, and even the level of education of their teachers. On the other hand, IE Tupac Amaru has only one computer facility, one athletic area, a small library, and buildings that will collapse if a 5.0 earthquake happens. The parents of IE Tupac Amaru built all the buildings because the government cannot provide them adequate funding, so the families of the students work to make it a good school. Not only does money structure educational resources, but it also structures the ability of obtaining a quality education.
I find it very interesting that in the lower income towns, education is happening in other places besides school. Last week we visited Lombriz Feliz, a public health and educational community project that educates and composts garbage for the community in order to make soil. This may not be traditional education, but the classes offered at Lombriz Feliz teach community members how they can not only clear their town of compostable garbage, but they can also make it beautiful by using the compost that is later created into soil, with the help of worms, to grow vegetables, plants, etc.. It is very important for organizations like Lombriz Feliz to be around because it gets children excited to learn how to benefit their community.
I am struggling with grasping the fact that money has such an immense power on education. I know I am naïve to think that it is not present in the US, but being in Peru has really opened my eyes to see how obvious it is. When looking back at my recent field placement in an MPS school, I 100% see the educational inequalities compared to the Catholic school that I did field placement in the semester before. At the MPS school, the students have more hindrances to their education based on money. To elaborate, some students miss school because their parents cannot take them if they have to work, some students do not have the money for basic materials, and some students with IEPs do not have the money and the means to carry out effective ways of learning. Money is a major connection that I see with my educational experiences in the US, and it frustrates me that it is such a worldwide issue, and no one is doing anything about it!
Everything that I have learned at the schools in Lima I want to hold on to in my own professional work back home. I want to make sure that every student in my classroom is able to access the basic necessities to strive, even if it takes more time and effort from me. I do not want there to be such a separation from the low income and high income students, because I firmly believe that every student has the possibility to strive in education.
One upper hand that I will have in the US is the cost of higher education compared to Peru’s cost of higher education. Peru’s public universities are very hard to get into because they are free and Peru’s private universities are so expensive, that it is almost impossible for low income students to get into a university unless they have the Beca 18 scholarship. I can use that to my advantage and encourage students to strive for higher education because we have so many scholarships that allow the students to do so.
In my last blog post I said, “If I have learned one thing from my first two weeks in Peru, it is that education should not be structured differently for privileged youth than for marginalized youth, but that is not going to change until the power structure of wealth in education changes,” and I still wholeheartedly believe that statement.
Educational inequalities are not fixable until students’ educational needs are put before money in the system of power. Every student deserves to have access to education that not only gives them knowledge to grow a stronger sense of self, but to also prepare them to critically think in the world, and our educational system is depriving them with that opportunity because it is so focused on money being the determining factor of if they can succeed.