LIMA, Peru – The Ministry of Education’s Intercultural Bilingual Education program is seeking to ensure Andean and Amazonian indigenous and indigenous-descent students receive their education in their native languages and Spanish.
Heriberto Bustos Aparicio, general director of Intercultural, Bilingual and Rural Education, said the program serves 25% of the three million students requiring bilingual education.
The program, created by General Education Law 28044, was implemented in 2003 during the administration of former President Alejandro Toledo Manrique.
But the law derives from the 1970s, when Quechua became the official second language of Peru, behind Spanish.
Bustos Aparicio said his department allocates US$6 million nuevos soles (US$2.1 million) to the project annually, but the program’s budget increases to $9 million nuevos soles (US$3.1 million) because it receives additional funds from other departments of the Ministry of Education.
“The limitations to Intercultural Bilingual Education occur because of a need for teachers, as well as for regional organizations that can oversee the educational process, given that the Ministry of Education is an enforcing agency, not an executing one,” he said.
Bustos Aparicio added another difficulty – one that gradually is being overcome – is the parents’ disinterest in motivating their children to receive an education in their native indigenous tongue.
Peru is home to 43 Andean and Amazonian languages, with 13 having been standardized by the Ministry of Education, which means a language has an alphabet, available literature and can be studied and researched.
The students in the Intercultural Bilingual Education program must comply with the same instruction as students in the country’s Basic Regular Education system.
Bustos said the program covers preschool for 3- to 5-year-olds, and elementary school for 6- to 11-year-olds. Teachers instruct students in a manner that’s tailored to the native language being taught.
“The teacher applies a methodology that is appropriate,” Bustos Aparicio said. “If the community speaks Quechua, the first language of instruction will be Quechua, and Spanish will be taught as the second language.”
Education in the Shipibo language
“The Shipibo people themselves came up with [the idea of] having a bilingual school,” said Emma Franco Saldaña, one of seven teachers at the Institución Educativa Comunidad Shipiba, in the Rímac district in the province of Lima.
The school has 150 students from 3 to 9 years old, of whom 41 are part of the Shipibo community residing in the area.
Franco Saldaña said the creation of the school was discussed in 2003 but became official in 2007, with classes starting a year later.
Most of the 22,500 Shipibos in Peru live in the regions of Loreto, Ucayali, Madre de Dios and Huánuco, according to a census conducted by the National Statistics and Information Sciences Institute (INEI) in 2007. The census reported a total of about 333,000 comprised indigenous communities that year nationwide.
“We only have instruction through third grade, and it is precisely in that grade where there are more children who need to be educated in their own language and learn the Shipibo alphabet, which has 19 letters,” said Franco Saldaña.
The school began with kindergarten and first grade in 2008 and added the next grade each year. The daily class schedule is five hours for the youngest students and six for the oldest. The curriculum for all students includes an hour-long Shipibo class each day.
“It is difficult to learn the Shipibo language,” said third-grader Roberto Huayta Tamayo, 9. “It’s easier to speak it than to write it.”
Franco Saldaña said one of the program’s successes is that its students, who speak, write, recite poetry and sing in their native language, have been able to become better integrated into the Shipibo community.
She added it is key the Ministry of Education assesses the program’s results.
she said. “This way we [can] make corrections and modifications as needed.”