Jaime Saavedra: "Private universities are improving their quality"
December 01 , 2016
CADE 2016. Saavedra discussed three key points: student performance in the classroom, improved teacher standards and greater autonomy in schools.

A few minutes ago, Congress approved interpellation to the Minister of Education, Jaime Saavedra, on Wednesday, December 7. While the measure was approved, the minister was applauded at the end of his presentation on educational reform at the CADE 2016. It was by far the longest applause so far in the event.

Saavedra received the news while answering questions from the audience. "A public announcement," he interrupted. "The motion has just been passed". He explained that he will answer "what has to be answered" and that the reform "will be a complicated way".

Saavedra took advantage of the CADE 2016 to defend the university reform, which in recent weeks has led to the minister being challenged by the opposition, mainly by Fuerza Popular. This  group has said, however, that he will be interpellated over a complaint of money diversion in the Ministry of Education during the purchase of computers for school use. Nevertheless, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and other authorities point out that the interpellation is politically motivated.

"Education has to be regulated," said Saavedra. "Private universities, inspired by the reform, are improving their quality standards". This was, according to him, the goal that motivated him to continue in charge of the Ministry of Education, a decision that "was not easy" to take.

Public education reform

Saavedra discussed three key points during his presentation at the CADE: student performance in the classroom, improved teacher standards and greater autonomy in schools.

Regarding classroom performance, Saavedra explained that his ministry seeks to improve the climate of respect. Currently, 70% of classrooms have a good climate of coexistence, according to the Ministry of Education. The Ministry also aims at learning to be based on teacher-student interaction (which currently represents only 24% of the learning session in Peruvian schools) and at critical thinking to be encouraged, which only happens in 25% of the classrooms.

Saavedra also mentioned the importance of teachers, who are the basis of the educational reform in the public sector. The ministry's goal is for more talented professionals to become involved in teaching. In order to achieve this, the minister detailed four basic pillars: a higher salary, public recognition of their work, promotions and the incorporation of professionals from other disciplines.

However, he explained that it is crucial to improve teacher training, for which the first step is to increase the standard scores required to enter university teaching programs, as in countries with high quality education, such as Singapore. He also explained the importance of fostering an innovative attitude, which is already beginning to be rewarded.

With better trained teachers and directors who exercise effective leadership in their schools (and are not overwhelmed with administrative tasks), educational institutions will reach a greater degree of autonomy, he added. Currently, autonomous schools reach only 15%, while those that need constant support reach 55% of the total.

"We need a change of expectations ... and a logic of excellence," Saavedra concluded.

* Rodrigo Salazar for Semana Económica.



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