Latin American Policy Series (2): Peru – Running Away From the Last Position in the PISA Ranking

In regards to education, most governments, especially developing countries, have been using the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as an indicator to evaluate the success of their education policies. PISA, as part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is a triennial international survey, which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide, by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in sciences, math and reading[1]. In 2012, Peru ranked last in a list of 65 countries. Surprisingly, in the PISA 2015 rankings, Peru was identified as the Latin-American country with the greatest improvement. Nonetheless, it is still among the last countries on the list, ranking 63rd out of 69 countries.

In order to achieve such progress, what has Peru done right during the past years? In Peru, all education policy, legislation and curriculum guidelines are set by the Ministry of Education, which is the overarching authority, managing preschool all the way up to higher education. The local education authorities in the 25 regiones (states) administer and implement the Ministry policies, at the primary and secondary level[2]. It is on this regional level where we might find an answer to our question, more precisely, in a small region named Moquegua, which, since 2011, has been ranked first place in the Peruvian public education evaluation. The education policy changes in Moquegua started in 2006, long before they would eventually yield actual results. The changes were launched as a unified action by political and civil actors, whose aim was focused on the improvement of three key areas: parents’ involvement, teachers’ training and infrastructure’s improvement.

At first, in order to promote parents’ participation in the educational process, the schools started to work together with the family-related public prosecutor offices. A coercion system was implemented: when a student’s grade was falling, parents were notified and were supposed to meet with the teacher, in order to help their child improve their grade. If the inadequate grades continued, parents would be notified twice more. However, the last notification – apart from being sent to the parents – would also be presented, as part of a report, to the prosecutor’s office. Subsequently, the prosecutor’s office could start an investigation for moral abandonment (stated in Art. 248.b of the Peruvian Children and Adolescent Code), indicating that the parents had disregarded the child’s correct fostering and educational development and could thus lose their custody. This drastic measure had positive results, as parents reacted to the first official notification, so the reports were never actually handed to the prosecutor’s office. As another immediate result, parents started to regularly attend school meetings and showed an increased interest in their children’s grades.

Secondly, the Programa Educativo de Logros de Aprendizaje (Educational Program of Learning Achievements) played a significant role in improving teachers’ performance. Teachers were supervised and given suggestions for improving their teaching methods according to their class needs; supervision was also given while teachers were preparing their lessons.

Thirdly, an investment of more than 90 million soles (US$ 30 million) in infrastructure and teachers’ training was constituted. Furthermore, through political lobbying with mining companies that were operating in the region, another 108 million soles were channeled into the sector[3]. With this money, virtual classrooms were implemented, libraries were improved, and teachers received laptops.

These policies, which are now being followed by other Peruvian regions, might have been the turning point for the newly distinguished increase in the quality of Peruvian public education. Nevertheless, this example has also reaffirmed the crucial importance of involving various stakeholders in the policy process, which is vital if Peru wants to achieve and preserve actual long-term change in the education sector. The answers: to who? and how? will vary from scenario to scenario, but without a doubt, they are worth finding. As Ben Franklin said: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Disclaimer: The views represented in this opinion piece do not necessarily represent those of the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy.


[1] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2016. “About Pisa”.

[2] Nick Clark, 2015. “Education in Peru”.

[3] Elizabeth Huanca Urrutia, 2014. “Las claves del modelo que aplica Moquegua para ser primera en la educación pública”.

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Daniela Sota Valdivia is a second-year Master of Public Policy student at the Willy Brandt School majoring in International Political Economy and Public and Nonprofit Management. She is registered lawyer in Peru and has worked for both the public and the private sector. Her experience in the Public Prosecutor’s Office has given her a special interest in topics related to corruption, organized crime and violence against women. On top of that, her volunteer work has awakened her concern about education and sexual and reproductive rights.