ATEK Reading Comprehension
Country Profile: Peru
29,180,900 (2008 estimate)
Spanish (recognised languages include Quechua, Aymara, Asháninka, Aguaruna, Pano-Tacanan, Kawapana and Arawa)
|Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):|
|Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP|
|Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)|
|Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)|
|Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)|
|Programme Title||Asociación Tawantinsuyuman Evangelioq K’ancharinanpaq (ATEK) Reading Comprehension|
|Implementing Organization||Asociación Tawantinsuyuman Evangelioq K’ancharinanpaq (ATEK, translation: «Association Bringing the Gospel to the Quechua-speaking World»)|
|Language of Instruction||Quechua and Spanish|
|Funding||Wycliffe USA and Wycliffe Canada (Global Partners International), Peruvian Bible Society and local churches|
|Date of Inception||2003|
The ATEK Reading Comprehension programme endeavours to empower Cusco Quechua people by facilitating access to literacy skills training and education. Although the Quechua constitute a large group (about 1.5 million), they have largely been socially marginalised. High rates of illiteracy and a lack of socio-economic opportunities have limited their ability to participate in national developmental activities. ATEK’s literacy programme therefore endeavours to empower the Quechua with bilingual (Quechua and Spanish) literacy skills in order to enable them to improve their living standards, preserve their cultural identity and participate in national developmental activities.
Context and Background
Although Peru has made great strides in providing equal access to education for all through a national policy which guarantees free and compulsory pre-primary, primary and secondary education for all children up to the age of 16, the rural population’s access to education remains extremely limited. More specifically, the government has failed to provide effective educational opportunities to the indigenous people who constitute about 45% of Peru’s population. The Quechua, the majority of whom live in remote and ‹inaccessible› villages in the Andean highlands, is one of the indigenous groups that have benefited least from national educational policies and programmes.
Access to education for the Quechua is hindered by several factors, including:
- limited governmental support to both primary and secondary schools in Quechua communities;
- limited governmental investment in the development of intercultural and bilingual education (IBE) programmes and the training of IBE professionals which could have enabled the Quechua to benefit from the education system through the use of their own languages. Spanish remains the primary language of instruction in most schools and as a result, the largely monolingual Quechua people face formidable linguistic barriers
- the Quechua’s farming and herding practices, which require the participation of all, including school-age children;
- male-dominated cultural practices that have limited educational opportunities for girls and women.
The net effect of these disadvantages is that illiteracy rates among the Quechua are very high. It is estimated, for example, that Quechua women attend school for an average of 4.6 years and that 70% of them are illiterate. Furthermore, 54.4% of the total Quechua population fail to complete elementary school. High rates of illiteracy have also perpetuated the socio-economic and political marginalisation of the Quechua.
To address this situation, the Asociación Tawantinsuyuman Evangelioq K’ancharinanpaq (ATEK), a native Quechua organisation for community development, initiated the Reading Comprehension Literacy Programme, which endeavours to empower ordinary people through literacy skills training. It is also intended to serve as a model of bilingual literacy and education programmes for indigenous people throughout Peru.
ATEK Reading Comprehension Literacy Programme
ATEK’s Reading Comprehension Literacy Programme is a bilingual project that is based on the basic needs of the beneficiaries, as determined by assessment surveys. The programme therefore seeks to promote both personal and social development through a holistic approach which uses literacy as the foundation for other community-based development projects. To this end, the literacy skills training programme is rooted in a number of thematic areas including health, agriculture, animal husbandry, income generation and civic education.
The programme is currently being implemented in Cusco province, covering remote and poor communities in the districts of Paruro, Chumbivilcas, Paucartambo and Canas, among others. Many of these districts are marginalised and therefore lack adequate educational resources. The programme is operating in a total of 90 locations across the province and is funded primarily by Wycliffe USA and Wycliffe Canada (Global Partners International) and the Peruvian Bible Society (PBS). The PBS, for example, provides funding for the salaries of four regional supervisors and for the printing of all literacy materials used. In addition, local churches and private individuals also assist the programme with in-kind donations of goods, food and voluntary services.
The programme has three major components which are taught over a minimum period of two years:
- The Basic Literacy Level is designed for male and female illiterates of all ages, but is particularly targeted towards monolingual women and women with basic bilingual literacy skills. It also focuses on participants who dropped out of primary school. At this stage, classes are mostly conducted in the learners’ mother tongues in order to enable them to acquire basic literacy skills (reading and writing). Numeracy skills are not introduced at this level.
- The Transference Literacy Level focuses on training bilinguals who are able to read and understand Spanish. Male learners with varying degrees of literacy skills dominate this group, primarily because most acquired Spanish literacy skills during periods of labour migration.
- The Advanced Literacy Level is an open-ended stage designed to entrench the skills gained by graduates of the basic or transference literacy levels. The post-literacy phase enables readers to understand, interpret and apply more complex materials so they are able to integrate reading and writing into their lives and use literacy as a tool for ongoing self-directed learning. Basic functional numeracy and Spanish as a second language are introduced during this phase. Advanced level graduates are eligible to enrol in the government’s alternative education programme (Educación Alternativa) in order to complete formal primary education.
Aims and Objectives
The programme endeavours to:
- develop bilingual (Quechua and Spanish) functional literacy skills among learners;
- promote sustainable community development and poverty alleviation through literacy skills training;
- promote intergenerational learning by enabling parents and children to help each other learn and develop literacy skills;
- strengthen the capacity of families to co-exist peacefully and cater for their livelihood needs; and
- empower the Quechua to participate actively in national development activities.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
Recruitment and Training of Facilitators
In order to ensure the effective and sustainable implementation of the programme, ATEK works in close partnership with local communities and institutions such as churches. As well as assisting ATEK with in-kind donations, these partners play a critical role in mobilising learners and facilitators. As a result, many ATEK literacy facilitators are recruited from within their communities after being recommended to ATEK by their church and community leaders because of their dedication to serving their community.
ATEK does not have a minimum educational requirement for those who aspire to be literacy facilitators. However, facilitators should have the necessary literacy skills to enable them to facilitate literacy training workshops. Successful graduates from ATEK’s post-literacy programme are also eligible to volunteer and train as facilitators.
ATEK trains facilitators through a series of regular workshops (one for each primer) and refresher seminars which field supervisors provide during their regular visits and regional meetings with facilitators. All of the training workshops emphasise practical teaching activities such as lesson moderation and class management. Each facilitator teaches an average of 7 to 8 learners. However, facilitators do not receive any remuneration; they are volunteers nominated by churches that invite ATEK to provide literacy training in their communities. The facilitators therefore teach as a means of serving their communities and churches.
Enrolment of Learners
ATEK employs a community-based approach to recruit learners into the literacy programme. When the programme was first established, ATEK undertook a community-based outreach and sensitisation programme which involved the participation of community members in public workshops where the benefits of literacy skills training were explained. Additional training workshops were held for selected but key community members, leaders and volunteers for similar purposes; however the participants were subsequently enlisted by ATEK as community mobilisers. These trained community facilitators and volunteers play a critical role in encouraging others to enrol in the programme. Equally importantly, ATEK has established strong partnerships with a number of local churches and these are now instrumental in motivating people to enrol in the literacy programme.
Teaching-Learning Approaches and Methods
ATEK believes that adults learn best through dialogue and by integrating new information into their prior knowledge and experiences. Furthermore, ATEK believes that every learner must be intrinsically motivated in order to learn a new skill and that every challenging encounter stimulates critical thinking. Hence, in order to build on the learners’ existing resources, facilitators are encouraged to employ learner-centred teaching methods that include the use of teaching aids or the creation of learning situations which stimulates debate, dialogue, interpersonal interaction (group work), problem-solving and critical thinking. With regards to learning motivation, ATEK has observed that most learners are motivated to participate in the literacy programme because of their desire to read the Quechua Bible. As a result, ATEK has used Biblical texts as a key teaching aid that enables learners to acquire broader reading and writing skills through a medium with which they identify closely. This furthermore enables class discussions to centre on and address the various social challenges which affect learners on a daily basis and has also attracted the active support of the church.
Following the principle of empowering learners while nurturing their decision-making powers, each literacy group decides where, when and how often to meet. As a rule, groups meet once a week for a minimum of two hours. ATEK has developed and provides facilitators and learners with teaching and learning materials (such as teaching manuals and aids, and learners’ readers). Facilitators and groups are supported by ATEK personnel who visit classes regularly and provide regional refresher courses for facilitators every two months.
Programme Impact and Challenges
Monitoring and Evaluation
ATEK field supervisors are responsible for continually monitoring and evaluating the teaching and learning process. In addition, a professional, external evaluation of the programme is undertaken every 3 years by Wycliffe Canada or Wycliffe USA. The last evaluation took place in January 2007. This evaluation praised ATEK for establishing an effective literacy programme for socially marginalised people and made the following key suggestions:
- ATEK should incorporate a numeracy element into the programme. This has since been done.
- ATEK should develop better mechanisms for predicting and tracking the progress and results of the literacy programme. Again, much has already been done to establish such mechanisms.
Impact and Achievements
The Reading Comprehension Literacy Programme has transformed the lives of the Quechua communities in terms of:
- improved literacy skills. Between 900 and 1000 monolingual and partially bilingual Cusco Quechua learners enrol in the programme every year. At the end of the training sessions, most programme participants are able to read and write fluently. Similarly, most graduates improve their analytical and interpretation skills. As a result, some are now able to read the Bible during church meetings, while others are being trained to produce and publish written materials in the Quechua language. Qualitatively speaking, the programme has boosted participants’ sense of self-esteem, confidence, civic responsibility, solidarity and optimism for themselves and their communities.
- the empowerment of women. Given the patriarchal nature of Quechua society, one of the literacy programme’s main achievements has been to empower women to play an active role in civic life. Some women, for example, are now serving as the leaders of various community-based organizations (CBOs) and are thus spearheading developmental projects in their communities. Others have become literacy programme facilitators primarily because both their literacy and communication skills have improved.
- graduate enrolment in formal education. Many programme graduates have enrolled in the government’s Educación Alternativa programme for advanced primary education. This in turn has enabled them to proceed to secondary and tertiary education. For example, ATEK literacy programme graduates, Wilfredo Apaza and Marisol Martinez, completed formal secondary education and teacher training courses and have now been recruited by a local bilingual school to teach religion and literacy in Quechua. Others who succeeded in completing primary and/or secondary education have also been recruited by ATEK and other organizations to work in various community development projects. Overall, this indicates that in addition to empowering individuals, a community-based approach that offers opportunities literacy skills training and development has a strong and positive social impact which in turn lead to community development.
- further community-based projects. ATEK’s partnership with local churches has made it possible for it to implement church-based literacy programmes as well as other community development projects. For example, the joint ATEK-church literacy programmes for children have spilled over into the local school system because school teachers often invite ATEK facilitators to teach Quechua reading in their classes.
Challenges and Solutions
- Limited funding is one of the greatest challenges that ATEK faces. Since its inception, it has been largely dependant on funding from Wycliffe USA. Although other donors now cover about 20% of ATEK’s financial needs, a lack of adequate funding has hindered its capacity to expand the literacy programme into other remote provinces with high rates of illiteracy among the indigenous population. There is therefore a need to maintain strong and functional social relationships with civil society, which has so far supported the programme by providing material resources such as food and lodgings for field facilitators, as well as encouraging literate people to become facilitators. In addition, there is a need to build strong relationships with other NGOs in order to access further financial and technical assistance. Furthermore, it is critical that the existing partnerships with the churches be continued, as they provide invaluable in-kind assistance programme field activities. Besides seeking external funding, ATEK is also implementing income-generating activities. These include selling books and audio visual resources, and hiring out recording studios to the Spanish-speaking community at a competitive rate. In future, such income generating projects will be tailored to benefit the communities in which ATEK operates.
- Given that most volunteer facilitators have basic formal education, there is need for constant supervision in order to ensure that the programme is being implemented effectively. However, due to limited manpower resources, ATEK is often unable to adequately supervise project activities in remote locations. However, bi-monthly facilitator meetings, which take place in a central location in each area, help to maintain contact with all the facilitators, and provide them with opportunities to learn from and encourage each other.
- ATEK’s activities are often undermined by government literacy programmes which offer incentives and salaries which attract facilitators and participants alike. ATEK intends to make its programmes more competitive without requiring any financial incentives. However, there is a need to provide facilitators with a motivational stipend, and resources must be sought for this purpose.
As a community-based organization, ATEK depends on the goodwill of its benefactors and beneficiaries. While the role of beneficiaries in promoting the growth of community-based projects is often overlooked, ATEK has learned that the support from the wider community is critical in reducing the programme’s running costs and in ensuring its sustainability. Although the communities in which ATEK works do not have the resources to pay for the literacy training programmes, they often provide in-kind assistance such as food and lodging for facilitators. Hence, one major lesson that has emerged from six years of programme implementation is that literacy projects are cheaper to implement, function better and are more sustainable when they are actively supported by their beneficiaries.
Literacy participants are often motivated to attend literacy classes by the desire to read useful materials that help to improve their lives, such as the Bible. In order to sustain learners’ motivation and make literacy programmes more effective and sustainable, the literacy curriculum should therefore be tailored to satisfy these needs and expectations.
Similarly, literacy programmes are more effective and cheaper to implement when facilitators are motivated by a spirit of community volunteerism rather than a desire for financial gain. This became clear when facilitators who joined the programme expecting some kind of remuneration quit shortly afterwards. However, volunteer facilitators need consistent encouragement and moral support in order not to feel isolated and become discouraged in their work.
The sustainability of the literacy programme depends on two key elements: demand from the participants and secure funding. Given the high rates of illiteracy among the Quechua and other indigenous groups, the long-term demand for literacy skills training is guaranteed. In addition, the programme could be expanded to include a variety of vocational skills training activities. Furthermore, because ATEK works with local institutions which are a permanent part of the communities, such as the church, more could be done to link its activities with those of these institutions. However, the expansion of the programme, whether through ATEK or local institutions, depends on the availability of secure and sustainable funding.
- Dillon, Peter. H. 2008, Peru: Indigenous Peoples’ HE Needs Neglected
- Education and Peru: The Work of Tarpurisunchis in Indigenous People’s Issues Today
- Literacy and Civic Education Programme for Indigenous and Peasant Women, Peru
- http://atekperu.org/atek/ – ATEK website
Fredi Quintanilla Palomino
Apartado 318, Cusco
Tel: +11-51 84 25 3457 / +11-51 849 846 797 03
Host: (at) atekperu.org
Last update: 12 April 2011