Peru: “low cost” private education under scrutiny

published 19 February 2018 updated 8 December 2022

A new study by Education International reveals the flaws and inconsistencies behind Peru’s “low cost” private education boom.

Despite its increasing popularity among policy makers and parents, private “low cost” in education does not stand by its promises, according to a new study published today by Education International.“Low-cost” private education in Peru: a quality-based approach is an in-depth analysis of the trends in the education sector in Peru and their effects on society, quality learning and access to education.

The report, which was presented today at a public event in Lima attended by the Minister for Education, policy experts and trade union leaders, is the result of a joint investigation by a research team from the Universitat Autònoma in Barcelona, Spain, and the Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE) in Lima, Peru.

Key findings

The study shows how private education in Peru has grown exponentially over the last two decades. Today, 40% of students from the most underprivileged districts in the Lima metropolitan area attend private schools. This is the combined result of market deregulation and a demographic expansion that has not been matched by an increase in the offer of public education.

According to the study there has been a particularly remarkable increase in the so-called “low-cost schools” aimed at families with limited resources. But these schools show striking deficiencies, both in terms of quality of education and equity.

Low quality teaching and exclusion

The research reveals that the academic performance of students in the “low-cost” educational sector is consistently lower than in the public sector. It also sheds light on the often poor infrastructure and lack of resources (space, facilities, materials) of these schools, with a special emphasis on the high turnover rates of teachers.

Despite these flaws, the cost of the tuition often makes up one quarter of the minimum wage per student, making these “low cost” schools inaccessible for poor families. The report also sheds light on the student selection practices of these institutions, which thus stand in the way of social equity and the fundamental right to education recognised by the Constitution of Peru.

During the launch of the study in Lima, Angelo Gavrielatos, director of EI’s Global Response to the Privatisation and Commercialisation of Education, said: “Low-cost schools in Peru are merely providing a stopgap alternative to public education for the most underprivileged families. These schools offer a low-quality education that promotes social inequality”.

Alfredo Velásquez, General Secretary of SUTEP, added that “it is imperative and urgent that the State regulate private providers and ensure that the low-cost education system upholds a certain standard of quality. At the same time, we must also strengthen and promote quality public education in response to current growing demands”.

The full report is available for download here: “Low-cost” private education in Peru: a quality-based approach. Fontdevila, C., Marius, P., Balarin, M. & Rodríguez, M. F. (2018)

The executive summary can be found here: Low-cost private education in Peru: subjects for debate