Born in Iowa (1945) and educated at various universities in the USA and abroad, I have been painfully aware of the need for accreditation at levels of education—not only in the USA and Europe, but especially in Third World Nations. Impoverished Third World Nations, such as Perú, lack sufficient library resources (and in the provinces libraries are few, sparse, visited infrequently, and faculty select books that they might use without considering if the student has the ability or desire or incentive to use them) and a well-trained and educated faculty. Undergraduate schools are woefully understaffed, and faculty are appointed based on university politics–not experience or preparation—and there is no requirement for faculty publications or those few papers that are self-printed pass peer review. Some Master thesis in Lambayeque are as slim as 20 pages and then authored by five or more students who fail to cite sources, offer no examples, and have no collusion; even then most of these “students” at the graduate level—like my students’ term papers at the undergraduate level–are “cut and paste” (usually from Wikipedia).
It is time that the government of Perú returns to 2005 when the Minister of Education required 180,000 teachers to be examined for competency in their fields. Only 151 passed (See: http://www.livinginperu.com/news/5972; http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Peru+teachers+strike+to+protest+testing-a01611370714; http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Protesting+teachers+storm+Peru+station-a01611373348; http://journals.worldnomads.com/safetyhub/post/7285.aspx; http://www.thefreelibrary.com/PERU%3a+THREE+DIE+IN+PROTESTS+OVER+EDUCATION+LAW%2c+ABSENCE+OF…-a0167131469 robbing tourists, a daily way of life for many Peruanos, escalated when President Alan Garcia Perez attempted to
step in to support higher standards: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6899331.stm). Incompetence was not important, for “teachers” claimed they had a right to “teach” (http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/13-07-2007/94926-peruprotests-0/) even lacking basic education (the average score on a 20 point scale was 10; cp. http://www.livinginperu.com/news/2993 and http://www.livinginperu.com/news/3000 while only 4.6% of all Perú teachers scored a passing grade and were fit to continue as teachers. SUTEP,
the powerful teachers’ union has led regular and constant protests, was instrumental in burning down a regional airport and its furniture, intimidating and striking teachers who did not participate in their nefarious actions, and called for public disobedience to a law that 80% of all surveyed citizens of Perú approve. http://www.livinginperu.com/news/5972).
The problem in Perú is that teachers are wed to modernistic pedagogy where they are “facilitators” and not subject matter experts–and thus are unable to do more than marginally direct students who have little interest in studying and even less in learning. When I required text books, most students did not buy them (one reason is the rampant poverty because of the wide difference between poor and rich) and those who bought illegal (and incomplete) photocopies they ignored the incorrectly paginated papers. Even the “better universities” permit illegal copying of texts.
Instructors use abbreviated notes (worse than Cliff Notes) to teach subject matter which is at best “role-playing” or “brainstorming”. The classics are ignored: from Socrates to Malthus to Sagan and Hawking, and more. Students demand that universities open “clubs” so they can make friends, and cheating on exams is not only open (my students text each other until I take away their cellular telephones) but common. When I have complained in the past, administrators and coordinators remind me that the university exists to make money and without the students there would be no money. For that reason, many graduates who have diplomas in medicine, law, pharmacy, science, and so forth drive taxis in Lima and where I teach in Chiclayo. Few former English students remember a word of English three years after leaving the university, as with the wife of a friend who went to a university in Trujillo.
Accreditation must be based not only on the quality of the library, but the earned credentials of faculty (from reputable, recognized, accredited universities), publications by faculty, and student scores, but also the ability to advance in learning and make realistic but definite contributions to the society of Perú as well, hopefully, to the world. It is great to demand, as found at http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/the_world_view/implementing_a_national_system_for_quality_assurance_in_peru, that
The SINEACE (National System for Evaluation, Accreditation, and Certification of Higher Education), the autonomous national commission responsible for implementing the law, is in the process of creating a system out of the requirements the law enumerated. The law requires both institutional and program accreditation as well as the certification of professionals. The processes are voluntary with the exception of teacher-training programs and 13 programs in the health sciences.
The launch of the system is complicated by the number of actors required for implementation and this is where it gets complicated. The SINEACE is composed of three agencies — the IPEBA (Peruvian Institute for the Evaluation, Accreditation, and Certification of Basic Education) to evaluate primary and secondary education; the CONEACES (Council for Evaluation, Accreditation, and Certification of non-University Higher Education) to evaluate postsecondary, non-university education, and the CONEAU (National Council for University Evaluation and Accreditation) to evaluate university education. The commissions of the SINEACE are responsible for writing standards and norms, providing training and orientation to institutionally-based committees for quality, and the certification of external evaluators. The commissions of the SINEACE do not (by law) evaluate or accredit professionals, programs or institutions. Rather, the commissions are responsible for certifying and monitoring independent agencies to coordinate the external evaluations (with evaluators certified by the SINEACE) and pronouncing on accreditation and certification. To date these independent agencies do not exist.
Postsecondary institutions also have to be “revalidated” (effectively have their legal authority reauthorized) every six years by the Ministry of Education. This, so far, is not articulated with any part of the new accreditation program. Actually, nothing is articulated—university accreditation, program accreditation, and professional certification are separate, unrelated processes. So, in theory, a person graduating from an unaccredited medical program at an unaccredited university could be certified to practice medicine.
The tragedy is that SINEACE has failed miserably, the norms and standards are still underdeveloped, and the number of evaluators is too few for the work to be done (On the accreditation process, see: http://tryengineering.org/accreditation/accbodies.php?page=peru that notes:
The evaluation cycle starts in January every year with the reception of program evaluation requests. Between the months of October and November, the Equipos AdHoc de Evaluación (AdHoc Evaluation Teams) EAEVs conducts an on-campus visit in the institution to review the material course and data used in the program improvement decision-making process. They also conduct interviews with faculty, students, and administrators, based on the previous analysis of the Self-Study Report written by the program. At the end of the visit, the EAEV delivers a preliminary report of the visit findings to the institution, giving it the chance to answer to this report if factual errors have been found.
The accreditation process reportedly is (see: http://tryengineering.org/accreditation/about_accreditation.php):
The academic unit [of] … an academic institution or a degree-granting academic program within the institution. The standards, which are established by experts in the field, cover elements such as the quality and size of the faculty, facilities, budgets, recruiting practices, admissions procedures, course content, and the degree to which the unit reviews its operations periodically and uses feedback from constituencies to improve operations.
The main constituencies of the accreditation process are the general public, students and prospective students, employers, industry, academic institutions and their faculty and staff, and governmental bodies.
Exactly who the “experts in the field” are is not spelled out. There is, however, some comfort in know that the process plans to look at the “quality and size of the faculty” as well as “course content”. All teachers, regardless of where they teach must be subject matters experts and have more knowledge in the area than their students possess at the time of the course.
As Liz Reisburg, a research associate and adjunct faculty at the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College (her concentration is on Latin America), presented in her article (cited above), “Further progress hinges on the appearance of interested parties to fulfill the need for a very large number of evaluators and for independent agencies that will carry the work forward. The number of evaluators who have passed through the process of selection and certification is too few for the work ahead. No agencies have come forward to request certification.”
One major point overlooked by Professor Reisburg is the extraordinary cost of an education in Perú. While the official stated policy is a “free education”—such does not exist. Those who work toward the Master’s degree are expected to pay out approximately S/.500 for a presentation and defense of the thesis, plus to gain a panel of judges. S/.500 in the Provinces in Perú is a lot of money—equivalent to what the average earner makes in two weeks of work that lasts ten to 14 hours a day. Even S/.100 a month at some Institutes of Foreign Languages is a keen burden on those who wish to advance their lives and careers. Books are costly (a book on pedagogy can cost more than $180 USA) and increase the instances of illegal copying. Will libraries be judged by their collections of illegally obtained books—a practice that even well-paid lawyers in Perú brag about having in their personal and professional libraries—or by legal copies, courses in ethics and values, and student awareness of intellectual property rights, original research that is not only documented and substantiated, but passes peer review? The issue of the library, which is the heart of any school or university, is not even addressed (cp. http://tryengineering.org/accreditation/research.php) in Perú’s accreditation program. I wrote in my letter to Living in Perú:
Education Minister Antonio Chung was one of the few brave individuals to stand for quality in education. 95.4% of all teachers in Perú who did not pass the minimal requirements of the standardized test should have been fired. While people will complain that such an action would have hurt the education of Perú students, quite the contrary is true: where there are bad teachers there is no quality of education.
I teach English in Lambayeque Province. I have students who have had up to six and seven years of English in their schools–and they cannot put together two words correctly, cannot define nor place an adjective in its appropriate order, create a verbal phrase, and brag in class that they have not read a book in years. I fail them, as they have earned a grade of zero by failing themselves through arrogance and the pursuit of ignorance. When a student enters a university, if the individual is majoring in a foreign language, that person should be familiar with its basic grammar. In my advanced classes, the male or female occupying a chair sits mute, cannot offer a comment if called on, text messages on his/her cellular telephone concern an examination in progress, and retires into a world of gazing on Avon catalogues or Ojo “news castings”.
It is time to put teeth into the laws passed by Congress on accreditation. It is time to weed out the incompetent and give Perú a quality education so that this nation can take its rightful place in the family of nations–not as a servant but as an equal–not as under-education and uneducated but educated for the good of all (See: http://www.livinginperu.com/news/5972).
Education is the pawn of the churches and government, with appointments to posts garnered by pampering and praising bosses who seldom have sufficient background to know what is education and what is adulador (fawning). Schools, especially universities, must be well-rounded; it is insufficient for a university to have but one or two colleges. All subjects must be taught: history, literature, the arts, music, sciences, languages, philosophy, and each must have its space in the library. Without books to stimulate students, education dies; already the world and Perú are slouching backwards into a Dark Age, one that will be worse than that strangle-held period of time 492 to 1492 CE, when books were burned (as they were under all dictators including Hitler in Germany, and the evangelical extremists in Texas in the 1990s), teachers murdered (as happened in Perú during the dark days of Alberto Fujimori), classes closed, and popular whim dictated following the gold–but not the golden mean or rule as articulated by every major philosopher from the ancient Egyptians, Confucius, Kant, to George Soros. Unless there is a change, the educational earthquake will engulf us all and we will be enchained by the same bonds as the men in Plato’s Republic Book X (“The Cave”), afraid to stretch out our arms to remove the shackles around our thighs and throats aghast at the possibility of seeing the light of reason and knowledge and being freed of ignorance. (See: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html)