This is a picture taken in San Juan de Lurigancho, a populous district of Lima. These are typical street signs for businesses, or rather, “academies” and “education centers.” What they are selling is the possibility of passing admission exams at prestigious universities in Peru; another one sells the possibility of becoming a successful professional in a 3-year non-university careers (officially recognized universities are required to be at least 5 years long) in business administration, nursing and pharmacy, and the possibility of becoming an “executive secretary”. Peru has a national curricula that most schools have to follow in order to credit students with primary and secondary diplomas, but in recent years there has been a boom of “colegios-academias,” which have the sole purpose of preparing children, from grade 1 until 11, to enter university. Entering university if, in the eyes of many people who live in poverty, the sole guarantee that they will get out of a vicious cycle: only education will make life better.
Nothing wrong with that, obviously. But here is the crude reality of it: what do we understand as “education”? Since the goal of these schools is to get people into a university (something that is done through a single general knowledge multiple choice entrance exam), there is no need for a wholesome education that would emphasize the development of people’s individualities, personalities or values. The only thing that counts is knowing the answers in that single exam for which children prepare since they are 7 years old. Isn’t this the perfect analogy for the market-centered society, or “selling people what they want”? What kind of “professionals” do you think this model creates? This is the Peru of extreme neoliberal capitalism and market-based thought. But of course, this is not limited to the case of Peru. What is shown in this picture might be alien to most people, but it is actually closer than what you imagine to the current state of education in places such as the United States, where the outcome of education is measured more by statistics than the happiness and wholesome growth of children.