Literacy and Continuing Education in the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene y Mantaro Rivers

Country Profile: Peru


29,180,900 (2008 estimate)

Official Language

Spanish (recognised languages include Quechua, Aymara, Asháninka, Aguaruna, Pano-Tacanan, Kawapana and Arawa)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):

12.5% (1990-2004)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

2.6 (2005)

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

86.4% (2006)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

97% (1995-2004)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)
  • Total: 88%
  • Male: 94%
  • Female: 82%

Programme Overview

Programme TitlePrograma de Alfabetización y Continuidad Educativa en el Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro (VRAEM) – Literacy and Continuing Education Programme in Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro
Implementing OrganizationDirección General de Educación Básica Alternativa – Dirección de Alfabetización (DEBA), del Ministerio de Educación. (Directorate General for Alternative Basic Education – Directorate for literacy (DEBA), of the Ministry of Education).
Language of InstructionSpanish
FundingIn the districts of Huancavelica, the programme receives funding from Electro Perú and Kallpa.
Programme PartnersLocal governments (municipalities provinces y districts), agencies of the Ministerio de Desarrollo e Inclusión Social (MIDIS – Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion), via the programme Programa Nacional Cuna Más
Annual Programme CostsIn 2015, 2,073,600 Nuevos Soles (S/.) (USD 648,000). Annual Programme Cost per Student: In 2015, 712,14 Nuevos Soles, (USD 222.54). Includes direct and indirect costs.
Date of Inception2012

Country profile and context

As a result of Peru’s continuous economic development since the beginning of this century, it is today considered a country of upper-middle income. In 2012, Peru recorded GDP of USD 154 thousand million (Banco Central del Perú), 2011; cited in USAID, 2012), positioning itself as one of Latin America’s strongest economies.

However, this impressive development masks the high level of inequality that exists in Peru, a level reflected in the country’s Gini coefficient, which is among the highest in Latin America. Despite these economic developments, 70% of national wealth has remained in Peru’s coastal regions, which constitute only 16% of the country’s territory (USAID, 2012). Moreover, while the country may boast great cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity, it is also characterized by great inequality in terms of access to services. Indigenous communities are particularly affected by this state of affairs, suffering from, for example, malnutrition, extreme poverty, and education and literacy rates far below the national average as a result.

The Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro (VRAEM) region comprises the Andean provinces of Huancavelica, Junín, Cusco, Ayacucho and Apurímac. More than a third of the region’s population speaks Quechua (one of the 43 recognized languages in Peru). Due VRAEM’s central location and its rough geography, which make it difficult for government authorities to access, the region has, over the past few decades, regularly been the scene of terrorist activity and of drug trafficking to other countries. The region’s proneness to natural disasters and the many years of violence it has suffered at the hands of terrorist groups, drug traffickers and mining operations, have contributed to the poverty and extreme poverty in VRAEM, which in turn foments the region’s high illiteracy and school drop-out rates. Moreover, the VRAEM population has for years been neglected and marginalized by the state and by society at large. To translate this into figures: in 2011 the adult illiteracy rate in VRAEM was 17.7%, whereas the national rate was 7.1% (INEI, 2011). For the reasons mentioned above, the government of Peru has been trying to increase its presence in the area over the past few years, developing and implementing policies aimed at promoting social development among the region’s population.

Programme Overview


Until 2011, literacy development efforts in Peru tended to focus on implementing short-term campaigns. However, due to their lack of sustainability, such initiatives did little to combat illiteracy. The Dirección de Educación Básica Alternativa (DEBA – Directorate General for Alternative Basic Education) no longer sees literacy as achievable via short-term, unsustainable programmes, but rather as a continual process comprising one Initial Cycle (2 levels) and one Intermediate Cycle (three levels). Together, these cycles constitute Educación Básica Alternativa (EBA – Alternative Basic Education), which is equivalent to regular primary education. EBA programme participants are young people under the age of 15 who never attended primary school or whose primary schooling is incomplete.

The objective of the Programa de Alfabetización y Continuidad Educativa en el Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro (VRAEM), referred to hereinafter as Programa de Alfabetización en el VRAEM (Literacy Programme in VRAEM), is to increase literacy rates in the region. As part of efforts to improve social inclusion, an initiative was launched to promote peace in the region. Among the focal areas of this integrated initiative is education, primarily literacy development, which is considered pivotal to fostering inclusion and, thus, peace. This is because illiteracy contributes considerably to the exclusion of the region’s citizens. Moreover, a region’s cultural, social and financial development is dependent to a great degree on the education of its citizens. If educational services in an area are not good, then the young people and adults who live there will be unable to adequately develop their intellectual and human capacities. Since 2013, this literacy programme in VRAEM prioritizes literacy-building, in accordance with the commitment entered into by the Ministerio de Educación and the Comisión Multisectorial para la Pacificación y Desarrollo Económico Social en el Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro (CODEVRAEM – Multisectoral Commission for Peace and Socio-Economic Development in the Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro).

The DEBA, the implementing entity, is a body affiliated with the Deputy Ministry of Pedagogical Management within the Ministry of Education, and is responsible for formulating and proposing the EBA’s national policies. The focus of EBA's work is on lifelong learning. The literacy programme presented here is based on the experience gathered by the Ministry of Education of Peru via its Proyecto Programa de Alfabetización y Educación Básica de Adultos (PAEBA – Programme of Literacy and Basic Education for Adults), (Perú. 2003–2009). For more information on the Proyecto PAEBA, please visit:

Theoretical framework

The proposal departs from the idea that literacy is not the culmination of a process, seeing it instead as a continual process in itself, and as the point of entry to basic education. Thus, the final objective is not to “eradicate illiteracy”, but rather to encourage people to continue learning throughout their lives via universal access to written culture (UNESCO 2013). The pedagogical focus here is based on the following:

Programme Implementation

The programme is implemented through various agencies operating at different levels:

Territorial focus, decentralization and target population

The literacy development processes are decentralized as, according to the management model, classes should take place in the district, which is the geographical, cultural and social element closest to the student. Currently (2015), the programme is being implemented in 17 districts and via a total of 313 learning circles (with pedagogical counselling provided by 30 supervisors and 17 district coordinators) The districts were selected based on the following characteristics:


The literacy programme strives to fulfil the following objectives:

Programme Implementation

The programme is organized in cycles and levels as per the following table (the advanced cycle is included as a reference for the reader):


Progressing from one level to the next is based on achieving set learning targets. By completing the intermediate cycle, students qualify to continue with the advanced EBA cycle, through which they complete their basic education.

As a rule, the learning circles begin in January or February and finish in December. They involve two 5-month periods of study per year, with 12 hours of classes per week. The initial cycle comprises 480 pedagogical hours, the intermediate cycle 720 hours. Together, they make up the initial literacy development phase, which comprises 1200 hours in total. These durations are for reference only; they can be increased or decreased depending on students' levels and the rate at which they learn.

One learning circle is made up of, on average, 15 students, whose levels of knowledge and qualifications can vary. The circles tend to take place in educational institutions (schools), communal facilities or churches, i.e. in places where the communities and students in question are involved in decision-making.

Focus and methodology

The teaching and learning methodology proposed is participatory, reflexive and critical. It sees students as a thinking beings whose individual life patterns and strategies, developed over the course of their lives, need to be strengthened and developed in a positive way in order to enhance the manner in which they interact with themselves and with their environment. The methodological approach therefore emphasizes recognition and appreciation of students' previous knowledge as well as of their life, personal, work and communal experience.

The pedagogical processes comprise a sequence of activities that the teacher leads students through with the aim of effectively influencing their learning habits and acquisition of meaningful knowledge. These processes are recurring and not subject to a fixed schedule.

Curricular content and teaching materials

Because the literacy programme is part of the EBA, the curricular areas developed in it are prescribed by the Diseño Curricular Básico Nacional de la EBA (Design of the Basic National Curriculum of the EBA). The curricular areas have been conceived to guarantee development of the knowledge and competencies needed to achieve certification.

The areas are covered on the basis of an integrated, holistic approach that uses cross-cutting content to pick up on and address issues related to the demands and needs of the young people and adults on the courses:

The educational materials used in the programme have been designed to lend dynamism to the learning sessions. They cover topics related to the personal, family and social lives of the students, and they are geared toward consolidating previous knowledge and assessing competencies and skills relevant to life.

Student’s material: Students receive workbooks for each level. These are designed to promote both independent and collaborative learning, investigation and experimentation, as well as to encourage students to apply the lessons learned in class to their daily lives (including their relationships with their families and communities).

They contain different levels of activities according to the levels of knowledge needed to achieve the various EBA grades as defined in the curriculum. They thus correspond with the pedagogical focus and methodology of the curricular area in question. The workbooks contain activities, exercises and tasks to be completed in the books themselves, and promote the use of complementary materials and resources.

The workbook enables the teacher to effectively monitor students' different levels and learning rhythms simultaneously, yet differentiatedly. This in turn enables him/her to use class time more efficiently.

Per level, every student receives two workbooks for their own individual use. These are renewed after each term.

Facilitator’s materials: The facilitators receive methodological guides. These tools are designed to guide the teachers in their pedagogical practice, containing information on how to conduct the activities in the workbooks. They foster adherence to the curricular programme while helping teachers to create fun, effective learning sessions.

Each of the workbooks has been designed to cover relevant cross-cutting topics, the characteristics of the students and the respective context:


The educational materials for this course are based on the materials validated through the PAEBA project in Peru; the same materials that are being adapted by specialists at DIGEBA in accordance with cultural realities. The materials for the intermediate cycle are self-instructive and designed based on an investigation-action methodology. They aim to make the students take charge of conducting and constructing their own learning. The workbooks encourage students to develop capacities that will allow them to flourish autonomously and assertively in social, work and academic contexts.

Recruiting and training facilitators and assistants

Facilitators are people from the community above the age of 18 and with the following profile:

The facilitator provides orientation and promotes learning, offers support students support and interacts with them. His/her most important responsibilities are as follows:

The facilitators work part-time and do not receive a salary, but rather a contribution of 450 soles per month for the duration of their service. To be selected for the role, they must be from the same community or from a nearby community in order to avoid additional costs and time expenditure.

The training programmes for facilitators teach participants about the methodological processes behind literacy-building. The initial training course is conducted via decentralized workshops that are designed to enable facilitators to provide adequate literacy teaching. After completing the initial training course, facilitators assume the running of a Learning Circle.

They also undergo continual training during their time of service. The assistant has a very important role to play in this continual training process. After all, he/she facilitates the process of exchanging ideas and experiences and of critically analysing the pedagogical approaches used in class, working in a group or individually with the facilitators. This type of training is in keeping with the modular set-up, which aims to strengthen the abilities of facilitator staff while they work through the curriculum established for each cycle. The facilitators also participate in pedagogical workshops held during the semester, and in inter-learning groups run by the assistants and the district coordinator.

In total, 352 training hours are provided, with training workshops conducted at both provincial and district levels. There is also the option of participating in virtual training workshops.

One further basic principle for achieving the objectives of the literacy programme in VRAEM is to strengthen the skills of the district coordinators and assistants, who train the facilitators during the literacy development courses. Both roles receive initial training in administrative, pedagogical and institutional management. The assistants take part on two pedagogical meetings per month, convened by the district coordinator.

In 2015, there were 27 assistants working in the territory. In urban zones, every supervisor can accompany up to 15 facilitators. In rural and remote zones, a supervisor should accompany up to 6 facilitators.

Students' profile, needs analysis, and enrolment

During the first promotional period in 2015, 380k8 students were enrolled. The typical profile of a person participating in the programme is as follows:

Before beginning their classes, students undergo placement testing, a process through which the knowledge they have acquired over the course of their lives is assessed and recognized. Even people with no schooling and no qualifications take part in these tests.

To conduct the placement tests, an atmosphere devoid of any formal assessment character is created. The tests involve different types of activity – oral, written, individual, group – through which students can demonstrate not only their existing knowledge, but also their expectations, interests and capacity for acquiring new knowledge.

The students' learning needs are determined using existing statistical data, the character of the specific area in which the programme is offered, consultations with the students, information derived from statistics available on the districts and communities in question, and a pre-enrolment instrument that collects information on students' interests, requirements, needs and expectations. The students are registered and integrated into the educational system by way of the following official procedures: An enrolment card (to register data during the enrolment process), Nómina de Matrícula y Actas de Evaluación (Enrolment Statement and Assessment Reports – a process to standardize the procedures, conditions and requirements for the enrolment of students). These procedures ensure that, at the end of each cycle, the Centro de Educación Básica Alternativa can issue students with an official confirmation of their attendance or with an official certification.

Assessment of learning progress

To evaluate students' progress, the programme suggests they be assessed at three specific times: at the beginning (placement test), during the course (advances and difficulties), and at the end (results).

Monitoring and Evaluation

The monitoring, supervision and assessment of the programme uses monitoring processes that evaluate services offered in relation to the development of the literacy process. Based on predefined indicators, these auditing processes determine the extent to which courses offered at the periféricos distritales, núcleos de aprendizaje and círculos de aprendizaje (see descriptions above) meet specific objectives and evaluate students’ progress. They also assess aspects of an institutional and community management nature. The information gathered by the audits is used for analysis and decision-making purposes.

The monitoring and assessment measures are continual and take into account aspects such as the effective use of financial resources as educational material. These, after all, make up a significant amount of the budget for the programme’s execution.

Monitoring measures are conducted using technical instruments contained in the pedagogical kits. The results of these instruments can be used to immediately implement corrective measures if necessary. The information generated by the monitoring measures is registered in an information system. Information is also generated through supervisory measures. The district coordinator, the director of the CEBA and the specialists from the Unidad Gestión Educación Local (UGEL – Management Unit for Local Education) also conduct supplementary supervisory activities.

The programme began in 2012 and the majority of students from this year opted to continue their studies in 2013. An assessment of this initial phase is planned for the year 2015-2016.

Impact and Challenges

Impact and achievements

Since its inception (2012), the programme has reached a total of 4833 people (3824 women and 1009 men). Of this total, as of September 2015, 3043 people have completed the programme (2408 women and 635 men). In recent years, the percentage of women participating in the literacy programmes has been between 78% and 80%.

In addition to the achievement of completing the programme, an increasing number of students is becoming actively involved in their communities and deciding to continue learning, the confidence they gain through completing the programme making them more willing to express their opinions. Female students in particular are engaging more actively in decision-making not only within their communities, but also within their homes, with their families.


Some of the challenges include:

The VRAEM region is in a state of emergency area due to the acts of terrorism committed there. This state of emergency is not conducive to good attendance or constancy on the part of the students. It is also a region that, due to its geography, is a major producer of coca leaves, and that is thus susceptible to drugs trafficking. The raising of education levels in the VRAEM region through literacy classes creates scope for new opportunities, better job prospects and, as such, improved living conditions for the region's inhabitants.

Lessons learned

Encouraging community participation and collaboration in the programme and triggering a sense of commitment to and responsibility for it is essential. This community commitment should extend to exercising civil vigilance in terms of monitoring students' attendance. The communities should also participate in the continual improvement of the programme, reporting incidents, exercising criticism and proposing suggestions on how to improve the learning circles. They should also be involved in the process of monitoring the performance of facilitators, supervisors and district coordinators.


The literacy programme is decentralized and collaborates continually with local governments, i.e., with provincial and district municipalities. It is also supported via contributions from the private sector and from non-governmental organizations. For example, it collaborates with companies to extend its literacy development initiatives to other districts. The programme partners finance the cost of theses measures directly (they pay for the educational staff and materials). The programme also works with other state sectors (the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion via its national programme Cuna Más) to offer its services to mothers with children aged 3 or less. The programme Cuna Más allows women who would traditionally have to take care of their young children to participate en classes.



Luis Alberto Hiraoka Mejia
Dirección de Educación Básica Alternativa (DEBA)
Dirección General Educación Básica Alternativa, Intercultural, Bilingüe y de Servicios Educativos en el Ámbito Rural (DIGEIBIRA)
Ministerio de Educación
Calle del Comercio 193 San Borja, Lima 41
Telephone: +51 615.5800 annex 26536

Last update 8 February 2017