How EduTrac Peru Facilitates Local Decision-Making

Launched: June 2013

Post was originally posted on the resultsfordevelopment.org.

UNICEF Peru, in collaboration with the local nongovernmental organization Kunamia, adapted the EduTrac model from Uganda to mobilize communities to make evidence-based decisions for improving key learning outputs, namely, student and teacher attendance, school maintenance, and delivery of school materials. Within Peru’s diverse geography and decentralized education system, EduTrac Peru holds the potential to generate timely performance information on hard-to-reach schools to improve decision-making and promote community engagement in education. 

As of 2013, Peru had achieved near-universal primary school net enrollment (96 percent) and gender parity (1.0). In the last decade, Peru has also seen large gains in net attendance rates for both pre-primary (from 59 percent in 2005 to 81 percent in 2014) and secondary education (from 72 percent to 83 percent). However, data about national enrollment access mask persistent inequalities in access and student achievement in Peru, especially among marginalized communities in Amazonian and mountainous regions of the country. Poor, indigenous language speakers from rural or remote communities often underperform their wealthier, Spanish-speaking peers. For example, although levels of reading comprehension and mathematic achievement are low across second-graders, the disparity between urban and rural students is particularly striking.

A number of challenges affect efforts to bolster access to education and the quality of learning in these regions. Interviewed policymakers and community members note that families and local officials do not always consider education a priority. Flooding in the jungle and landslides in the mountains present environmental barriers to schooling. The extra costs of education, such as transportation and uniforms, and the opportunity cost of lost earnings when a child attends school often result in children deserting school to work. In southern mountainous regions like Ayacucho, it is not uncommon for children to leave school for employment in the cocaine industry. In addition to problems with student attendance, many schools in these communities face challenges with teacher attendance. It is often the case that teachers do not begin the school year on time or do not attend class regularly. Lastly, the remoteness of these locations complicates delivery of resources, data collection, and other processes necessary to support schools and promote effective learning.

In 2013, the Ministry of Education in Peru convened international partners working in the country to discuss a new agenda for the education sector. Conversation frequently turned to challenges in remote and rural communities, such as difficulties distributing materials and poor teacher attendance. At that time, UNICEF Peru proposed piloting EduTrac, a SMS-based tool, to collect more timely and accurate data to address these challenges. 

Given the model’s potential to reach rural communities through technology and its alignment with national education priorities, the Ministry of Education showed interest in it, pending evidence of positive impact through an initial pilot. Early discussions with key stakeholders included the possibility of large-scale implementation. However, UNICEF Peru ultimately designed a pilot in a few priority communities to more easily identify challenges and factors for success before scaling the program. UNICEF Peru partnered with local organization Kunamia to help carry out the implementation. Local teams based in the intervention regions of Ucayali and Ayacucho engaged with those who would be influential to the program’s acceptance to earn their support. These collaborations involved not only orienting stakeholders to the purpose and objectives of EduTrac but also listening to concerns and suggestions from local counterparts to better contextualize the intervention for local needs. 

Though pilot implementation is still underway, both student and teacher attendance in EduTrac Peru schools showed steady improvement over the first few months of the intervention, increasing from 76 to 90 percent among teachers and from 73 to 84 percent among students. Preliminary findings also point to the innovation’s potential to effect change among stakeholders across multiple levels.