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Teaching English as a foreign language in Peru

Updated on June 6, 2012

I teach "teachers" of English in Peru. The level of expertise is low. While Peru law mandates that a "university" teacher (profesor as it is spelled here) has to have at least a master degree, the majority of teachers have at most the BA or a little teaching experience--and awarded the title Lic. (Licentiate).

Teaching English is difficult. Textbooks are notoriously bad: grammar plays but a small role and expecting students to speak the language outside of the classroom is fantasy.

My last Ph.D. was earned at Carnegie-Mellon--and I am an oddity at best. My job is secure as I have the only doctorate in this area.

Most English teachers from the USA are working toward a BA, I know of none with an earned MA or doctorate in any area.

Research and publication is neither required nor found in any area. Mario Vargas Llosa is hailed now for winning the Noble Prize in Literature--but was ignored previously. Cesar Vallejo was chased out of Peru. He went to France where he wrote and died. Later, his body was returned to Peru--without fanfare. Now there is a university named after him--in spite of the fact that he was soundly and roundly hated for his lifestyle before being posthumously resurrected with the talents of Mario Vargas Llosha.

Peru is poor in every way. It remains poor because of the churches that have a strangle-hold on education: religion is required at every level. Even in degree areas such as computer science, marketing, and foreign languages, religion must be taught. The absurdities in Mel Gibson's "Passion of Christ" are hailed as authentic. True education does not exist.

When Antonio Chang was Minister of Education, he required, in 2007, that all teachers to take a basic competency test. Of the total (the number varies depending on the source: from 180,000 to 200,000 or more), only 151 marginally passed.

All teachers in Peru, including those who scored 1 point were retained and continue to teach vulgar (street) English. This vulgarity can be heard and read in bad English texts. Teachers call children "kids" (it means a goat, but in street English it is accepted) unless the teacher is in Chile where the child is a "cabrito" or "pato" (duck). Sexual orientation is more important than mastering the language, and indoctrination is given preference over education.

I teach university teachers of English. Few of these "teachers"know how many articles there are in the language, none knew how many adjectives or how to use them, and composition was at best at the eighth grade (USA) level. Most argue that English has five vowels, but at USAT there is a course given, with my enthusiastic endorsement, on the vowels "y" and "w" (how else would you pronounce the words "cry" "mythology" and so forth?). Rules of capitalization (most students start a sentence with a lower-case "t") and punctuation (it is usually missing or incorrectly used) are ignored. There is no agreement of tense, style, and so forth. The greatest absurdity is with faculty that wants to use "gadgets" such as PowerPoint. Without PowerPoint they are hopeless and haplessly meandering through the course. I find no teachers who are competent to teach above the fourth grade level, and most students who graduate are as inadequately prepared as their teachers in primary school and in the "university" where they spent most of their time discussing beer, sex, and discotheques.

Those who teach English usually teach at three different schools as the pay is very low (I make about $200 a month at the university where I teach grammar, composition, and philology, putting most students to sleep). I am frequently asked to show movies, and teachers rely on PowerPoint as I have yet to meet a single subject-matter expert.

When I turn in grades, at least 90% fail as the students are irresponsible. They do no homework. They will not read any assigned materials. They ask questions in Castellano, and expect a grade if you do not want to be denounced (fired).

I am denounced every semester, but the university uses the books I was fortunate to have published, and I do edit the new grammar and English books my university is publishing after I authored several published articles on vulgar English, the numerous errors that saturate IB textbooks, and showed why the popular FCE is a farce. I am kept on as an antique (ancient one) and because my publication record lends credibility to the school.

Most students "speak" they "learn ingles hearing rock 'n rol [sic]", Most go on to be teachers, and their students are as weak in the language as their new teachers. Because of my age (67), I cannot go elsewhere as discrimination is real in every Latin American, and Asian nation where I have applied.

In Peru, people think that a TOEFL, ESL, or other certificate is a degree, and waive any requirement of law. Americans can earn up to S/.2000 a month at Roman Catholic schools, but public education pays far less. I teach in Peru because I was considered to be "too old" in the USA. My publication record is liberal and long, and that is the second reason I left the USA.

Being stalked by faculty and students daily, receiving death threats in Iowa because of my education, was too much. The police did nothing, so I retired at 58 and moved to Peru where I could survive on $1000 a month (I took social security at 62, and receive $1200). I would not stay in Peru if I had any chance to go elsewhere--but as David Huang told me when schools turned me down in Taiwan, it is neither my ability nor experience that keeps me from teaching in Taiwan--it is my age. It is the same in the USA where UNT turned me down for an adjunct professorship in Oak Cliff, as it is in every nation where I have applied. I have stopped applying, and when not teaching, I research, write, and publish--including on Hub Pages.


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    • Dr. Arthur Ide profile image

      Dr. Arthur Ide 4 years ago from Iowa

      Actually, I quit a few days ago, after listening to the Academic Dean rant about communication and lack of working together on English--the entire time while he was speaking in Spanish--and the Director standing mute as he is incapable of even writing a coherent sentence. I taught all levels at the university and achieved better results with the incoming freshmen who were open to learning than I did with the seniors who went out to become teachers of English and could not pronounce a word correctly, misused most words, and spent their hour in class reading from a poorly written pirated (photocopied) book. Peru is poor--yes--but that does not excuse theft of intellectual property nor attacks on basic human rights. Today Perú, Haiti and Mauritania are ranked at last place in the world for schools through the senior year, and the only university to make it into the top 500 was the Pontifical, with the rest ranging from 4000 to 5000th place. Libraries do not exist in most schools, teachers work at best part time and watch their clocks to make it out of one class to travel across town to a second school, and directors are total illiterates. I wrote another blog entitled Education in Peru 2013 (Google it with my name) as well as others about how education can be improved, but Peru has cut again its financial aid to schools by another point. No one cares about education. If you can do it, move to Peru and teach.

      I stayed these many years hoping to make a change to a thread-bare system where the owner of the university uses my students to help him campaign for president of Peru in 2016. The system is so corrupt, the teachers so poorly educated (the two with master degrees cannot even spell, the others have a bachelor at most and they do not attend mandatory training sessions) that their level of education is less than what I found in Mississippi junior high schools. Eventually there comes a time when even the brave must run.

    • profile image

      Paula Sumi 4 years ago

      "Teachers are so poorly trained that they cannot pronounce basic English words correctly and most (92.5% of all of my students) do not have a working knowledge of the English language after 4 years of classes with other teachers."

      Is that true? if Peru is that bad for you, why are you working there?

    • Dr. Arthur Ide profile image

      Dr. Arthur Ide 5 years ago from Iowa

      This week, my university wisely deleted its school of education. Teachers are so poorly trained that they cannot pronounce basic English words correctly and most (92.5% of all of my students) do not have a working knowledge of the English language after 4 years of classes with other teachers. Not until teachers become subject-matter experts and teach the subject will there be good teachers; here the emphasis is on didactics, pedagogy, methodology and begin writing a BA thesis the first cycle of the first year. It takes me about 20 minutes to read a 14 word e-mail from a teacher of English. Text books used, especially the International Bacchalaureate ones, are filled with typos (such as fro) that I cannot comprehend what is printed. I am now teachingseniors and tey cannot speak without a dictionary.

    • Randy M. profile image

      Randy McLaughlin 5 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Wow! $200 a month is a pittance. I hope you get more success on HubPages and can get it up to $100 a month at some time. I have given up on public school teaching, as the students and parents expect passing grades, no matter their effort and lack of discipline. I tutor however, only people or students with parents who care about what they learn. Still a pittance, but it helps supplement my other income. I also agree with danfranch, there is a latin-mentality block that impedes scholastic progress.

    • profile image

      @danfranch 5 years ago

      No one will ask for a perfect English as most people can master only their native language. I think you are going so far. Perú (as some other Latin-american countries) lacks of motivated people. And this lack of motivation comes from the well known “the less you invest to win, the cleaver you are”. Unfortunately this is an endemic problem carried out for so many generations. I called it the “latin-mentality problem” (to my regret since I’m Ecuadorian). I must say: don’t waste your time trying to teach them good English. Just try to focus on help them to formulate understandable sentences. You alone won’t change the latin-mentality problem.

    • Dr. Arthur Ide profile image

      Dr. Arthur Ide 5 years ago from Iowa

      Your letter is refreshing, and it is nice to know you are still allowed to work. I have been here in Peru for ten years, and when I first came I could not get a teaching job because of my age. I was finally hired by an institute, but not paid for one year (until I threatened to go to the courts--and that was over $3000--not much money in the First World but a fortune in Peru).

      I taught at a Roman Catholic highschool for two months, but the students would not read, did not write, had light sex in the classroom (when I complained, the "psychologists" told me it was traditional behavior, and that I was wrong to reprimand the students). I taught at one of the biggest private universities a class of those about to graduate--not a one could speak a word of English, spent the entire class period in bad dictionaries, and when it came to the final, could not answer one question--and the questions came from their International Bacchelaureate textbooks. I failed all of the students, but the assistant to the directora passed two so I could teach again. I said no and left. I have been turned down because of my weight (I am fat), my education ("too much"), not being married (at Merck Pharmaceuticals, Sergio Sepulveda claimed that it meant that I am homosexual), etc. I have taught at Sika, Ministerio de Comercio y Turismo, etc. The reception was the same: lack of interest and responsibility, bad books if they existed at all, no students took notes, etc. I prepare others for TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc including SAT. I have one or two (at most) good students, but the teachers where I teach were obligated to take a basic grammar course with me, as one teacher said you could not use more than two adjectives in a sentence, and I proved him wrong; others did not come to class, the textbook they wrote had so many errors I edited it, but the head of the project put it back the same way. I complained to the Academic Dean who agreed with me, and the book finally came out.

      I wish I could be positive about Peru--but until the mentality of the country changes on education and it is better funded, the nation will continue to plunge (read my article on why Peru is at the bottom of the world's nations for learning, where education is at best a joke). I teach British, USA, and Australian English (cannot immigrate to work in Australia or New Zealand as I am over 55, visit their websites). For me to sell my house, pack up my personal library (in excess of 65,000 books, etc. is an Herculean effort) and without work I would perish as my small pension covers my dogs' food.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Your HUb has left me seriously perplexed. I was born in Chile, lived here most of my life and have been a teacher for over 55 years. I have taught just about every level, primary, secondary, university, in-service training, private courses, etc. All my professional life has been in Chile. I retired at 66 for personal reasons, and am still teaching, though now I teach English in a private institute. I am originally a Math teacher, with a postgraduate degree in Education (Curriculum and Evaluation). But as I am bilingual, I settled for English, less physically demanding than teaching Math. I am now 72 going on 73, and I have had no problem so far. The level of the Chilean professionals I teach, is very high. I prepare for TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, TOEIC, IELTS, as well as normal English levels. Several of my students are now studying for Doctorates, etc, in other countries, mainly US and UK. I am amazed at your description of conditions in Peru. Chileans are not too fond of Peruvians, but we don't generally get an impression of them that is as negative as yours. Maybe you should transfer further south? By the way, I am also a British national.

    • profile image

      Joe Besse 5 years ago

      I think Texas education is right behind Peru.

      My Mother wouldn't let my sister and me use the word "kid" for the same reason. But your mentioning it is the first time I have ever seen it spelled out.

      Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ absurd?? Not for those who enjoy watching someone being tortured to death for a couple of hours. (No, I never saw it)

      Wish you could figure some way out of that stink hole.