• The Importance of bilingual education for Indigenous Peoples

    Indigenous Peoples in Peru are disproportionately poor in relation to their non-Indigenous counterparts, and are often the most vunerable in society,  lacking access to education and basic healthcare services. One problem which contributes to this marginalization is the lack of bilingual education and opportunities for Indigenous children to study in their native language.

    Peru is a culturally and linguistically diverse country, with Indigenous Peoples making up approximately 45% of the total population. However, this is not reflected in the education system. Article 14 of the UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that governments should take active measures in order for Indigenous children to have an education in their own culture and language. The Peruvian constitution states that it encourages bilingual education, however not enough funding and resourcing is provided for this, and as such, the number of children studying bilingually is low. Currently 43% of Indigenous children in Peru do not study in their native language.

    It is widely recognised that bilingual education for Indigenous children results in better academic achievement, as it is essential that children learn in a language they understand. Many Indigenous children drop out of school, as they are unable to understand and keep up with their classes. As such, they become disenchanted with their education and leave school illiterate, leaving them very little opportunities for the future.

    In addition to this, the lack of bilingual education also results in an erosion of Indigenous languages and culture. More and more parents are choosing not to teach their children Indigenous languages because they feel the children will have a better future if their first language is Spanish. Peru has already lost many languages, and sadly, many more are at risk. Along with the descrimination Indigenous peoples face, the fact that schooling is taught mainly in Spanish has a huge influence on their decision. However, if Indigenous children are given the opportunity to study in their own language, this would foster a sense of pride in Indigenous languages, and provide the context for which cultural traditions can be passed down.

    The dual language focus not only improves education opportunities for children, it also creates jobs in communities. Bilingual education creates job opportunities not only for teachers, but also in the production of books and written resources needed for classes.

    Habitat Pro calls on the Peruvian government to recognise the disadvantages that Indigenous children face if they are not able to study in their native language, and develop more opportunities for bilingual education.

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