U.S. English Foundation Research


Peru Language Research

Updated (August 2010)

The use of language in everyday life, education, broadcasting and other

The first higher education institution for the Aymara, Peru’s indigenous population, will soon become a reality. In May, Education Commission of the Peruvian National Congress approved a proposal to create a national Aymara university and it is expected that the Congress will soon follow suit.
The goal for the university’s proponents is to improve access to and the quality of education for indigenous people and train them as professionals who will then be better able to improve the socio-economic situation of their communities.
There are more than two million Aymara located in the Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia and northern Chile. “Historically, indigenous languages and other native forms of knowledge have been marginalized and stigmatized in Latin America,” said Maria Elena García, a professor at the University of Washington, whose research focuses on the Andean region and who sees the new university as part of a larger ‘decolonizing’ movement across the Americas.
García said the situation may prove more challenging than in other Latin American countries that have been building up their indigenous higher education systems. “Generally speaking, Peruvian society is more hostile to indigenous issues than Ecuador so the creation of an indigenous university there will not be without its challenges.”
While many proponents feel that the university will help greater society learn more about their indigenous population, others, such as Lucio Ávila Rojas, Rector of National University of the High Plains in Peru (Universidad Nacional del Altiplano), are more circumspect: “It is a good idea; hopefully it will not just be an illusion.”
David Post, professor of education policy and editor of the Comparative Education Review at Pennsylvania State University in the US, explained that there were historical reasons for cynicism.
“Peru began to teach using (the indigenous language) Quechua during the 1970s, after it was declared a second official language. These attempts failed because parents saw – correctly – that instruction in Quechua during primary school did not lead anywhere, as there were no universities teaching in this subject. The question now is whether the public will embrace indigenous language universities without parallel changes in places of employment.”

The university will be located in Puno province, close to the border of Bolivia. There is talk of possibly making the university bi-national through an accord with the Bolivian government, to better benefit more indigenous Aymara who inhabit both sides of the border of this Andean region.
Source: University World News, August 22, 2010 by Pacifica Goddard http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20100820160306411