Jaime Saavedra, former head of the World Bank’s Global Education Practice division and education minister of Peru from 2013 to 2016, joined Ann Bernstein, CDE executive director, in a conversation titled Successful education reform in Peru.
Saavedra lamented the high levels of learning poverty across the world. The percentage of children who cannot read by the age of 10 was 57 percent, on average, in low and middle-income countries, before the pandemic. As a result of Covid-19, the World Bank estimates that this number has now risen to 70 percent.
A key goal of the reforms was to take politics out of human resource appointments in education and to make the selection and promotion of teachers totally meritocratic. When he took the job as education minister in Peru he insisted on the freedom to choose his own team without being subjected to political pressures.
When Peru came last in the 2012 PISA results, an international test measuring Grade 9 performance in maths, science and reading, rather than looking for excuses and explanations, Saavedra as education minister described the outcome as a “disaster” for the country and used that message to mobilise support for fundamental education reforms.
To ensure the success of his reforms, the minister sought the support and participation of teachers, while engaging in a “complex dance with the union”. His success in this regard was enabled by consistent support from the President of Peru, as well as members of the cabinet, while also shifting public opinion in favour of meritocratic reforms.