OLPC in Peru

As we discussed in class, the One Laptop Per Child initiative has made some progress in improving education, but also has some inherent flaws. Peru, as the country with the largest OLPC program, is a great case study to illustrate the successes and failures of the program. Peru is also a good case study for OLPC because of its large number of rural indigenous people, which is the type of population that the OLPC is trying to target.

In February of last year, the International Development Bank published a working paper evaluating the OLPC initiative in Peru. The evaluation was done over 15 months and encompassed 319 participating schools.

Successes:

– Out of all the schools that were elected for the project, 99% of students and 83% of teachers received laptops. This shows that there is very little corruption and inefficient allocation in regards to the program’s implementation

– Students who received laptops were found to be significantly ahead of those who did not in cognitive skills such as information processing speed and analytical capacity.

Failures:

– Although the majority of teachers received some initial training in how to use the laptops, most all participating teachers expressed a want for more training in regards to how to incorporate the laptops into the school’s educational program. Further training was promised, but two out of three schools have not received any additional training.

– Only about 50% of students actually ever brought the laptops home, as is one of the goals of the OLPC program. The main reason was that the school prohibited it. Students and parents were also afraid of damaging the device.

– Partly because teachers did not receive any training in how to involve the laptops in the educational curriculum, the computers were not used in the classroom on a very regular basis (17% used daily, 33% used 3 times a week).

– Probably the most disappointing failure was that there were no effects on test scores. Both math and language test scores remained the same as they had for the past years before OLPC was implemented, indicating a near zero effect on how the children are actually being educated.

These successes and failures demonstrate clearly the issues that we discussed in class regarding the Warschauer and Ames article. This case study shows that even in a country where OLPC has been accepted as a feasible and desirable education model, inherent problems still present themselves. Until the OLPC initiative can penetrate the curricular and administrative levels of education, there will continue to be a disconnect between the program’s utopian objectives and the reality of the results on the ground.

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