An Interview with Sandro Marcone About Peru's Una Laptop por Niño


Entrevista en español

This interview is a full English translation of the original Spanish version which we published 1 1/2 weeks ago. In it Sandro Marcone shares information about the current status quo of Peru's Una Laptop por Niño project, its integration into the curriculum of future teachers, the increasingly important roles of regional governments, and some future plans.

Sandro Marcone Flores

OLPC News: What is your role in the One Laptop per Child program? And how did the initiative come about in the first place?

Sandro Marcone: As the General Director for the General Directorate of Educational Technologies (DIGETE) of the Peruvian Ministry of Education, I have received all the assets and liabilities of the "One Laptop per Child" program since this initiative was implemented by the entity that I am leading today. My administration has created a Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, which, among other things, aims to define the situation and impact of the equipment distributed nationwide. We want to generate evidence, which supports our political decisions.

The supposed "One Laptop per Child Program - OLPC" was first mentioned in 2007, in the Ley del Presupuesto General de la República (General Budget of the Republic of Peru Act). There is no documentation on this respect. Also, the data has not been systematized and was not entered into the National Public Investment System (Sistema Nacional de Inversión Pública - SNIP). This is why we prefer to call it an activity or an initiative, instead of a program.

Much has been said and written about One Laptop per Child in the past few years. However, could you still provide us with a short overview of the status quo of the initiative, how many students and teachers have received laptops, and how many schools are using them in a 1-to-1 model vs. the CRT model, how many schools now have Internet access, etc.?

The previous government purchased a little more than 850.000 XO laptops. By July 2011, 500.000 XO laptops had been distributed. The current government has distributed 350.000 XO laptops (of them 210.000 were for secondary education). Currently, there is still a batch of nearly 30.000 XO laptops to be distributed (due to the fire at the Ministry's warehouse).

On the one hand, 600.000 XO laptops were distributed to the primary education system, benefiting 9.400 single-teacher schools and 180.000 children using a one-to-one model (one laptop per child). Also, 19.300 schools, 2.800.000 students and 130.000 teachers were benefited using the CRT model (an average ratio of 5 students per computer). On the other hand, 250.000 XO were distributed to the secondary education system using the CRT model, benefiting 6.700 schools, 1.800.000 students and 100.000 teachers. According to the 2011 National Education Survey (ENEDU 2011), 75% of these primary and secondary education schools have created a physical space for the XO.

The Una Laptop por Niño initiative was mainly focused on solving the problem of equipment access in our country, especially the large gap between rural and urban areas. Today, the challenge continues to be the appropriate and pedagogical use of this investment. The first monitoring activities have reinforced my previous diagnosis in relation to the lack of planning and strategies used in the past to solve the other minimum variables concerning the use, appropriation and sustainability of this pedagogical tool.

The General Directorate of Educational Technologies (DIGETE) is charged with providing 5.000 public education schools with Internet access. To date, 170 additional schools have been connected and, by the end of 2013, we expect to have provided at least 8.000 schools with Internet access (50% of these 3.000 new schools are located in rural areas).

A recent article by the Associated Press mentioned that the Ministry of Education has started implementing several changes in the initiative, e.g. among other things the XO and Sugar were made part of Peru's university teacher-training curriculum. Can you tell us more about this curriculum integration, what and how intense students' exposure to the XO and Sugar will be, and what you hope to achieve with this integration?

In effect, a project is currently under development to train future teachers (in their last two years of education) in the pedagogical use of the XO and ICT as a whole. As part of the project and at the end of the training process, these young students will be sent to train teachers and carry out follow-up teaching activities. With this, we expect the new generations of teachers will have no difficulties in using ICT and will help us train older teachers. We also expect them to train our children. Preliminary evidence of some new research studies suggests training is a key factor for assessing the educational impact of XO laptops on Peruvian children's learning.

When we spoke in April you said that you want regional governments to become more involved in One Laptop per Child in order to address a lack of appropriation at that level. What steps are you taking to encourage that increased involvement and how has this affected the program?

The first thing we did was to carry out a nationwide workshop for regional governments where good practices related to the investment in ICT4E (ICT for Education) were established. There were representatives of 12 out of 26 regional governments.

We have also developed partnerships with several ICT providers in order for them to help us disseminate an implementation model, which, in addition to provide us with equipment, includes the following components: awareness-raising, training, follow-up and production of digital resources. This initiative is the PeruEduca Partnership, with the participation of private enterprises, such as Fundación Telefónica, Intel, OLPC, HP, IBM, Microsoft, as well as other Peruvian enterprises and organizations.

Up to now, the regional government of Amazonas has funded a project with OLPC which includes the purchase of 13.000 XO-1.75 laptops and the development of an intensive training program. Intel is developing pilots in 2 regions and there are other two regional presidents who are planning to invest in technology and education.

In the aforementioned Associated Press article you are also quoted as saying that "the ministry is not going to do another macro project of this type". I take it that this means that regional governments will have to purchase any additional XO laptops if they want to increase the scale of One Laptop per Child program in their area, right? Have any regional governments made such a commitment to buy large quantities of XOs, or do you expect the number of laptops in the hands of children and teachers to remain the same in the foreseeable future?

That's right, the Ministry of Education will not buy any more computers as it did in the past. We do not believe macro purchase projects, which provide schools with equipment (on a vertical distribution model) without any prior planning, are efficient.

Computers are delivered to schools by provincial governments, district governments, private enterprises, NGOs and, even, parents. The work of the Ministry of Education is to channel this funding in order to ensure the sustainability of the current coverage of equipment (nearly 95% of primary and secondary public education schools). We should be prepared for a digital heterogeneous system where there is more than one brand or type of computer. We want the equipment that is going to be used in public schools to participate in tenders and win because they are the best.

There are some impoverished and remote areas where the Ministry of Education will have to intervene directly. For example, we have a public investment project to provide Internet connection and equipment to 1.200 schools located in rural areas in 2013, where other ICT resources will be provided, in addition to XO laptops.

We are also giving priority to research and systematization of results in order to make political decisions based on evidence. There is no evidence showing that we shall generalize the 1-to-1 model or that the use of laptops is always better than using desktops, etc.

The TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of Uruguay's Plan Ceibal is $USD400 per child for 4 years. What is Una Laptop por Niño's TCO?

It is difficult to make a retrospective estimation since real costs are not very clear. For example, the contract between OLPC and the Peruvian Government establishes a per-unit cost of $188 (tax-free and China-based). There is no information on how much money has been spent to import 850.000 XO laptops, so we suppose they have been subsidized by someone else. It would be reasonable to think that the real cost (with no subsidy) could reach $200 per unit.

Now, considering that not all XO laptops are connected to Internet (nearly 35%); the training lasted approximately 20 hours; there is no replacement strategy and only 180.000 (25%) XO laptops have been distributed on a one-to-one basis; we could estimate that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the XO in Peru, for the last 4 years, was of $80 per child.

In a recent blog post you drew several interesting conclusions about the integration of ICT in the Peruvian education system. Among them you also wrote "Not enough information or evidence has been generated to build an evidence-based policy. The only systematic approach is the evaluation by the IDB." Have you had a chance to take steps to help generate such information and evidence? What metrics and impact dimensions do you consider to be relevant in measuring and evaluating a program such as One Laptop per Child?

We have created a Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, which is not only collecting primary information, but also systematizing secondary information (for example, the 2011 National Education Survey - National Institute of Statistics and Informatics).

We have also begun some studies on the expectations and needs of children and teachers in relation to ICT and we have carried out an impact evaluation of the teacher training process. In addition, we are planning to carry out several pilots in 2013. Some of them will deal with the use of specific applications for mathematical reasoning and reading comprehension; one with the impact of games and another one with the possibility of using other mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones.

We continue to collaborate with the IDB, which is carrying out two other new research studies. One of them seeks to identify the factors related to the efficacy of the One Laptop per Child initiative and the other focuses on the impact of XO laptops using a one-to-one model and with Internet access on secondary education students in urban areas and their homes. The Ministry of Education and the IDB are evaluating the possibility to create a Research Center on the Use of ICT in Education in Peru.

Also, in addition to our evaluation based on the impact on children's learning (national and international tests: The Student Evaluation Survey "ECE" - In the Peruvian Education System, this survey aims to assess 2nd grade primary education students' performance in the area of mathematics and Reading comprehension. - and PISA), we consider it is very important to monitor the development of cognitive abilities (based on the use of the Raven's Test). We believe that the results found to date are very encouraging and will be used as the best indicator of the potential developed by children in relation to the use of computers and Internet.

What are some of the key plans and activities you want to implement over the next year or two?

The general guidelines are as follows:

  • To foster and to strengthen Peruvian Regional Offices of Education and Local Educational Management Units in order to carry out training, follow-up and support activities for all teachers based on the equipment provided.
  • Direct intervention in excluded (impoverished, remote and rural) areas
  • To include school Principals in the process of use and appropriation of ICT.
  • Virtualization of DIGETE'S intervention, redesigning and making it more efficient.
  • To generate information to build an evidence-based policy.
  • To develop infrastructure (equipment, applications and connectivity), which allows to connect all classrooms nationwide with a systematic and comprehensive vision of the use of ICT.
  • To create spaces for discussion and collaboration with regions, the civil society and international counterparts.

Currently, these are the main activities being executed:

The Ministry has begun the implementation of the project: Improving the quality of secondary public education nationwide through the development of a Satellite Television Network, which will benefit more than 5.700 schools located in urban areas, 100.000 teachers and 1.800.000 secondary education students with an investment of S/70 million.

A project of intervention to meet the needs of rural areas has been formulated: The Project Learning Opportunities with ICT in rural areas will benefit 1.174 educational institutions (preschool, primary and secondary education level), mainly in rural and frontier areas in the 24 regions of the country.

The project Strenghtening teachers and students of Teacher Education Colleges in the use of ICT and their participation in follow-up teaching activities is being executed in order to streghten the abilities and performance of current and future teachers through the use and integration of ICT. This project aims to train 282 teachers and 657 students of 47 Teacher Education Colleges in 19 regions (100% of graduated students in the next 2 years). Students are expected to carry out follow-up teaching activities in 6.248 single-teacher and multigrade schools (only one teacher for all levels of primary education) in rural areas nationwide.

We have also begun to upgrade the Ministry of Education's satellite system in order to provide other 1.200 additional schools (an increase in coverage of 100% to meet the learning needs of Peruvian children) with Internet access and educational television. These institutions are located in impoverished, rural, remote and frontier areas.

We have trained more than 26.000 teachers and experts from Regional Education Offices and Local Educational Management Units in the use of ICT. We have also delivered seven on-line distance education courses to 6.000 teachers nationwide. By the end of 2012, we expect to have not least than 50.000 teachers trained.

Finally, the PeruEduca Digital Learning System has been designed and launched as a virtual space where parents, students, teachers, principals and the community at large will be able to consume, produce and share multimedia information. This system will act as a decentralized platform for content distribution and training nationwide, thus providing an educational service in order to meet the needs of every child in our country. The biggest part of our energy will be devoted to implement the PeruEduca system in Peruvian schools, with the coordination and support of regional governments.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer our questions.

English translation provided by Sandro Marcone and Cristina Abell.


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