It's widely known that with more than 200,000 XOs in the country Peru represents the second largest OLPC project, only topped by the 400,000 XOs in Uruguay's public primary schools. However what at least I hadn't known until I met with people from DIGETE (Dirección General de Tecnologías Educativas - General Directorate of Educational Technologies) in Lima last week is that so far Peru's Una Laptop por niño program had very much been focused on rural one-teacher multi-grade schools. In these schools every child and teacher received an XO laptop which so far has been the most widely adopted model in OLPC projects around the world.
I also learned that the current implementation phase the goal is now to include every primary school in the project and not - as we had previously erroneously reported - every primary school pupil. What may sound like an easily overlooked detail in the choice of words actually makes a lot of difference since rather than every child receiving a laptop this means that every school will receive a batch of XOs that will be shared by all its pupils.
According to a newspaper article as well as my conversations with DIGETE the heart of this plan is the establishment of a CRT (Centro de Recursos Tecnológicos - Center for Technology Resources) at every primary school around the country. Each CRT will be equipped with:
- approximately 20 to 35 XOs depending on the school's size or rather the number of pupils in its classes
- a school-server that hosts educational content which can be updated via USB pen drives since the majority of schools currently don't have Internet access
- solar panels to provide electricity in schools which aren't connected to the national power-grid
- a projector and a screen
Looking at a recent news-agency report - which says that approximately 1.7 million pupils will benefit from the 230,000 XOs being handed out at this stage - this means that rather than one laptop per child most of Peru's primary schools will look at something closer to a seven children per laptop scenario.
This is an interesting development in more ways than I can possibly think of right now. The most exciting thing to me is that it will allow for in-country comparisons between these different distribution models and their educational as well as social impacts.
Considering that OLPC has often focused on the benefits of one laptop per child in terms of usage that occurs outside the school context it will also be interesting to see what happens when children will on average only be able to take a - rather than their - XO home once a week. Another aspect that will be well worth looking at is how the usage models of teachers in these newly added schools compare to those of teachers in the 1-to-1 ratio schools mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Given the fact that Peru's political system is currently undergoing a decentralization process - which gives regional education authorities more political power as well as new resources - another aspect to observe will be whether cities and provinces will opt to build on top of the government's program and themselves purchase laptops for every child.
One way or another this is indeed a very intriguing development and I'm sure plenty of people in other South American countries and provinces looking into running similar projects will keep a close eye on what's happening in Peru as the country increases its deployment to a total of more than half a million XOs.