Youth and Adult Literacy and Basic Education Programme, Peru

  • Date published:
    4 March 2016

Programme Overview

Programme Title Youth and Adult Literacy and Basic Education Programme (Programas de Alfabetización y Educación Básica de Personas Adultas en Iberoamérica, PAEBA)
Implementing Organization Ministry of Education, Peru
Language of Instruction Spanish
Funding Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID) and the Government of Peru
Date of Inception since 2003



PAEBA is a regional youth and adult literacy and education initiative established in 1992 and implemented with technical and financial support from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID). The programme was initiated at the Summit of Latin American Governments in order to address the challenges of youth and adult illiteracy and limited access to education in the region. The ultimate goal is to integrate non-formal youth and adult education into the national educational systems of participating countries.

To date, the programme has been implemented in six Latin American countries: El Salvador (1993-1998), Honduras (since 1996) Nicaragua (1997-2000); Paraguay (2000); the Dominican Republic (1993), and Peru. The latest of the six, PAEBA-Peru, was introduced in 2003, and officially carries the name Project for Institutional Strengthening of the Ministry of Education of Peru (in the Area of Adult Education). PAEBA-Peru endeavours to promote access to education for youth and adults in order to combat illiteracy among the marginalised communities.

Context and Background

With around 29 million inhabitants, Peru is one of the most populous and multi-ethnic states in South America. Unlike other developing countries, as of 2007 approximately 76% and 24% of Peruvians lived in urban and rural areas, respectively. The Peruvian economy is diversified with, the service sector accounting for 53% of its GDP, followed by the manufacturing industry (34.8%), the extractive industries (15%) and agriculture (7%). In addition, the Peruvian economy depends to a large extent on remittances and export trade revenues.


However, despite experiencing stable economic growth in recent years, investment in the social services sector has been restricted and, as a result, poverty and social deprivation are still endemic, particularly in marginalised rural and urban communities. Recent studies estimate that about 40% of the population of Peru lives below the poverty threshold, 14% of whom live in extreme poverty (i.e. lives on less than US$1 per day). This by extension suggests that almost half of the entire population has limited access to basic social services such as health, secure livelihoods and education. The situation has been exacerbated by increasing rates of rural to urban migration which have, on the one hand, deprived the rural areas of agricultural labour and, on the other, increased the demand on the limited social services in urban areas.

The lack of educational opportunities for socially marginalised communities is a clear indicator of the disparity between economic growth and social well-being. Although Peru offers free and compulsory pre-primary, primary and secondary education (i.e. up to 16 years), only 42.5% of the poor complete primary education, while 13.1% receive no formal education whatsoever. In addition, 12.1 % of the total adult population is illiterate. The gender disparity with regards to literacy rates is very high, with illiteracy rates of 6.3% and 17.5% for adult males and females, respectively.

High rates of adult illiteracy are partly a result of poverty, which limits poor people’s access to education. The traditional system of emphasising investment in formal education at the expense of adult literacy and education programmes has, however, worsened the situation. Moreover, existing adult literacy programmes have failed to attract the adult population because they have not adequately addressed their practical needs and expectations. It was not until recently that the government’s Master Plan for Literacy 2002–2012 made concerted efforts to provide sustainable educational opportunities for all and placed a special emphasis on the marginalised population in rural and urban areas. PAEBA-Peru was instituted in 2003 to complement these efforts.

PAEBA-Peru Programme


PAEBA-Peru is a non-formal youth and adult literacy and education programme which primarily endeavours to combat illiteracy, poverty and under-development among socially marginalised Peruvian communities through the provision of basic and functional literacy skills training. The programme therefore combines literacy and numeracy learning with vocational skills training and also offers learners opportunities to transfer to the formal educational system. The ultimate goal is to institutionalise adult learning in Peru. PAEBA-Peru employs innovative training methods that include ICTs (through mobile phones) and e-learning, thus enabling people in remote villages to access education and training opportunities.

Aims and Objectives

PAEBA-Peru endeavours to:


  • reduce illiteracy rates among youth and adults by providing non-formal basic education and opportunities for continuous learning and vocational training;
  • strengthen educational institutions by means of technical support and teacher training, thereby guaranteeing the programme’s sustainability;
  • support social development as a means of alleviating poverty and establishing democratic practices, especially in rural areas;
  • develop and edit adult education learning materials;
  • support the process of educational reform, with a particular emphasis on the development of legislative frameworks and curricula for adult education; and
  • foster the involvement of public and private institutions and organizations in youth and adult education.

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

Programme Administration and Management

The programme’s management structure consists of a central administration, a central expert team, district committees, supervisors and facilitators. The central administration includes members of the Spanish-Peruvian Cooperation Association (AECI), and the Spanish and Peruvian Ministries of Education. The AECI is responsible for financial planning, human resources development and management, as well as for legal and public representation.

The central team of education experts is responsible for designing and developing the programme curriculum and learning materials. In addition, it trains programme coordinators and deals with public relations and communication between local PAEBA projects, educational institutions and governmental education units. It also monitors the implementation of the programme. The district committees are responsible for all activities at the local level, such as hiring, training and monitoring supervisors, dealing with infrastructural matters, enrolling learners and assessing local circumstances and beneficiaries’ learning needs.

The supervisors, all of whom are experienced professionals in the adult education sector, select and train the facilitators, and monitor and evaluate the learning groups. Finally, the facilitators, who are generally education professionals who receive additional training from PAEBA, oversee learning activities at the grassroots level. Training for all levels of programme staff takes place at least once a year. Furthermore, facilitators meet once a week to share experiences and improve their skills.

Programme Components and Thematic Focus


PAEBA-Peru is a modular-based literacy and education programme. The modules were designed and developed by PAEBA-Peru based on learners’ previous knowledge and experiences as well as their needs and expectations. The curriculum integrates both basic education and vocational training, thus offering learners opportunities for accelerated learning in order to attain primary, secondary and vocational educational qualifications. The programme content is therefore broad and covers the following:

  • literacy and numeracy competencies;
  • communication skills;
  • vocational skills training;
  • social studies (family relations, the environment and community development);
  • health promotion and awareness; and
  • civic education (citizenship, rights and values, interculturalism and gender).

Training is offered at three levels: 1) initial/basic, 2) intermediate and 3) advanced. There are a total of seven modules which form the basis for each of these levels of learning:

The initial/basic level consists of two consecutive modules. The modules are taught over a six-month period for a total of 120 learning hours or 10 learning hours per week. During this 'formative' level, unlike the other levels, learners are obliged to study in groups with the help of a trained facilitator. The modules offer training in reading and writing (communication skills); numeracy (logical and mathematical skills), personal development and social studies.

The intermediate level has two modules which progressively develop and reinforce the themes and skills developed during the initial/basic-level course. The modules are taught over six months and last approximately 270 learning hours, after which learners sit an examination and are awarded primary school qualifications (i.e. the same qualifications as those received by learners attending formal primary school).

The advanced level has three modules, which are taught over period of six months and comprise 300 study hours. The advanced level offers graduates secondary education qualifications and thus paves the way for tertiary education.

As demonstrated above, the programme enables learners to complete primary and secondary education in a period of one and a half years. Learners with little or no access to formal education are thus able to “catch up” through a programme that is tailored to their specific needs and expectations.

Teaching: Learning Approaches and Methods


PAEBA uses a range of innovative teaching approaches and learning materials which are designed to nurture independent learning and critical thinking among learners. As a rule, learning is based on integrated and thematic modules (workbooks) for learner and teaching manuals for facilitators. Learners’ workbooks are designed to facilitate progressive individual and group learning with methodological assistance from trained facilitators, either through classroom-based instruction or e-learning (i.e. the internet, e-mail and teleconferences). In addition, PAEBA has opened two daycare centres to enable women with young children to attend classes. The strategy has proved to be very popular with women and plans are underway to establish more daycare centres.

Other innovative teaching strategies and approaches used by PAEBA include:

  • The Aula Mentor System


Aula Mentor is a distance learning system for youth and adults learners. Learners can enrol at any time of the year, and study anywhere they want, according to their level of skills and learning needs. Most learners can afford the enrolment fees of 20 PEN per month (approx. US$6) and are afforded an added incentive in that they will be refunded 50% of their enrolment fees once they have successfully completed the course. Furthermore, learners are free to choose the course that best suits their needs from a range of programme courses that include business entrepreneurship, ICT skills, education and health. After enrolling in the programme, learners receive ongoing mentorship from trained tutors.

To address the challenges arising from limited access to ICTs, especially the Internet, PAEBA has opened Aula Mentor Centres (AMC) in various locations. The AMCs are equipped with computers, technical resources and didactic materials, and are open to anyone interested in learning. They also serve as community-based PAEBA learning centres where learners meet their programme tutors and supervisors. Since 2004, PAEBA-Peru has established five AMCs, and other town councils such as Lima have expressed an interest in adopting the AMCs system to enhance their existing educational services.

  • The Aulas Móviles System


Since vocational skills cannot be taught or learned effectively using the distance or online approach, PAEBA introduced a system of mobile classrooms (Aulas Móviles), whereby a professional team of peripatetic facilitators equipped with training materials visit learners living in distant areas. For periods of two months at a time, facilitators offer training workshops to learners in a range of subjects including community development, water and sanitation, hairdressing and early childhood education.

The PAEBA system as a whole view learning not only as the acquisition of knowledge, but also – and most importantly – as a comprehensive process of human and social development during which learners gain necessary skills, attitudes and values. The role of the facilitator is essentially to guide this holistic process. Thus, in practice, adult learning endeavours to empower learners with life skills that enable them to improve their living standards and participate actively in the development of their communities.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

The programme has had life-changing impacts on learners and their families. Since its inception, it has reported a number of key achievements:

  • By 2007, five years since its inception, more than 85,000 learners had attended the PAEBA programme, of whom 70% completed the initial and intermediate levels. Of the 1,500 who enrolled in the advanced level, 40% received a secondary school leaving certificate from the Ministry of Education.

    • The vocational training offered through the mobile classroom system has benefited 18,811 learners, with a completion/graduation rate of 74.2 %.
    • The Aula Mentor learning centres have catered for more than 949 students, of whom around 650 (68.5%) completed their courses.
  • Furthermore, PAEBA-Peru has published a range of didactic materials for adult learners as well as technical manuals for facilitators. It has also contributed towards the institutionalisation of youth and adult learning in Peru.


  • The programme’s centralised organizational structure has hampered its progress due to excessive bureaucracy and inefficient communication. In addition, the size and cost of this structure has deprived learners of valuable resources. As a result, efforts are currently underway to decentralise the administration of the programme.
  • When PAEBA was first established in Peru, the intention was to transfer responsibility for implementing the programme progressively to the Peruvian Ministry of Education; however, the lack of institutional capacities has delayed this process.
  • The programme has attracted limited funding. As a result, it has failed to attract competent professionals or to procure adequate resources. Moreover, it has also failed to train sufficient facilitators to carry out the programme’s activities.
  • By and large, the curriculum and learning materials have been designed, developed and validated in urban environments with little communication with participants in rural areas. Consequently, both the curriculum and teaching methodologies have failed to meet the needs of rural learners.

Lessons Learned

  • As recommended by evaluation reports, learners must be included in the planning and development of the programme so that their needs and expectations are addressed and the sustainability of the programme guaranteed.
  • The concept of mobile classrooms is an innovative approach to adult learning that brings educational opportunities to the people, thus enabling learners in remote and poorly resourced communities to access education and training. For example, learners who may have been discouraged from attending literacy classes due to a lack of learning centres in the area can now easily attend mobile classes. Furthermore, mobile classes can easily be scheduled to fit in with the agricultural seasons. However, due to the higher cost of implementing mobile classrooms, this strategy requires both sufficient funding and the cooperation of all those involved in community development activities.


The demand for literacy and education (including vocational training) programmes is still very high in Peru. Moreover, many people who have had limited access to effective education and training are in need of accelerated learning opportunities such as those provided by PEABA-Peru. However, following the end of the first and second phases in December 2008, the programme was discontinued due to lack of interest on the part of the Peruvian Ministry of Education.


  • Website: http://www.aecid.pe
  • Maria Clara Di Pierro, 2008, Youth and Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Recent Trajectory, ; brhttp://www.scielo.br/pdf/cp/v38n134/en_a0638134.pdf
  • Regina Cortina and María Teresa Sánchez, 2007, Spanish Bilateral Initiatives for Education in Latin America, http://www.springerlink.com/content/y23778j727511n59/


Francisco Jesús Gutiérrez Soto
Director of the PAEBA-Peru Programme
Jorge Basadre 460 San Isidro – Lima
Tel.: +11 511 202 7000
E-mail: francisco.gutierrez (at) aecid.pe /
francisco.gutierrez (at) mepsyd.es /
otc (at) aecid.pe

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.).. Last update: 26 July 2017. Youth and Adult Literacy and Basic Education Programme, Peru. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 18 January 2022, 01:55 CET)

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