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  • Child laptop scheme held back by training shortage in Peru

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[LIMA] A lack of teachers trained to implement the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) scheme is holding back its progress in Peru, according to a survey.

So far, more than one million laptops — each worth US$100 — have been distributed under the OLPC programme to encourage children's learning in the developing world, with the Peruvian government buying its first computers in 2007. 

Last month, 30,000 laptops were given to children in Lima, Peru's capital, and 230,000 more will be distributed in the second half of 2010 across the country, taking the total up to 500,000, authorities said.

But many teachers have not been trained to design learning environments using the computers, said Carlos David Laura of Peru's Economic and Social Research Consortium (CIES), an association of universities and research centres.

Laura surveyed three schools in the south of the country that were among the first in Peru to receive the laptops. He found some teachers had never been trained to help children use the computers.

Peru's Ministry of Education has provided only five hours of training to some teachers, and many of the schools in the programme are in remote, rural villages, making it impossible for untrained teachers to ask for help.

The study is echoes one in Ethiopia, which also found that inadequate training limited the scheme's effectiveness.

One positive side in Peru, according to Laura's study, is that students showed a greater willingness to explore and learn, and were absent from school less often. But achievement has not improved — students' grades were the same as before the programme started, and the level of knowledge was still below the national average.

Laura told SciDev.Net that authorities and researchers need to evaluate OLPC and plan for its sustainability before moving into the next phase.

Oscar Becerra, director-general of educational technologies at Peru's Ministry of Education, told SciDev.Net that the lack of teacher training is indeed one of the main factors limiting OLCP's rollout "because it can't be resolved in the short term".

Becerra said that the ministry's OLPC training programme should be a priority for teachers because the children have the laptops with them at all times.

Laura says his study's results can be applied to the whole country. "I would argue that teachers assigned to OLPC in any poor area would be having the same difficulties in integrating the technology into their teaching," he told SciDev.Net.

Becerra added that the first official assessment of OLPC in Peru is scheduled for the end of this year.

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