Introducing Bilingual Intercultural Education in Peru

untitledView the original version of this blog in Spanish. Elena Burga Cabrera, Director-General for Bilingual and Rural Intercultural Education (DIGEIBIR of the MINEDU – Ministry of Education, Peru 

MLD circleIn Peru, most Peruvians speak Castilian Spanish at home, but there are also over 4 million Peruvian men and women whose mother tongue is a native language. According to our 2007 census, 16% of the citizens of Peru speak one of the 47 native languages in the country. Among them, 1.4 million are boys, girls and adolescents who study in 20 thousand schools located in or near indigenous communities in the Andes and the Amazon.

peru language learning gapsEvery human being has a right to an education in his or her mother tongue,whether it is Spanish or a native language. Students whose mother tongues are a native language and who belong to indigenous communities require an education that is in line with their culture, conducted in their mother tongue and teaches Spanish as a second language. In other words, they require a Bilingual Intercultural Education, a national policy that is being implemented with increased pertinence and quality over the last 4 years in Peru.

A bilingual intercultural school (BIE School) promotes the reinforcement of the personal and collective identity of students and sets out to form citizens who are able to develop both in their own social and natural environment as well as in other socio-cultural contexts; it also looks to prepare them so they can communicate adequately in their indigenous mother tongue and in other, broader languages like Spanish and a foreign language.

The BIE school uses a curriculum that takes account of the knowledge, practices and values of the local indigenous culture. Moreover, it promotes teaching-learning processes that draw from the local community context and preserve indigenous values with regard to the harmonious relationship with nature and the principles of Good Living. To do so, different actors work with the school, such as parents, elders and wise women and men, who know about the local culture and language and communicate knowledge from generation to generation.

spblogpic1Pedagogical processes are carried out in a native language and in Spanish, and both languages are learnt as distinct subjects. This is why it’s important to have teachers who know the culture and speak the language of the students. In secondary school, the students also learn English as a foreign language.

These BIE schools are gradually acquiring quality materials in native languages, at all educational levels and grades and for different curricular subjects, as well as in Spanish as a second language. Equally, the use of ICTs in learning processes is being promoted, and digital pedagogical tools are now produced in both Spanish and the given native language of the students.

BIE not only takes place in schools that use a native language as their mother tongue, but also in those where, for various reasons, the indigenous students have lost or are losing their parents’ and grandparents’ language and want to revitalise it.

The BIE Service Model covers three main services:

  1. Cultural and Linguistic Reinforcement, aimed at students from native populations whose mother tongue is an indigenous language and need to learn Spanish as a second language.
  2. Cultural and Linguistic Revitalisation, aimed at students from native populations who have lost or are losing their language and want to revitalise it.
  3. Cultural and Linguistic Reinforcement in Urban Settings, aimed at students from migrant indigenous populations who are currently studying in peri-urban and urban educational institutions.

Moreover, students whose mother tongue is Spanish also have a right, if they so wish and expressly request it, to learn a native language as a second language. This is written into the framework of the Intercultural Education for All (IEA) Policy, which is aimed at all the students and educational institutions in Peru, where intercultural identity is the guiding principle of the entire education system.

View the original version of this blog in Spanish.




  1. Great initiative , I used the work “Ekpapalek ” from the indigenous language Shiwili from the Amazon in Peru to name my LatinAmerican project and also bring awareness about the richness of languages in Peru. Ekpapalek means to teach a a little child to walk and that is what we also do with our project. We help latinamerican students to develop professionally. If you know someone that speaks an indigenous language please invite them to contact me and join the Ekpapalek project ( we can start posting on the blog a post on an indigenous language and then see how to insert it to the big project ! Thank you! #empowerlatins

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