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Peru, or in official circles, the Republic of Peru, is a country located in the western part of South America, with a total geographic area of just over 496,000 square miles. The country is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia in the north, Brazil in the east, Bolivia in the southeast, Chile in the south and the Pacific Ocean in the west. Peru is a representative democracy, a republic divided into 25 regions with a poverty level of about 31 percent. The capital and largest city in Peru is Lima.
According to census data, Peru has a permanent population of roughly 29.5 million, making it the fourth-most populous country in South America. The population is comprised of many different ethnic groups that have occupied the region over the last 500 years. Amerindians inhabited what is now Peru for several million years prior to the Spanish Conquest of the 16th century, after which their number decreased from about 7 million to 650,000, primarily due to infectious diseases. During the colonial rule, Spanish and Africans arrived and mixed widely with the indigenous Amerindian tribes, and following colonial rule there was an influx of other European immigrants, primarily from Italy, Spain, France and Britain. Additionally, Chinese workers arrived in the country in the 1850s, replacing the slaves and greatly influencing Peruvian society. Today the majority of people in Peru are either Amerindians, mostly from the Quechua and Aymara tribes, or Mestizo, people with a combination of Amerindian and European heritage.
Spanish is the lone official language of Peru and is used for all official business in government, commerce, education and the legal sector. It is also the first and most widely spoken language by the majority of the Peruvian people. It coexists with several indigenous languages, the most common being Quechua, which is spoken by over 13 percent of the population. Christianity is the most predominant religious faith in the country, particularly Roman Catholicism which accounts for over 81 percent of the population. Evangelical Christianity is the largest Christian minority religion, practiced by 12.5 percent of the population, while the reminder practices some other denomination (3.3%) or has no religious affiliation whatsoever (2.9%).
Education in Peru
Education in Peru is under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, which is charged with formulating, implementing and supervising the national educational policy. According to the Peruvian Constitution, education is mandatory and completely free in public schools at both the primary and secondary levels. Education is also free in public universities for students whose families are unable to reasonably pay tuition and have demonstrated satisfactory academic performance. In a survey released in 2008, UNESCO stated that Peru had the finest education system in Latin America, and that its primary, secondary, and superior education attendance rates were among the highest for that same region.
The education system in Peru is divided between four general stages or levels: early education, for children between the ages of 3 and 5; primary education, secondary education and higher education.
Primary education in Peru begins at age 6 and spans six years (Grades 1 through 6). For curricular purposes, this level is divided further between three two-year cycles: cycle one (first and second grade), cycle two (third and fourth grade) and cycle three (fifth and sixth grade). Students who successfully complete the sixth grade are awarded a promotion certificate and are eligible to enroll in secondary school—a five year program, from first to fifth year.
The higher education system in Peru is provided by both public and private technical colleges. Each of these institutions offer programs spanning three years in length, and graduates are awarded the title of Technical Professional, allowing them to pursue a career in the particular field they studied in college. Advanced fields may require four years of study, at which time the title of “Professional” would be awarded.
As of the last census in 2011, Peru had a total adult literacy rate of 93 percent (80 percent for those living in rural areas and 96 percent for urban dwellers), one of the best in South America.