Redondilla escolar, a vertical cursive writing style predominant in South America at large, has emerged as the most commonly used handwriting teaching model in Perú.
In Perú, the Ministerio de Educación de Perú, or Ministry of Education, formulates, implements and oversees national education policies. After initial education, which comprises nursery for children under 3 years old and kindergarten for those aged 3–6 years old, students enter primary education, which goes upto the age of 12, followed by secondary, which goes upto 18. Both primary and secondary education are compulsory. Public education is free for all, and is seen as a public service provided by the state, and while private schools exist in Perú, they are attended by a very small minority of students.
The Ministerio de Educación last published the Currículo Nacional de la Educación Básica, or the National Curriculum of Basic Education, in 2016, and Rutas del aprendizaje, material para docentes, or Learning routes, material for teachers, three years prior. Of the two, only the latter mentions handwriting, albeit in brief. It specifies that emphasis needs to be on students understanding how the writing system works, rather than on being able to write in cursive. It also espouses the use of uppercase print style letters at the start of literacy education due to their simple, distinct shapes and easy recognisability.
Due to the absence of handwriting education guidelines in the curriculum and no prescribed model, there is a great deal of diversity in the approaches to handwriting teaching. Following the recommendations of the Rutas del aprendizaje, the most widespread method is to teach uppercase print style letters first and connected cursive writing second. However in some schools, student may start with cursive writing in first grade itself, and in others, cursive writing is not taught at all. An important difference is seen in private schools, where handwriting may be taught using models imported from abroad. For instance, Spanish-English bilingual schools teach using the Sassoon model that was developed in England.
The most prevalent style of handwriting is a fully-joined upright cursive. It can also been seen in the materials produced by Coquito Ediciones, one of the most popular publishers in Perú, who also released videos for the subject during COVID lockdowns.
The evolution of redondilla escolar
Despite the lack of current guidelines from the Ministerio de Educación, vertical cursive writing, which is predominant in South America at large, has emerged as the most commonly used handwriting teaching model in Perú. Here it is known as redondilla escolar. It follows in the footsteps of a number of different handwriting teaching approaches that were used in the last century.
Until the 1960s, students in Perú learned letra manuscrita ligada, or cursive writing, primarily by copying samples written by the teacher on the blackboard. The common models were English roundhand, Spencerian, Palmer Method or other similar styles. The importance of calligraphy was stressed, and students were expected to develop good handwriting. The workbook Coquito by Everardo Zapata Santillana was published in 1955. It followed the same calligraphic style, and remained the most important resource for handwriting education in Perú for almost two decades.
Following the military coup led by Juan Francisco Velasco Alvarado in 1968, his government introduced educational reforms four years later that completely revamped the system, and identified language as a key area of focus. As a result, there was a radical change in the letters used for literacy education. Instead of the slanted cursive writing of yesteryear, new schoolbooks now featured an unjoined geometric sans serif typeface. This style was locally referred to as script. The first schoolbook using this style was called Amigo, and it was published in 1975. In practice, the new “ball and stick” geometric letters were extremely slow to write, especially when compared to previously used cursive writing.
The Ministerio de Educación updated its recommendations to prescribe that students learn script letters in Grades 1 and 2, and then switch to cursive writing in Grade 3, but did not provide any guidelines that explained how this process should be steered. Which brings us to the present, when handwriting models and related teaching guidelines are altogether missing from the national curriculum.
The origins of redondilla escolar in Perú are unclear. According to Prof. Manuel Valdivia Rodriguez who specialises in language pedagogy, this style may have developed organically when students began joining print letters to form cursive writing, and ended up retaining the former’s upright stance.