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The Education Reform in Mexico

Proposals and Responses

Por Andrés Martínez de Velasco
November 2013
In Mexico, out of 100 students that start elementary school, only 45 make it to the ninth grade, 27 of them graduate from high school, 13 graduate from college and only 2 finish graduate school. Evidently, the national educational system in Mexico presents shortcomings that must be fixed.
 For years, people have been talking about the poor performance of teachers in Mexico, the low level of education that children receive in many schools in the country, and the many difficulties that families face to be able to keep sending their children to school. In order to improve the educational system in Mexico, the president Enrique Peña Nieto promoted a reform within the parameters of the project “Pacto por Mexico” (an agreement between PAN, PRI, PRD, and the green party to better the democratic process in Mexico) in September of 2013. Now that it is set, people wonder if the changes this reform aims to make are the ones most needed for the country at the moment. Here are the topics and changes that are proposed in the reform promoted by the Mexican government.

The aim of the reform is to provide education that gives equal opportunity to every Mexican, giving priority to those who had been excluded or ignored in the past. In order to do this, the following changes have been proposed:

The creation of a professional class of teachers

The law establishes the national bases to create a professional class of teachers, that includes admission exams for teachers and for possible promotions to other positions as supervisors and principals of the school. In this way, there will be a group of qualified teachers that are the best candidates because they underwent admission exams. Thus, the candidate that proves to be most fit to teach will get the job. It is a good idea but… What would happen to the teachers that are currently working at Mexican schools?

The government proposed to make a national evaluation of teachers (which has already been done in the past) in order to decide who can keep the job and who cannot. Teachers will have three opportunities to pass the admission exam, if they do not pass; someone who is more prepared to teach will take their job. The reform mentions that the government should take responsibility for the continuous professional development and improvement of teachers, so they will be able to acquire the knowledge needed to continue teaching. However, the law does not specify how this additional training will happen, which has brought dissatisfaction to current teachers as they fear losing their jobs.

The National Institute for the Evaluation of Education   

The National Institute for Educational Evaluation identifies the strengths and weaknesses of teachers and students in Mexico in order to implement the necessary changes in program design and educational activities. The institute's assessment should take into account the specifics of each school and teacher, so that a school with limited resources is not evaluated using the same criteria as better served schools.

This institute was established in 2002 but so far there has not been what the government calls "the necessary articulation" to implement the evaluation. By giving constitutional autonomy to the Institute, it will have the ability to make technical decisions concerning the measurement and evaluation of education, to which the national education system must comply. Autonomy is expected to promote public confidence in the school and the professionalism of their assessments. The teacher evaluation should also serve to give recognition and encouragement in terms of promotions or raises. So, it not only replaces teachers who are currently inadequate but it also rewards and encourages teachers who excel.

Autonomous management of schools and day schools

This section of the law proposes to give greater independence to schools so they can focus on their specific problems, which would hardly be served by a system of national managers. This autonomy means that the schools themselves have to decide what changes are needed and how to achieve them. It places a greater responsibility on parents and local education authorities in the school management, and it ensures that the diversity of economic and cultural backgrounds coexisting in Mexico is not an impediment to the education of children.

With this autonomy, schools will be able to improve their infrastructure as needed, they may purchase educational materials and troubleshoot basic operations of the school. In addition to the autonomous management, the reform proposes the creation of full-time schools, i.e. six to eight hours a day, for more academic time. Moreover, because children will be in school for longer hours, it will be easier for parents to keep a full time job, and parents will not have to worry about childcare during all or most of the workday. These schools will feed the children and junk food will be banned.

New laws for employees of the public education system

So far, teachers in the public education system have legally been considered as any state worker. The legislation proposes a reform for the employees of the public education system that is different from the law affecting other state workers, in terms of hiring, promotion and retention in educational services, and to overcome inertia and establish clear responsibilities and government educational authorities. So it will be possible to structure the body of teachers according to the needs of schools and not in accordance with existing labor laws that have nothing to do with education.

Reaction to the reform

There have been different reactions to the reform in different sectors of the population. A constant criticism has been that the reform does not specify changes in curriculum or how it will carry out the professional development of the faculty. Many of the proposals are very general and until the details are clear, we will not know what is actually being implemented.

The National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) has adopted a positive stance for reform, in general. However, according to historian Miles Rodriguez of Bard College, members of the CNTE (National Coordination of Education Workers, split from the SNTE over 30 years ago) of Oaxaca have declared their opposition to the reform because they believe that it diminishes the power of the union, the role of teachers in the educational process, the salary and job security of teachers, and it applies educational standards that are not suitable for many indigenous communities across the nation.

It remains to be seen if the proposed solution to the problem of education will be effective. With a multitude of factors for and against these changes, we have to wait to see the results.

La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson

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La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson



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