Mass action in Mexico

| November 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

In early September, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto achieved a longterm goal: by a wide margin of 102-22, Mexican senators voted to overhaul the schooling system. The government will establish a standardised testing system to evaluate teacher performance and regulate criteria for hiring educators.

The move is considered a victory that will end the stranglehold teacher unions have long had on the education system, strangling social and economic development and rendering the country one of the worst in the world when it comes to school academic performance and student drop-out. This is despite the fact that Mexico spends more per pupil on a per-capita basis than most industrialised nations in the world.

Millions in public education funds are lost because even Mexican drug lords are named on teacher payrolls, and union bosses buy and sell classroom jobs as well as passing them on as ‘inheritances’.

Angel Diaz Barriga, an education expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, says the fundamental achievement of the overhaul will be to re-establish the Mexican government’s control over public education, decades after the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional party handed it over to union bosses in exchange for political patronage. It remains to be seen whether a series of concessions to the smaller of the two main teachers’ unions will undermine the government’s ability to create true change in the national education system.

One journalist observed teacher union response to the new laws: “Hundreds of ski-mask-wearing, rockthrowing, stick-wielding teachers have smashed windows and set fire to the offices of the major political party in the southern state of Guerrero, and thousands are flooding Mexico City, blocking national TV networks, subway lines and swarmed the roads around Los Pinos, the official residence of the president.” The National Education Workers’ Coordinator (CNTE), the second-largest teachers’ union, brought in thousands of members from rural areas to swell its numbers.

Union leaders have also allegedly inflamed opposition to the presence of multinational corporates in Mexico. Coca-Cola has built model schools in the country and Microsoft plans to become involved in education reform. Union leaders have told members that such ‘authorities’ will soon be telling them how and what to teach.

 

Category: Summer 2013

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