Mexico’s teachers are protesting a federal proposal to overhaul Mexico’s education system. Their protests are causing chaos in Mexico City and are forcing the state and federal governments to reconsider the bill.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s decision to focus on educational reforms stems from his desire to build up the Mexican middle class. Currently, Mexico is ranked last in standardized test scores in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD. Additionally, there is extreme corruption present in the school system: teachers buy, sell, and inherit their positions; additionally, removing poorly performing teachers is very difficult, even amongst allegations of sexual and substance abuse. The union system in Mexico is very strong and also full of corruption. This year, Elba Esther Gordillo, the leader of the large National Education Worker’s Syndicate, or SNTE, was arrested and failed on embezzlement charges.
In light of these events, Nieto and the Secretary of Education have proposed a bill that requires more frequent evaluation, stricter employment practices, and better mechanisms for firing poorly performing teachers.
The teachers protesting these reforms argue that these reforms are a disguise to begin privatizing the Mexican school system. Floriberto Alejo, a 50-year-old teacher from Oaxaca state, who came to Mexico City to protest, said that this overhaul attacks a teacher’s seniority, and “this evaluation is disguise to start firing…peers.” He believes that making the evaluations–which will now take place every four years–more difficult will fire many public school teachers and force parents to move to private schools.
The protests have been led by two nationals teachers’ unions, the National Education Syndicate (SNTE) and the National Educational Workers’ Union (CNTE), and are taking place in Mexico City. Around 20,000 strikers are blocking the main roads in Mexico City, and 4,000 have blocked the main roads to the international airport. They plan to cease their march only when lawmakers agreed to sit down with union representatives to negotiate.
The protests have shut down 24,000 schools in five impoverished states across southern Mexico. School was scheduled to start the week of August 20th; however, two millions students have not returned to school because their teachers are striking.
The teachers also believe that the proposals only attack the teachers and not the real problem: the long-term inadequacy of budgets and extreme corruption in the school systems.
The President claims that the teachers are misunderstanding the proposal. He says, “The education reform will give them opportunities that they don’t have today. The reform benefits Mexico’s teachers because it is designed to give them job stability, clear rules and certainty for ascending within the national education system.”
However, there has been no direct confrontation from either the President or the Mexican Secretary of Education. Edna Jaimie, director of México Evalúa, believes that both the state and federal governments are choosing not to heighten the conflict.
Lawmakers have removed the provision that creates an evaluation requirement from the bill in response to the protests. Many believe that this will make the law ineffective and undo the progress made by the bill.
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