Mexico, Brazil education laws may be historic

September 18, 2013

Miami Herald, 9/18/2013

education - children poverty - EcuadorIn simultaneous moves that went almost unnoticed in the rest of the world, Mexico and Brazil passed historic education reforms last week that, if carried out as planned, could help propel Latin America’s biggest countries to the First World in coming decades.

The key question is whether the Mexican and Brazilian people will keep up the pressure on their governments to improve the quality of their educational systems, because politicians will only enforce rules that are opposed by teachers unions if they feel social pressure to do so. Mexico and Brazil’s new education laws are historic, but the battle to achieve world-class education systems is just beginning.

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Mexico Passes a Weakened Bill to Evaluate Teachers

September 5, 2013

The New York Times, 9/5/2013

education - school childrenMexico took a major step this week toward instituting evaluations of public schoolteachers and ending their practice of buying and inheriting their posts, but analysts said violent protests by teachers had led Congress to include provisions in the new legislation that might undermine the overhaul.

Shoring up the flagging education system has been a pillar of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s efforts to advance the country economically and move more people into the middle class. Analysts had closely watched the progress of the legislation as a sign of his ability to move forward on revamping the telecommunications and energy industries.

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Mexican Senate passes major education reform, handing victory to president

September 4, 2013

Associated Press via The Washington Post, 9/4/2013

MEXICO CONGRESSMexico’s Senate overwhelmingly passed a sweeping reform of the notoriously dysfunctional public school system early Wednesday, handing President Enrique Pena Nieto an important victory in his push to remake some of his country’s worst-run institutions.

The Senate voted 102-22 in favor of a standardized system of test-based hiring and promotion that would give the government the tools to break teachers’ unions’ near-total control of school staffing. That control includes the corrupt sale and inheritance of teaching jobs and it has been widely blamed for much of the poor performance of Mexican schools, which have higher relative costs and worse results than any other in the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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Mexican Teacher Protests Turn Up Heat on President

April 26, 2013

Policia MexicoThe New York Times, 4/25/13

One of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s signature efforts to shake up the country — a broad plan to overhaul the education system — has run into violent protests that underscore how difficult it may be to carry out, particularly in some volatile states with poor academic performance. Armed with iron rods and rocks, dozens of masked members of the teachers’ union in Guerrero State attacked the local offices of the four major political parties on Wednesday, smashing windows and overturning furniture. They also set fire to the office of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to which Mr. Peña Nieto belongs.

On Thursday, in a further sign of the growing conflict over education changes, teachers marched down Mexico City’s main boulevard, temporarily closing it down. The education overhaul, which transfers power from the potent teachers’ union to the federal government, proposes periodic teacher evaluations to determine appointments, salaries and dismissals — a major adjustment for workers who are accustomed to buying or inheriting their positions and who have had, until now, virtual immunity from the state.

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Click here for pictures and video of the riots.

Mexico Education Reform: President Enrique Peña Nieto Faces Teachers’ Revolt

April 16, 2013

education - classroomAssociated Press, 4/14/13

Easter vacation was over, but there wasn’t a teacher in sight at the boarding school for indigenous children on the edge of this sunbaked southern Mexico hill town. A 37-year-old cook who hadn’t finished high school sat between two little girls on a cement stoop outside the kitchen, peering at their dog-eared notebooks as they struggled with the alphabet and basic multiplication. “I’ve got the children here. If there aren’t any classes while they’re here, I have to teach them,” said the cook, who shared only her first name, Gudelia, for fear of retaliation from striking teachers.

A short drive away, teachers marched by the thousands through the streets of the state capital, some masked and brandishing metal bars and sticks in an escalating showdown over education reform that’s become a key test of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s sweeping project to reform Mexico’s most dysfunctional institutions.

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Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto Faces Backlash Over Education Reform

April 15, 2013

education - school childrenFox News Latino, 4/14/13

Teachers marched by the thousands through the streets of the state capital, some masked and brandishing metal bars and sticks in an escalating showdown over education reform that’s become a key test of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s attempt at sweeping reforms of Mexico’s most dysfunctional institutions.

The fight is dominating headlines in Mexico and freezing progress on a national education reform that Peña Nieto hoped would build momentum toward more controversial changes. Those include opening the state-owned oil company to foreign and private investment and broadening Mexico’s tax base, potentially with the first-ever sales tax on food and medicine.

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Op-ed: Those Who Can’t Teach Block

April 11, 2013

school-crossingBy Carlos Puig, The New York Times, 4/11/13

When the federal policeman approached the strikers, they started to sing the national anthem. “I am Mexican,” the policeman told them. “You are Mexican. But there are thousands of Mexicans behind me who just want to get on their way. So I am asking you to free at least one lane — just one lane.”

It was 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 5, and the middle of the highway that goes from Mexico City to sunny Acapulco, in the state of Guerrero. For two hours a group of some 2,000 teachers from Guerrero had been blocking traffic both ways. Two weeks earlier, at the beginning of the most important vacation of the year, the teachers staged a protest on the same highway for more than nine hours, creating chaos for travelers.

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Weekly News Summary: April 5th

April 5, 2013

Coffee by Flikr user samrevelThe Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.

What the English-language press had to say…

This week, The Economist congratulated President Enrique Peña Nieto for a promising first four months in office, but warned that he will ultimately be judged on the implementation, and not just legislation, of his reformist agenda. The Associated Press reported Mexican drug cartels have agents working deep within the United States. The AP also made headlines following its announcement that it would drop the term “illegal immigrant” from its stylebook, choosing instead to refer to “people living in the country illegally” or who “entered the country without permission.”

A UNICEF/CONEVAL report concluded that the majority of Mexican children – 53.8% – live in poverty. Media outlets also reported that Mexican wages are now cheaper than China’s, and that remittances to Mexico in February dropped 11% compared to the same month last year.

U.S. immigration reform efforts continued to move forward, with business and labor agreeing on an increase in visas for temporary workers. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Selee argued that the deterrent effect of increased border enforcement, coupled with Mexico’s well-performing economy and changing demographic profile, will likely mean that the majority of future illegal immigration flows will come from places other than Mexico. A piece by The New York Times echoed this sentiment, pointing out that changing economic and demographic conditions in both the U.S. and Mexico make it unlikely that a path to citizenship would lead to a massive influx of undocumented immigrants.

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Weekly News Summary: March 1st

March 1, 2013

Coffee by Flikr user samrevel

The Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.

What the English-language press had to say…

This week, Elba Esther Gordillo, the powerful leader of the SNTE, Mexico’s teachers’ union was arrested for allegedly embezzling over $150 million in union funds to support her lavish lifestyle. The arrest shocked the nation and came only a day after President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law a new education reform package. Many interpreted the move as an attempt by the Peña Nieto administration to reassert state authority over special interests, and as a warning to other industries (e.g. telecommunications and energy) that reform is on the way. NYT columnist Thomas Friedman gave much to talk about following two very optimistic pieces. He suggested Mexico will become a dominant economic power in the 21st century, and praised Mexico’s young ‘just do it’ generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya mirrored Mr. Friedman’s optimism by suggesting a reinvigorated energy sector will transform Mexico into the world’s “new Middle East.” Meanwhile, north of the border, looming automatic budget cuts prompted ICE to release several hundred low-risk immigrants from deportation centers across the country.

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Mexico union replaces Elba Esther Gordillo

March 1, 2013

education - classroomBBC  News, 2/28/2013

Juan Diaz de la Torre was appointed at an extraordinary congress of the SNTE, the most powerful union in the country. The BBC’s Will Grant in Mexico City says that his selection in effect strips Ms Gordillo of her title of president-for-life. She will now have to face the charges without SNTE backing.

The woman known as “La Maestra” or “the teacher” reportedly spent millions at a US department store, on plastic surgery, property and a private plane. She had led the SNTE since 1989. Her arrest came a day after the enactment of major educational reforms designed to change Mexico’s union-dominated system, under which teaching positions could be inherited, and which had led to posts being sold.

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