Mexico’s Peña Nieto gambles in key education reform

7/21/15 Financial Times

peña-nietoMexican federal riot police took up guard outside the education institute of the state of Oaxaca, as authorities embarked on a high-stakes gamble to implement the country’s key education reform after months of paralysis.

A faction of the dissident CNTE teachers’ movement has repeatedly clashed with police, blocked roads and staged strikes and other disturbances since the reform was passed in late 2013 in a bid to ensure its stranglehold on the education system in several states is not broken, writes Jude Webber in Mexico City.

But in a surprise move, Oaxaca state governor Gabino Cué and President Enrique Peña Nieto’s spokesman announced that the State Public Education Institute of Oaxaca, known as IEEPO, was being scrapped, and that the state government would set up a new institute fully under its control.

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Mexico Education Reform: Serious Setback

6/24/15 Latinvex

education - classroomGabriel Sánchez Zinny, president of Kuepa.com: While the Mexican government and the teachers’ unions keep fighting over proposed education reforms, students’ ability to find a good job and develop a competitive skillset to prosper in their careers is being irrevocably damaged. Students from Oaxaca, where some of the main union resistance is located, and other states, will finish only 80 days of classes, compared with more than the 180 days in other countries. In an increasingly automated, on-demand sharing economy, the competition for talent in the 21st century is global, and Mexican youth will be at a clear disadvantage with respect to the their peers in other countries. Teachers’ unions and political leaders should care. As Martin Ford states in his recent book, ‘The Rise of the Robots,’ ‘as more and more routine white-collar jobs fall to automation in countries throughout the world, it seems inevitable that competition will intensify to land one of the dwindling number of positions that remain beyond the reach of the machines.’ Today, more than 70 percent of jobs require some use of technology, the contract between employer and employee is broken, and learning to adapt and change is a critical skill for moving up in an increasingly mobile labor force. In this context, Mexico, where less than 15 percent of young people graduate from university, more than 50 percent drop out of high school, and the quality of education is low, the debate between the teachers unions’ and political leaders over halting education reform sounds flawed and outdated.

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After president’s first year, Mexico still a mess by many measures

Los Angeles Times, 12/1/2013

Enrique PeñaNieto 2To President Enrique Peña Nieto’s supporters, his first year in office has been a time of bold promises kept as he pursues an ambitious agenda of reforms designed, in the long term, to bring peace and economic growth to Mexico.

But in the short term, by many measures, his country remains a mess. Though he promised to focus on Mexico’s economic potential, Peña Nieto has presided over an economy that has hardly grown at all. Though he vowed to reduce the kind of violence that affects innocent citizens, his record has been mixed, with kidnappings and extortion rising nationwide even as the number of homicides drops.

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How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses

Wired, 10/15/2013

education - children poverty - EcuadorJosé Urbina López Primary School sits next to a dump just across the US border in Mexico. The school serves residents of Matamoros, a dusty, sunbaked city of 489,000 that is a flash point in the war on drugs. There are regular shoot-outs, and it’s not uncommon for locals to find bodies scattered in the street in the morning. To get to the school, students walk along a white dirt road that parallels a fetid canal. On a recent morning there was a 1940s-era tractor, a decaying boat in a ditch, and a herd of goats nibbling gray strands of grass. A cinder-block barrier separates the school from a wasteland—the far end of which is a mound of trash that grew so big, it was finally closed down. On most days, a rotten smell drifts through the cement-walled classrooms. Some people here call the school un lugar de castigo—“a place of punishment.”

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How to break the cycle of massive teacher strikes in Mexico – Op Ed

protestorsThe Christian Science Monitor, 10/08/2013

By Christian Bracho

In the Netflix series “House of Cards,” Washington’s politicians scramble to deal with a chaotic national teachers strike that threatens the new president’s agenda, leaves children with nowhere to go, and pits citizens against each other. It’s hard to imagine a strike of that magnitude actually happening in the United States.

But in Mexico, this fictional narrative is not just a reality. It is a tradition. The only way to end this disruptive practice is for the national government and the union to stop pointing fingers, and for each side to make concessions.

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Educating the Continent

NAFTA_logoFrom our colleagues at the Canadian International Council, Jennifer Jeffs explains the importance of the developing education agenda between the US and Mexico and the potential for including Canada.

Canadian International Council, 9/30/2013

In recent weeks, Mexico City has been repeatedly under siege by teachers protesting against the government’s education reform program, part of a package of reforms that the Pena Nieto administration is determined will help fulfill the potential of Mexico, a country whose emerging middle-class now exceeds 40 million people. The current protests are against reforms that would professionalize the Mexican teaching profession, instituting teacher evaluations and ending the inheritance and sale of teaching positions.

Reform is essential. Mexico’s public education system comes last in OECD rankings in terms of results relative to cost. For a comparatively recent newcomer to the OECD club, this is not a surprising ranking, and a benefit of OECD membership is attention to members’ economic performance factors. Mexico’s poor score here has prompted the Pena Nieto government to act on education reform, a tough political battle, but an important one for Mexico, and for Canada.

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Mexican president’s agenda enters a decisive phase in push to remake institutions

Photo by Flickr user Angelica RiveraThe Washington Post, 9/28/2013

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is entering a critical stage of his term, analysts say, as his administration faces growing resistance to its wide-ranging, fast-track push to remake the country’s institutions.

Peña Nieto is under fire from Mexico’s left for taking on powerful teachers unions and for a proposal to open the state oil monopoly to private investment. On the right, opposition is building to his plan for tax hikes on the wealthy, corporations and a broad share of the middle class.

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