A Discussion on Mexico's Education Challenges
By Claudia Vanegas
November 29, 2012
What will it take to bring significant changes to education
policy in Mexico? What will be President Enrique Peña Nieto’s new education
agenda? Claudio González and David Calderón, president and general director,
respectively, of Mexicanos Primero, the
country’s leading civil society watchdog working on education, addressed these
questions and more on November 29 at the Inter-American Dialogue. Jeffrey
Puryear, co-director of PREAL and vice president for social policy at the
Dialogue, moderated the discussion.
be crucial to the new government’s efforts to grow the economy, strengthen
democracy, and reduce poverty,” argued Puryear. There is a clear need to move
quickly and in the right direction.
González, the two main concerns are the low quantity and quality of education. In
terms of quantity, González offered a grim diagnosis. While in the United
States a person studies on average 13.3 years, in Mexico the figure drops to 8.6
years. Out of 100 children starting basic schooling, 62 will graduate from
primary school, 45 will complete middle school, 27 will finish high school, and
only 13 will complete college.
according to González, quality is the more important of the two. Mexico did
poorly in the 2009 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) math
exam, ranking 49th among 65 countries. González noted that the young
generations are not learning much: “Although we are getting better results over
time in PISA, the situation is inertial. We are not going forward fast enough.
At the rate that we are moving in math we would reach the OECD average in 50
years. In reading comprehension it would take 170 years--if and only if the
other countries remain static.”
why schooling is poor throughout the region. “Education is foremost the right
to be yourself, and this country [the United States] was founded on that right.
On the other hand, our societies [Latin America] were born out of predatory expansion,
a system of control…it is deep in our societies to have a suspicion of
learning. There’s a tradition to not respect choices. We must overcome this
recommendations of what needs to be done to promote real change, Calderón mentioned
two major goals and four pathways for the 2012-2024 timeframe. The first goal is to have everyone complete 12
years of education, while the second one is to do so successfully. “In 12 years
from now , we hope to reach 85 percent high school graduation rates; now
it is just at 27 percent.”
include putting the state back in charge of education, providing effective
teachers, making spending transparent and efficient, and promoting school
ended the discussion by calling for investment in teachers as well as an
agreement between state and federal governments regarding their respective
responsibilities. Their main request to the new administration is that the
state take control of education back from the teachers’ union, as Peña Nieto
said he would do. González argued that the new minister of education needs to be
a transformational figure: “More of the same is simply not the solution; we
have a failed system, we have to transform, to revolutionize our education
and pathways can be consulted in more detail in Mexicanos Primero’s special
2012 report “Ahora es cuando” (Now is
When). (Click here
for slides of the report, here
for the full report in Spanish, and here
for the executive summary in English).
to view a short interview of David Calderón, conducted by Voz de América.