Mexico Unveils New Education Plan

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Secretary of Public Education Aurelio Nuño Mayer presented on March 13 the government’s new national education model, which will begin in the 2018-2019 school year. The model outlines the full implementation of previous education reforms made in past years by Penã Nieto’s administration in an effort to guarantee equal access to education.

The five objectives outlined in the publication are: (1) the planning of a new curriculum, (2) putting the school at the center of the education system, (3) improving the professional training and development of teachers, (4) inclusion and equity, and (5) effective governance of the education system. The full model consists of three documents which include the “Charter on Education Goals for the 21st Century,” the “Education Model of 2016,” and the “Curricular Proposal for Obligatory Education of 2016.”

According to the Latin American Weekly Report, the Mexican government unveiled the education model primarily to improve its rankings in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, in which Mexico ranked last in 2015. Despite investing 5 percent of its GDP in education, which is the highest percentage of all OECD members, Mexico continues to face a major education problem.

Nuño Mayer said, “[this] route does not allow political concessions because we are talking about the most valuable thing that our country has: that the hopes and dreams of today’s children and youth become a reality starting now.”

To outsiders, Nuño Mayer’s statement seems to be a simple declaration of commitment to education in Mexico—a commitment that can transcend political divisions. However, according to Excelsior and the Latin American Weekly Report, Nuño Mayer’s statement also addresses the opposition towards his Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) education reforms from the left. The Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) teachers’ union, in particular, is a vocal critic of Peña Nieto’s administration and its attempts at education reform.

The CNTE tweeted a press release on March 16 affirming the organization’s complete opposition to the government’s new education model. In the press release, the CNTE criticized the OECD for supporting private education in Mexico. It also states that the training programs and constant evaluation of public school teachers under the new model are punitive and anti-teacher.

Furthermore, the CNTE stated that it continues to draft its own plans for reform, called the Alternative Education Project.

Despite opposition from the far-left, the historically largest teachers’ union in Mexico, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), supports the new reforms.

Overall, the government’s unveiling of the new education model is a way for Mexico to show that it is committed to furthering its economic and human development and enhance its global positioning, since education reform and advancement are favorable in the eyes of international institutions such as the OECD.

However, given Peña Nieto’s unpopularity as he nears the end of his presidency and growing political opposition to the PRI in the upcoming 2018 presidential election, Nuño Mayer fears the end of the reforms before they even begin to take effect. In an interview with Excelsior, he said that the improvements would take years to crystallize.

Nuño Mayer also said in the interview, “if for whatever reason a government comes into power that does not share or agree with this education transformation . . . [and] decides to stop working in favor of reform, it could put [the changes] in danger.” Thus, at this point in the PRI’s government, it is unclear whether or not these reforms will be carried out at all.