Just six months after coming to power, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador fulfilled one of his strongest campaign promises: to eliminate the educational reform of the previous six-year term. Once that commitment in educational matters was fulfilled, there was no more. Its objective for Mexican education was to eradicate the “misnamed educational reform” and education specialists assure that one of the serious problems of the current Administration in this matter is that there was no project beyond eliminating the changes implemented in the public education system of the Government of Enrique Peña Nieto, which forced for a short time to evaluate teachers for their permanence in schools and to carry out entrance and promotion contests for teachers, among other things. Now, in the penultimate year of the six-year term, the Government is beginning to implement a new educational model, called The New Mexican School, and new textbooks without piloting or teacher training.
“What the Government of Andrés Manuel does is offer as the main and only educational proposal to reverse the previous reform, which is to do and not to do. Of course, he didn’t have any educational project there and he didn’t have one for a long time,” explains Alma Maldonado, a researcher at the Educational Research Department of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (Cinvestav).
The educational system was in that limbo when the pandemic hit. The country’s schools were completely closed for more than 250 days, which left more than 36 million children and adolescents unable to receive education in person. Given the lack of computers and internet in many homes in Mexico, the federal government, through the Ministry of Public Education, implemented the Aprende en casa program, which consisted of students watching on television the classes they should have taken In person and also remotely, their teachers had to assign them tasks to measure their progress. Many experts questioned whether the program really worked and called on the authorities to do a major evaluation when they returned to school to find out what situation the children were in after almost a year of not going to school.
A child takes distance classes in a vegetable business of the Central de Abastos, on September 4, 2020, in Mexico City.Mario Jasso (Cuartoscuro)
The SEP refused to carry out a generalized evaluation and issued a document called Pedagogical guidelines and criteria for the evaluation of learning for preschool, primary and secondary education in the period of health contingency generated by the SARS-coV2 virus (COVID-19) for the cycle school 2020-2021 for each teacher to evaluate their students. For its part, the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval) carried out an analysis of the educational situation with the Aprende en casa program and, in September 2021, revealed that the action taken by the authorities lacked indicators of results, which made it impossible for Coneval to know if it had worked. Of the 32 entities in the country, only four States carried out evaluations: Guanajuato, Nuevo León, Jalisco and Querétaro.
The Ministry of Public Education revealed that 1.6 million children and adolescents stopped going to school in Mexico and although 422,000 students recovered, this represents only 25% of the lost enrollment.
In addition, according to the analysis Towards the construction of a post-2024 Educational Agenda by the School of Government of the Tecnológico de Monterrey and México Evalúa, it is estimated that there was an increase in learning poverty among Mexican students: 25% more in reading comprehension and 30% more in mathematics. “We are, unfortunately, in a crisis deepened so much by a pandemic, which reduced the possibility of many children learning what they had to do from a distance, and which also led thousands of them to leave the classroom, and this was deepened by the indolence of the federal educational authority, which never really took the educational challenges posed by the pandemic seriously and which continues to fail to do so,” Marco Fernández, a researcher at the Tecnológico de Monterrey School of Government and the organization, explains in a telephone interview. Mexico Evaluates.
With this lag on its back, the federal government is preparing to begin the implementation of the new textbooks and the new educational model, next August, in the first and second years of basic education in the country. Until now, teachers have not been trained in the new system and are unaware of the textbooks, which according to President López Obrador are already in the printing process. The pilot plan to evaluate the implementation of the new books that had been announced for 900 schools in October 2022 was suspended by federal judges due to an injunction imposed by a civil organization that questioned the preparation of the books without the participation of various social sectors involved. in education. Education experts criticized this measure, since the books will be used anyway in schools from August 2023, only now without a pilot program to test them. “The books go without piloting because there was a protection, but in reality it was convenient for them, because they did not have all the materials ready. There is confusion, uncertainty and discomfort due to the way in which this process has been taking place and the teachers say that the usual is repeated: everything rushed, everything at five for the hour”, indicates Maldonado.
The classroom of a school on August 30, 2021, when the students returned to face-to-face classes, in Mexico City. Fernando Llano (AP)
The new Mexican school proposes that education be centered in the community in view of the diversity of contexts for students in the country. It seeks to have shared learning (although it does not prevent the student from continuing to be the builder of his own knowledge) and in this sense, one of the most important pillars of the new model is to give more autonomy to the teacher to develop innovative teaching didactics for their students. students, and even have the freedom to create part of the study plans. Within the new educational model, the SEP will be in charge of making the so-called synthetic programs, which generally outline the contents, but teachers and school technical councils (formed by teachers and school directors) will have to design the analytical programs, which will organize learning specifically according to the campus and the progress of the students in each course. “Teachers are going to be responsible for doing it, with their tools, however they can, however they understand it, with the resources they have, because all of this is being implemented without additional budget and without considering the time that all this takes,” says the researcher Alma Maldonado. The specialist acknowledges that they are not bad ideas, however, their implementation requires more time. “The new postulates that propose more autonomy for teachers and in schools, all that part that on paper seems like a good idea, however, requires more time, more preparation, more training. That’s how you can and it’s a good idea.”
The lack of teacher training in the current Administration is not from now. According to an analysis of public spending carried out by México Evalua and the School of Government of the Tecnológico de Monterrey, investment in teacher professional development at the federal level is 79% less than what was allocated in 2018. Currently, 195 are contemplated. Mexican pesos from the federal government’s expenditure budget to train each teacher annually.
Full-time Schools and the School is Ours: the dilemma for school communities regarding the use of resources
Another action implemented by the federal government in education that has been questioned is the elimination of full-time schools. The program, created in 2007 and which offered food and extended hours in 27,000 centers, was eliminated in March 2022, and its budget was allocated to another program called The School is Ours and whose objective is to allocate public resources directly so that the communities schoolchildren decide what structural improvements they should make to the campuses. Although the program’s operating rules provide that parents can allocate resources to extend hours and provide food, as in full-time schools, education specialists say that it is not the same. “The elimination of full-time schools is terrible. It was a very successful program and with one hand on the waist and no evidence against it, they removed it. It is like the symbol of this six-year term in the way of making public policy”, says Maldonado.
In addition, the operating rules of La Escuela es Nuestra establish that the subsidy that is delivered to schools as part of the program can only be received by the same school for three consecutive years, therefore, if they decide to extend the hours and give food, it can only be sustainable during that period. “The School is Ours has truly been a disaster and when it wanted to replace the schools full time it’s a joke because they tell you I’m going to give you money and you decide if you pay the teachers more time or build something. It does not make sense, it does not replace and it is cruel in the face of so many needs that schools have in Mexico”, says Maldonado.
The disappearance of the National Institute for the Evaluation of Education (INEE) and the aversion to evaluations
With the argument that it had been a “foreign imposition”, the federal government also promoted the elimination of the National Institute for the Evaluation of Education (INEE), an autonomous body created to evaluate teachers, both for promotion and for admission. of the teachers to the squares, and also to measure the educational advances in the Mexican students.
The then president of INEE, Teresa Bracho, spoke about the disappearance of the organ on December 12, 2018.Ilse Huesca (Cuartoscuro)
Interviewed by El Colegio de México in 2021, the director of the Global Initiative for Innovation in Education, Fernando Reimers, regretted that this body has disappeared. “I thought it was a huge setback, tantamount to allowing teacher appointments to be controlled by the union again. It is as if Mexico had decided to go back to 1950″, he expressed. On the same occasion, the education specialist from Harvard University indicated that a worthwhile education is only possible “if there is a shared culture, a series of shared ideas about what should be learned, what it means to learn well and teach well, and that requires information.” Otherwise, he asserted, “only the beliefs of each person remain, and the one who is right is the one who has the most power.”
For Marco Fernández, a researcher from México Evalúa and the School of Government of the Tecnológico de Monterrey, three things led the Mexican government to eliminate INEE: prejudice, ignorance and past mistakes. “One of the problems was that the past authorities used the evaluations of the children in an ineffective way. They should have served to provide information to schools and teachers. When one documents deficiencies in learning, it is not done to say that this is a disaster and sit down and cry, but rather it has to lead to actions that allow teachers to develop strategies in the classroom to gradually correct these deficiencies.” , indicates.
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