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Mexican Senate Passes Controversial Part of Education Reform Bill

Tihomir Gligorevic - Reuters
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September 4, 2013
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A striking teacher from Oaxaca state sits in the middle of Paseo de la Reforma, a main artery in the capital, to protest education reform in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. Striking teachers are protesting educational reforms intended to introduce teacher evaluations and reduce union power over hiring decisions. (AP/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s Congress gave final approval concerning a federal bill to overhaul the country’s public education system, known for its poor standing, in spite of nationwide protests by teachers and their supporters over the last several days. The politicians convened late in the evening to pass the bill by a vote of 102-22.

The majority of the education reform laws, championed by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, were passed several months ago as some of the earliest actions taken by the leader who took office in December of 2012. The sections that were already approved, known as the Primary Laws, dealt with administrative aspects of Mexico’s education system.

The part approved on Wednesday, known as the Secondary Laws, were much more controversial as they dealt with the employees of the education system. Out is a system of large teachers’ unions and the practices of rampant inheritance and tenure of teaching jobs and in comes a standardized system of hiring based on competency exams and merit-based promotions. The new laws will also require teachers to periodically take the exams to ensure that they will escape potential probation or possible termination.

Thousands of teachers have marched in the capital in recent days to protest against the education reform, and on Sunday groups of masked youths threw rocks at Mexico City police in riot gear, who responded with teargas.

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