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Ensena por Mexico: Bringing an American Touch to Mexican Schools

Karla Zabludovsky - Newsweek
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September 12, 2014

Children from the "Insurgentes de la Paz" (Peace Insurgents) school receive lessons inside an old bus turned into a classroom in the settlement of Pueblo Nuevo, Oaxaca. (Jorge Luis Plata/Reuters)

PUEBLA, Mexico — Elsewhere, it would be an unremarkable sight.

After an interactive, hour-long class, Gustavo Rojas assigns his students homework to be completed over the weekend. “Don’t let me down, but, more importantly, don’t let yourselves down,” he tells the seventh-graders, looking around with a smile.

In Mexico, where teachers have long been known for their absenteeism and lack of preparation and students rank among the lowest performers among a group of 34 advanced and emerging countries, it is unusual to see a teacher at a public school holding his students accountable - and vice versa.

...Rojas, the teacher in Puebla, is part of Enseña por México, one of the programs that have been trying to capitalize on, and improve, the new educational climate. Part of the Teach for America corps, it had its first class of 100 recent graduates attend a five-week training boot camp last year, and, shortly after, they were deployed to several schools around Puebla state, which borders the capital, Mexico City, on the south. They are now in three additional states - Nuevo León, Mexico state and Chihuahua - and plan on expanding to Guanajuato state, in central Mexico.

Enseña por México’s approach here is different than in the United States because Mexico presents several unique challenges. Only 36 percent of children who enter elementary school finish high school, only 2.6 percent of the population speaks English, and only 4.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product goes toward education, according to the Enseña por Mexico website. But most challenging of all is the culture of “it can’t be done,” says Erik Ramirez-Ruiz, president and co-founder of Enseña por Mexico.

“It is not a teacher’s program, it is a social leadership program,” says Ramirez-Ruiz. At its core, he adds, the program is trying to infuse participants with a new sense of possibility, break down social barriers - many of the participants are private school graduates who would have never considered teaching at public schools - and create a trickle-down system of ever-multiplying trained mentors.

Read the rest at Newsweek

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