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Andres Oppenheimer: Mexico Makes Its Worst Mistake in Many Years

Andres Oppenheimer - Miami Herald
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June 4, 2015

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s decision to indefinitely suspend teacher evaluations — the core of his much-applauded educational reform — is a catastrophic mistake that stains his presidency and is likely to hurt Mexico for decades to come.

It sounds like an exaggeration, but it isn’t.

As the World Economic Forum and other groups have pointed out, the single biggest reason why Mexico isn’t growing faster is not bad economic policy — as one could say about Venezuela and Argentina — but its rotten education system. Because of its bad schools, Mexico can’t have a more skilled labor force with which to compete with China, South Korea, and other rapidly growing manufacturing economies.

Mexico’s education system has long been taken hostage by powerful teachers’ unions that want to preserve privileges such as mapping the country’s education policies and allowing its loyalists — regardless of their academic credentials — to buy or inherit life-long teaching jobs.

Many Mexican teachers are hired through union connections and never even set foot in a classroom. According to the Mexicanos Primero education-advocacy group, there are 298,000 teachers in Mexico’s public schools who never teach but work as political activists for teachers’ unions.

Not surprisingly, despite spending much more on education as a percentage of its economy than China and most Asian countries, Mexico finds itself — alongside Brazil and Argentina — at the bottom of the list of 65 countries that participate in the international PISA test of 15-year-old students’ academic abilities.

And not surprisingly, only about 25 percent of Mexican youths enter college, compared with 93 percent in South Korea.

Read the rest at Miami Herald

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