â€™The Help Never Lastsâ€™: Why Has Mexicoâ€™s Education Revolution Failed?
Nina Lakhani - The Guardian
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August 15, 2017
‘Bang in the middle of the poverty belt’: Ángel Albino Corzo primary school in Buena Vista, State of Mexico. (Nina Lakhani)
Education was meant to be Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto’s flagship policy. In the year after his election in 2012, he announced ambitious reforms to clean-up corruption in the Mexican teachers union (SNTE), improve teaching standards, and create a fairer education model fit for the 21st century.
The government introduced mandatory testing for all teachers, promising from then on promotions and salaries would depend on performance, not favours. The first-ever education census revealed tens of thousands of salaries were being paid illegally to union workers, administrators and even dead, retired and “ghost” teachers.
But while some progress has been made, millions of dollars are still being misspent. Teachers’ salaries continue to be paid to people who never enter a classroom, according to federal payroll figures being analysed by the Mexico Evalúa watchdog and Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. This is illegal but, according to lead investigator Marco Fernandez, no one has been sanctioned.
“The new education model needs money to succeed,” Fernandez says. “How will the government fund more teachers and technology if it’s still spending millions of dollars on corrupt posts, and failing to punish those responsible?
Mexico ranks last in education among the 35 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Mexican children leave school with the worst literacy, maths and science skills, with around half failing to meet the most basic standards. The poorest children in Vietnam outperform the most privileged in Mexico.
“No matter how rich or poor you are in Mexico, your education is bad or very bad. Jobs are given based on connections not merit, so quality doesn’t matter,” says Alexandra Zapata, education specialist from the thinktank Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (Imco).
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