Mexico’s Major Education Reform Bill Moves to Senate

Mexican teachers are protesting against the government’s new educational reform bill that is designed to introduce new teacher evaluations to the famously corrupt education system. In his first state-of-the-nation address, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto urged for an aggressive education reform agenda that sets up a competitive examination system for hiring teachers and requires teachers to pass regular evaluations in order to remain in the classroom, according to Olga R. Rodriguez of The Associated Press.

The education bill now goes to the Senate for approval. Thousands of teachers are protesting against the Mexican government’s new educational reform bill that is designed to reduce union power over hiring decisions, reports The Associated Press.

On August 23, striking teachers “strangled traffic and blocked access to Mexico City’s international airport. Several thousand teachers blocked the main expressway leading to the airport; they had vowed to seize the terminal, but police were called in to block the march.”

The comprehensive education reform bill, signed by Mexican President Enrique Pena, will weaken the union’s power substantially in the country’s education system. The law – which will usher in changes on a scale that the country has not seen in more than 30 years – seeks to break the system by which teaching and administrator positions are not granted on merit but are instead sold or inherited.

“Resistance is a natural consequence when you are pushing a transformation,” Pena Nieto said of the protesters, who also caused him to change the date and location of his speech. “Our dilemma had been whether to continue to stagnate or to allow the state to recover the leadership and transform and improve the quality of education.”

Pena Nieto, from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, came to office with swagger and an aggressive agenda, passing radical reforms in education and telecommunications.

The House of Deputies approved the bill with little amendment, but teachers and their unions have pushed back hard:

“We categorically reject this (state-of-the-nation) report, which is full of lies and deceit and that contains a great deal of authoritarianism,” said Juan Melchor Roman, a teacher from the western state of Michoacan, who has been camping out along with thousands of other teachers in the city’s main square since last two weeks. Melchor Roman said they plan to continue protesting the bill, which is expected to be voted on by the Senate on Tuesday.

The passage of the proposal was praised by independent education advocates, who said that this is a good first step after decades of union control of the schools. However, they said “the measure didn’t go far enough to establish a rigorous nationwide system of teacher training and promotion.”