Teacher Protests in Mexico Yield Evaluation Negotiations

(Photo: Pedro Pardo, AFP, Getty)

(Photo: Pedro Pardo, AFP, Getty)

After close to two months of violent street protests, highway blockades, and school closings, members of a radical alternative to Mexico’s official teachers union will sit down with government officials to discuss what will happen next.

The most recent of these protests turned deadly after blockades on highways caused a clash between police and protestors.  In the end, eight people were killed and 100 more were injured, reports Darek Michael Wajda for NBC News.

The teachers, members of the CNTE (Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación), with a membership of over 200,000, say the 2013 landmark education reform needs to struck down.  When it originally passed, many believed the reform would increase competitiveness in the country in addition to its standing in the global economy.  With the use of teacher evaluations, professional development, and additional federal oversight concerning budgets, many of the problems in the country, including “ghost teachers” collecting salaries or handing down teaching positions from one family member to another, were expected to come to an end.

However, although the national teachers union supported the reform, others, including the CNTE, did not.  Instead, they say that the teacher evaluation system is costly and has nothing to do with trying to change the educational system.  In addition, they say that students are forced to pay to take standardized exams and parents are having to purchase school supplies, books, and exams.

Mr. Hurtado is one such individual.  A gym teacher for the last 20 years, he feels that the reform is nothing more than a way to tackle labor reform while at the same time punishing teachers, writes Whitney Eulich for The Christian Science Monitor.

“They can end our contract whenever they want with no reason,” Hurtado says. “This reform doesn’t benefit anyone, it has nothing to do with education.  They didn’t take into consideration the teachers. No one asked me what needs changing. And we’re the ones living these realities every day,” Hurtado says.

While Secretary of the Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong previously said that the government was unwilling to meet with the group until they ended their blockade, which has caused a food shortage in several areas, the two groups have finally sat down to discuss future steps.  The first discussion was concerning politics, with talks of education and social issues set to take place this week.

In addition, the Secretariat of Public Education announced plans to revise the teacher evaluation with the national teachers union, including how they are carried out and how the results are published.

“These very large scale reforms need to be democratic,” says Lucrecia Santibañez, an associate professor of education at Claremont Graduate University. “They need to incorporate various actors’ points of view. The success of the reform hinges on whether teachers in the classroom can change their behavior and change the way they are doing things for the better. If that doesn’t trickle down to that level, the reform will never work.”