Mexico Faces Massive Textbook Error Scandal

Schools in Mexico were opened on August 19, but children went back to school with flawed textbooks provided by the Mexican government, according to Adriana Gomez Licon of The Associated Press. The new government-provided books contain more than 110 errors, including misspellings, grammar and punctuation errors, and at least one city located in the wrong state. These errors are an embarrassment for the Mexican government, which is planning to overhaul the country's much-criticized school system.

There were at least 117 mistakes found in the textbooks. To remedy this, officials said they would provide teachers a list of the errors so they can try to manually correct those mistakes. The Education Department said the errors were found after 235 million elementary textbooks were being printed.

Who is responsible for these errors? Education Secretary Emilio Chuayffet blamed Mexico's previous administration for the stumble. Chuayffet, who has called the errors unforgivable, said he was faced with the predicament of choosing between stopping the printing of flawed textbooks so they could be corrected and making sure the country's 26 million school children had textbooks at the start of classes.

The Mexican Academy of Language has been given the task of ensuring that future editions won't have such errors. "How are we going to nurture minds with grammatical mistakes?" Chuayffet said when he signed an agreement with the academy.

The education department had not released the list of mistakes to the public or even to the language academy members. The department has been less than transparent about just what the errors are.

According to the news blog Animal Politico, some words are misspelled in the Spanish textbook and accents forgotten or misplaced. The blog did an independent review to find what the errors are.

There were words written with a "c" instead of an "s," common mix-ups that are taken as a sign you are not well educated. They have also found too many commas and words lacking the proper accent marks. A geography text wrongly puts the Caribbean resort city of Tulum in the state of Yucatan instead of Quintana Roo, the blog said.

According to political observers, the textbook scandal is a sign of the weakness of Mexico's education system. About 47% of the country's children graduate from the equivalent of high school. Mexico spends a greater share of its budget on education than any other member of the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In Mexico, teachers are already opposing new educational overhauls that will submit them to evaluation and loosen the control held by their union over hiring and firing. Earlier this month, President Enrique Pena Nieto issued a package of rules for implementing an education law that was enacted in February meant to address tight union controls. Teachers protested against the new law and blocked several major streets in the capital and caused a rush-hour traffic jam.

The union warned that more is to come if legislators pass laws that mandate the firing of teachers who do not take or pass evaluation exams.

Mexico's National Commission of Free Textbooks is responsible for printing textbooks for schools.

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