We are Committed to Providing Laptops to 16 Million Children

HE Jaime NualartEducational reforms in Mexico are on the fast track and students today are in the midst of a major transformation. HE Jaime Nualart, Ambassador of Mexico to India, in conversation with Shahid Akhter, ENN, shares his insight on the educational changes in Mexico. Excerpts:

Mexico’s education is in news due to President Enrique Peña Nieto being very particular and adamant about the reforms that he wants to introduce in education. But this has brought him into conflict with Teachers’ Union, leading to strikes and deadlocks. Why are such hurdles coming in the way of better education?
Mexican education system demands a national agreement aiming to bypass old political and administrative inertias, and to once again place students at the centre of scope of major transformations. President Peña Nieto has put considerable energy in promoting the creation of the Professional Teaching Service.
The reform contains clear rules to ensure that professional merit is the only way to be recruited, remain and be promoted as a teacher, principal or supervisor. In addition, reforms are aimed at transforming evaluation into a more efficient mechanism to improve teaching standards. Promoting new rules entails overcoming inertias and to adopt new institutional approaches.

Certainly, it is not an easy endeavour, but political parties reached a wide consensus in the sense of urgency to implement educational reforms, which simplifies negotiations.

Does the Teacher’s Union have a powerful political clout?
There are two main Teacher’s Unions. One is SNTE and the other one is CNTE, both with nationwide influence ranking among the biggest unions in Latin America. Over the years, they have achieved considerable influence in politics and education policies, as in every country. The government of Mexico is keen on working closely with them to promote its reformist agenda.

How is the Mexican education system organised?
Today’s Mexican education system is federalist. The Ministry of Education, following the guidelines provided by the executive power, is responsible for providing syllabus to be followed in every school at the kinder, primary and secondary levels. Centrally edited text books free of cost are delivered annually to every child to ensure homogenous teaching and to promote national identity. Previous reforms during the 80’s and 90’s gave State governments considerable autonomy for managing education budget, and addressing local challenges such as hiring and promoting teachers and issuing diplomas.

Is the government officially responsible for providing compulsory basic education? Is there gender parity in school enrollments?
The right to basic education is granted in the Mexican Constitution since 1917. Providing free of cost kinder, primary and secondary education is compulsory. According to the 2010 Census, 96.1 percent of boys and 96.4 percent of girls between 6 and 12 years old are enrolled in school. According to OECD, 6.2 percent of Mexico’s GDP is spent on education.

The United States and Mexico have a long history of educational collaborations. Does it translate into innovation and research?
Mexico and the United States have historically cooperated in the field of education, and this includes the fields of innovation and research as well. During his recent visit to Mexico City on 2-3 May, 2013, President Obama addressed students in National Anthropology Museum, where he highlighted the importance of education to achieve a better understanding of the bilateral relation and announced a plan to increase scholarships for young Mexican students. President Peña Nieto announced the creation of a Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Technology, in which the Mexican National Council on Science and Technology and the US National Science Foundation are to take a major role in its functioning.

Budget for ICT initiatives in public primary school is expected to reach USD four billion during the following six years

How much of technology has been harvested to digitise education?
Where do you see ICT in Mexican education today?
The Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) is nowadays an integral part of the Mexican education system. In 2000 “Enciclomedia” programme was introduced to provide a digital blackboard and a computer equipped with sound system and Internet to every school room. Teachers and students could benefit from specially designed multimedia content, approved by the Ministry of Education, that was able to enrich content of classic text books. Eventually, Enciclomedia evolved in 2013 into a scheme with the goal to provide laptops to 16 million children of V and VI grades during the following six years.

Is there any budget allocated by the Mexican government for ICT initiatives and innovations?
Budget for ICT initiatives in public primary school is expected to reach USD four billion during the following six years.

Please share your MoUs with India?
In 2005 Mexico and India signed an Educational Exchange Programme, aiming to promote regular exchange of information and scholarships for young post-graduate students of both the countries.
Besides collaboration in the field of Traditional Medicine between the Department of Ayush (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India) and Secretariat of Health of the United Mexican States, 15 projects have been approved under Indo-Mexican Joint Call of 2011, and four projects are under review.

The Quantum LeapThe recent constitutional reform in education aims to:

  • Ensure that all students are educated by the best teachers. To this end, the professional teaching service will be created. The reform contains clear rules to ensure that professional merit is the only way to be accepted, remain and be promoted as a teacher, principal and supervisor.
  • Make the evaluation mechanism more efficient for improving the teaching standards. The National Institute for Educational Evaluation has therefore been granted constitutional status with full autonomy. It also envisages the creation of a National System of Educational Assessment, which will take into account the conditions and the challenges that teachers face everyday.
  • Improve conditions for students’ integral training. The reform strengthens the autonomy of school management and plans to substantially increase the number of fulltime schools; to provide more educational and cultural opportunities and encourage students’ overall balanced development and skills.
"Exciting news! Elets Education is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest insights!" Click here!