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Teachers face compulsory evaluations under new reforms

September 3, 2013

The nation’s teachers were up in arms this week as Mexico passed controversial reforms that will force all public educational workers to undergo mandatory evaluations.

“This is very important and crucial to ensuring the quality of education,” President Enrique Peña Nieto said in his state-of-the-nation address on Monday, hours after Mexico’s lower house approved the final reforms. The Senate then ratified the bill late Tuesday night, with 102 votes in favor and just 22 against.

Although the Peña Nieto administration had already passed education reforms in February, the secondary laws introducing the compulsory evaluations had not met full congressional approval until this week.

The Public Education Department (SEP) estimates that it will cost 28.3 billion pesos to implement the reforms, with the first evaluations due to take place in July 2014. The controversial practice of teachers selling or passing on their positions has also been outlawed under the reforms.

Legislation that ensures that teachers are performing their duties at an acceptable level would hardly prove controversial in most countries, but in Mexico it has drawn a fierce reaction from the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), which fears that it will lead to massive lay-offs.

The leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) bargained on behalf of the teachers union in Congress and claimed to have included 95 percent of SNTE proposals in the final draft of the bill. The amended reforms would not violate the rights of teachers or facilitate the privatization of Mexico’s publication education system, assured Silvano Aureoles, the PRD coordinator in the Chamber of Deputies, last weekend.

The congressional vote on the reforms had been delayed for several days by protests led by students and members of the teachers union. The demonstrations turned ugly in Mexico City on Sunday, as protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails outside Congress in a bid to disrupt the new legislative session. The police responded with tear gas and arrested a number of demonstrators for allegedly attacking police officers.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of teachers continued the peaceful protest marches and blockades they have been leading across the capital for two weeks now. They were prevented from reaching the Congress building by thousands of riot police and military officers on Sunday, but their demonstrations have proved disruptive enough to force the cancellation of many classes across Mexico.

Once the reforms were passed, some 20,000 protesters marched again through Mexico City on Wednesday, while demonstrations also took place in Aguascalientes, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico State, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatan.

Downtown Guadalajara was paralyzed as around five thousand teachers and students marched from La Normal to the Plaza de Armas to voice their opposition to the reforms.

Another day of demonstrations and civil disobedience is planned from 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 7, but Francisco Ayon, the head of the Jalisco Department of Education, warned this week that any teachers who have missed classes to take part in the protests will be sanctioned with deductions from their salaries for violating their pupils’ right to education.

Emilio Chuayffet, the federal education secretary, took an even firmer line against striking teachers, warning that once the reforms come into effect, most likely from next week, those who miss three consecutive days in a one-month period will be fired.

As a result of the disturbances across the capital, Peña Nieto was forced to delay his state-of-the-nation address from Sunday to Monday and deliver it from Los Pinos, the presidential residence. In his speech, the president said the reforms would improve the quality of education in Mexico and pledged federal funding for any teachers that require retraining.

“The education reform will move forward because it carries with it the future of Mexico,” Peña Nieto said. “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.”

Since taking up office last December, Peña Nieto has worked quickly to limit the influence of the SNTE, which is the biggest labor union in Latin America with over 1.4 million members. In February the government ordered the arrest of Elba Esther Gordillo, a highly controversial and influential figure who had led the SNTE and controlled the teaching profession since 1989. Gordillo, who was swiftly replaced as SNTE president, was detained for the alleged embezzlement of nearly two billion pesos (154 million dollars) in union funds and remains behind bars ahead of her trial.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 3, 2013 21:29

    This has been tried in the past. The year was 1984. The State was Arkansas. The Govenor was a very young Bill Clinton. It was a huge success to the education system of the state.

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