The celebration of Teachers’ Day on May 15th provides a scenario where it is worth enquiring about the current state of the education reform that was issued on February 2013. When observing the progress made on the aforementioned matter, it is evident that the reform has failed in regaining the State’s rule over education, especially regarding the appointment of teachers. Changes made to Constitutional articles 3 and 73 would enable a professional system where merit was the sole criterion to appoint teachers’ allocations and promotions. Nevertheless, several factors have come together to transform the reform in just a set of good intentions while keeping the status quo where corruption and agreements made between politicians and unions are the ones that determine the appointment of teachers.
The reform’s disgraceful secondary legislation via the General Law of Professional Teaching Service allowed each Mexican state to design its own system for recruiting and firing teachers. Rather than creating a single scheme for all the country, now Governors and local Congresses may be able to establish their own guidelines. This was the first step for SNTE (National Teachers’ Union) and CNTE (National Teachers’ Coordination) to influence and manipulate local powers in the elaboration of education laws, which have been bent towards satisfying their interests and, thus, have betrayed the reform’s original spirit. States such as Hidalgo, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Veracruz, Yucatán, Zacatecas and Oaxaca modified their local legislations with imprecisions and irregularities that contravene the reform, for instance, the law that was approved in Zacatecas does not explicitly state that not taking the corresponding assessment constitutes grounds for both teachers and school principals.
The Executive Power has presented Constitutional controversies against states that have not legislated on the matter; it has also filed actions of unconstitutionality against the governments of Chiapas, Michoacán and Sonora due to the non-compliance with some of the articles included in the national reform. The Executive Power’s institutional strategy that summits the Judiciary Power to determine the validity of local laws is a positive one because it addresses the balance of power within the system; however, it is a long process that will delay the reform’s implementation in all states until the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN) adopts a position. Even if SCJN decides that some of the local laws are against the spirit of the reform and powers are forced to issue new laws, the country will end up with different legislations that will continue with the heterogeneity in the assessment criteria and, thus, will enhance an education inequality among different states.
The lack of key stakeholders such as the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP), the National Institute for Education Assessment (INEE) as well as civic society, which initially backed the education reform, have faded away from its implementation. The absence of clarity in certain criteria included in the reform and enabled by organizations such as INEE, which determined not to publish the assessment criteria for the recruitment of new teachers until after the examinations are made, has created uncertainty along the process and has contributed with the lack of homogeneity in the states’ criteria of accessing the Professional Teaching Service. Neither INEE nor SEP have participated in the process of local legislation and have left the task of “harmonizing” the laws to SNTE leader, Juan Díaz, who chose to ensure the benefits of his members and clients rather than review the content or viability of the legislation.
President Peña argued that the reform, along with the apprehension of the former leader of the teachers’ union, would be a solution to modify the current stagnation of the Mexican education system – which was ranked last in the PISA test applied to all OECD members – and create more competitive professors. Nevertheless, this reform shows that the latter was never its priority. In no moment whatsoever did the issues of true importance to the education system were addressed. The relevance of the education model, the need to change a pedagogical model based on memorizing rather than one that favors critical thinking and that will truly prepare youth to successfully face its future employment. The education problem, along with the meagre economic productivity, will remain the same.