Education in Latin America

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Mexico spends 6.2% of its Gross Domestic Product on education, which puts it right about on the average (6.3%) of the OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Co-Operation) members, many of them highly developed first-world nations. That’s good, right? It seems there’s often a “but” when comparing Mexico to other countries. “But” Mexico spends 93% of its education budget on salaries, while the average of OECD nations is 78%. Would this have anything to do with the approximately 300 thousand “teachers” (of a total 1.25 million) that get paid a teacher’s salary without actually teaching?

The latest national education census by the INEGI (National Institute for Statistics and Geography), conducted last year in every state except Oaxaca and parts of Michoacan and Guerrero, where the dissident CNTE teachers’ union did not allow participation, also turned out statistics on infrastructure that help to explain why Mexican students fare poorly when compared to those in other OECD nations:

  • 36% of schools in Mexico have no sewage/drainage systems
  • 24% of schools are not connected to any municipal water system
  • 10% of schools have no bathrooms
  • 8% of schools have no electricity
  • 7% of schools have no computers for educational purposes
  • 82% of schools have no Internet access

The more spent on salaries, the less is available for other priorities, including infrastructure. It’s understood that installation of bathrooms, sewage, electricity and clean water systems in schools are not exactly the type of visible public works, like building a world-class airport, which politicians tend to favor. However, parents of students going to schools that lack these important services can best serve their children by organizing and pressing authorities to provide them. The Educational Reform of 2013 established quality education as a constitutional right. It cannot be provided without some minimal school infrastructure guarantees.

Note that having computers in schools is not as vital as good internet connections because most people these days use their smart phones to access the Internet. But the 82% of schools without Internet access is almost as worrying a statistic as the 10% of schools without bathrooms. How so? According to Wiggins and McTighe (2014), school curriculum design must begin not with the question “What should be studied and in what order?”, but by asking “having learned the most important skills and content, what will learners be able to do?” For what our students will need to be able to do in their future employment and personal lives, the so-called twenty-first century skills, (creativity, teamwork, self-directed learning, critical thinking and problem solving, information management and communicating with specific audiences) require the Internet. The role of schools is to prepare students for a productive future, and it’s now hard to imagine full participation and economic productivity without these competencies. Without Internet, schools can no longer fulfill their primary role in society.

Author: ejspin

He sido Director General de Colegios Internacionales en Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay y Venezuela y he participado en reforma educativa en todos estos paises. Middle School Principal en Estados Unidos. Doctorado en Liderazgo Educativo. Actualmente vivo en México.

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