Political reform is the always-present flip side of educational reform. Ending the practice of teaching positions inherited by family members or assigned automatically to graduates of teachers’ colleges, reinforcing the effective participation of parents in their children’s education, ensuring that public schools are truly free and parents not subject to a variety of special fees, regulating the work of pedagogical advisors in schools, ending the practice of commissioning teachers in non-educational functions, all these are worthy political reforms. They are necessary to ensure that educational resources are used effectively to advance student learning and that merit is the determining factor in assigning human resources to the task.
The educational part of the reform must start with what’s urgent: curricular reform. Once we have determined what skills, concepts and content are most important, only then will it be possible to align teacher preparation, professional development and evaluation, and assessment of student learning. Felipe Martinez Rizo, coordinator of the INEE commission reevaluating the ENLACE test, agreed that the curricular program in Mexican schools is “bad” (http://t.co/5BFZst8iCw), because it has become filled with a wide variety of new objectives without weeding out any of the old ones. This has created a swamp of very little depth “covering” far more than what can be effectively taught in a school year. Faced with this situation, a teacher has three choices:
- Try to cover everything, passing quickly over the year’s objectives. This creates an incentive to use traditional teaching methods in which the teacher lectures and students take notes and give back information on a test. These methods are most effective in covering an extensive curriculum, but not in ensuring student learning. The result is that Mexican education continues to be tied to nineteenth-century methods which don’t work with students who are used to the interactive stimuli of their smart phones and video games.
- Start the book from the beginning and keep going, page by page, until the end of the year. The objectives at the end of the book never get taught.
- Teach what is personally most interesting and leave the rest (like the history teacher who only taught about military battles, which were his particular passion).
None of these options represent quality education. It’s important to highlight essential knowledge and skills and eliminate what may be superfluous in order to have enough time to teach the important stuff with depth and understanding. This is exactly what countries whose students have top results on the international PISA test have done.