What an exceptional few days in Mexico as part of the Education Trade Mission aiming to help transform the education in Latinoamérica!
Mexico is huge – as big as Western Europe – yet we leave with the impression it is even more diverse. There are over 80 indigenous populations who have their own languages and customs. The largest state, Chihuahua is larger in area than the UK!
A few factoids which help contextualise the challenges faced in Mexico: there’s no driving test – you get a licence and you jump in a car (even as a taxi driver); state pensions for the over 65s have just been introduced by the current government but so far, only in Mexico City; Mexico is global #1 for adult obesity and #2 for childhood obesity.
It’s an interesting time to visit Mexico. Following the elections in the summer, there is a six month transition period until the new administration takes over. During this time, absolutely no decisions can be made. The outgoing ministers are paralysed – they have no idea what will happen after December 5th 2018 and their powers are frozen in the meantime. We were told that the new administration would take months to ‘bed in’ so effectively very little happens for a year.
So, what did we learn about the education schooling system in Mexico?
Diverse schools serve rural communities, indigenous communities and urban areas. There are around 200,000 state schools in Mexico and 50,000 private schools.
The outgoing government introduced some significant changes with a 20 year implementation plan. One of the changes is increasing the number of contact hours in school. It is common for pupils to attend schools in shifts, with some attending morning school and others attending afternoon school. In general, school hours are:
- 3 – 6 year olds attend school 3 hours a day
- 6 – 11 year olds attend school 4 hours a day
- 12 – 17 year olds attend school 6/7 hours a day
Generally, teachers teach classes of 30. As in the UK, rural schools often have one or two classes which span up to 6 school years. With limited resources, this clearly presents challenges for teachers. In some rural areas, there are no schools and children are served by virtual schools.
The country strives to improve children’s educational outcomes and opportunities. With the current education program, the government and educators are pushing to transform the way in which children view education. A particular highlight was hearing from Esther Oldak, a driving force behind the ‘Programa Nacional de Convivencia Escolar’ (National Program for School Environment), which aims to support teachers in motivating children, improve their self-esteem and to end violence. We were very definitely left with the impression that there are many people striving to improve the opportunities of children in Mexico.
‘Programa Nacional de Convivencia Escolar’ (National Programme for School Environment):
Over the past three years, Esther Oldak has been developing a program which focuses on providing training and materials to schools which improve the emotional well-being of the most at-risk children in Mexican society. Esther described some harrowing examples of child abuse, neglect and vulnerability – things which the program is trying to address.
The program ensures the entire educational community works together to promote peaceful living. Some of the aspects they encourage are respecting and valuing differences, handling conflict peacefully, respecting rules and promoting the proactive participation of families.
The program provides support to parents in helping them motivate their children with their education. An interesting theory Esther shared with us was the ‘power of a hug’. It was proven that children’s attitude and motivation towards their education were positively and greatly impacted when they were hugged by their parents at the start of the school day compared to children that were not – a simple yet wonderfully effective approach.
What an exceptional week in Mexico as part of the Education Trade Mission aiming to help transform the education in Latinoamérica. ¡Muchísimas gracias Mexico!
Read about our visit to Centro Escolar Morelos school in Puebla, Mexico.