Probably the most popular of the Enrique Peña Nieto administration’s constitutional reforms — the ones we’ve heard so much about since he took office in December 2012 — is the education overhaul. Its cornerstone provision is to begin filling teaching positions based on evaluations of applicants’ qualifications, rather than on their political and union connections.
With the current methodology, an applicant lands a teaching position or promotion by 1) simply attending a normal (teacher training) school, regardless of his or her performance there, 2) a union favor, or 3) buying it.
The SNTE, the corrupt teachers union whose longtime leader is in prison, protested the reform vehemently. The CNTE, the parallel dissident teachers organization known for its aggressive and often violent demonstrations, protested even more vehemently.
But the reform made so much sense that it passed easily, unlike the more controversial energy and telecommunications reforms. An existing agency called the INEE was given autonomy from the Public Education Secretariat and charged with developing the evaluations and scheduling them.
The first were to begin this month, and the rest phased in over the 2015-16 school year.
Then last Friday the Peña Nieto administration suddenly suspended the evaluations. Not for a week or a month, but “indefinitely.” So forget everything you’ve been hearing for two years. There wont be any testing of teachers or teacher candidates.
As one researcher of education policy put it, “The administration is boycotting its own law.”
The issue is still on the front page of three papers, because NGOs and pro-education organizations in the private sector (called the IP in newspaperese) are fighting back. Reforma leads with their demands: “Evaluations demanded; EPN given 7 days.” Excélsior puts it this way: “IP and ONG deplore the suspension of evaluations.” El Universal chimes in: “Rejection of the teacher evaluations suspension is growing.”
Mexicanos Primero, the pro-education business group that several years ago sponsored a documentary indictment of the teachers union called “Barely Passing,” is not shy about accusing the administration of caving in the face of the SNTE and CNTE’s disruptive protests.
“They are giving in to blackmail,” reads its declaration circulating this week.
As the Reforma head hints, the pro-education and anti-corruption forces — embodied in this case in a not-so-progressive sector of Mexican society — are planning to play hardball to get the suspension rescinded.
Given their clout, they have a chance to succeed. But they'd stand a better chance if they adopted the winners’ strategy, which is getting out there to block streets, snarl traffic and set things on fire. That’s what seems to work best.