Friday, February 19, 2010

Another Enemy for Elba Esther

It's the UN, whose local education rep says that the secretariat of public education is essentially subordinate to the teacher's union (the SNTE) headed by Elba Esther Gordillo. It also said that the much-heralded Alliance for Educational Progress was little more than a political agreement. One hopes that such pointed criticism from an esteemed international body might spur some action, but then again Mexico's been hearing similar comments from the OECD for years.

It seems that much of this criticism comes from the point of view that the a strengthened SEP needs to be the white horse to defeat the evil SNTE. That may be partly true, but in my not-insubstantial experience with the SEP, it's also an embarrassment, to put it mildly. I have had no dealings with the SNTE, so it may well be worse (a scary thought), but I've never had any interaction with the SEP that didn't start from a pointless premise, that didn't include hours of time wasted, and that wasn't marked by inexplicable inefficiency and a lack of professionalism. If the SEP is the white horse, God help Mexico.


pau said...

The failure of Mexican education is scary.
I recently asked a group of 3rd year students of International Business at a Public University that I am teaching a course to on Socially Responsible Business how you measure the financial performance of a business (in preparation for looking at how you might measure the social and environmental performance).

After a long, long pause one of the students tentatively suggested....."Profits?"

Paul Roberts said...

PS above comment was left by me not Pau!

pc said...

I'd say my kids are pretty sharp and a lot of them relatively informed and worldly, and I have no complaints about their work ethic for the most part. But for me the educational framework in Mexico is f'd, virtually across the board. (I've never worked as a teacher in the States or in ant other countries, so it might be just as bad elsewhere.) The SNTE is supposed to be as corrupt and abusive as Tony Soprano's gang. The SEP is, as I said, not exactly a paragon of efficiency and competence, although I've not worked in a public school so I'm probably being unfair. But even the elite private schools (at least the ones I'm familiar with) suffer from grave philosophical deficiencies, such that I'd prefer to not to let a child of mine study there either. Most of them are for-profit business, and there's an obvious conflict between the imperatives of profit maximization and educational value. The ones that are set up like non-profit unis in the US are just as bad, even worse in some sense because they tend to be more bureaucratic, because they measure their success more than anything (from what I've seen) in terms of growth. Even more frustrating is that no one recognizes how damaging this is to the educational experience, and there's never an honest attempt to reconcile those two competing goals. Those are harsh generalizations and therefore unfair, but you get my drift.

I also hasten to point out that this is not a judgment on the talent of the people working in the schools, or the students. I actually think the convivial environment in most Mexican schools is far better than the socially cut-throat atmosphere in a typical American school. But the governing structure in most educational institutions in Mexico is profoundly, fundamentally flawed.