Mexican Education Reform: The struggle of Mexican teachers.

by | 22 Oct 2013 | The Blog | 0 comments

The Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) governed Mexico for nearly 70 years until 2000. In 2012 PRI returned to power under the leadership of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Shortly after taking the office, Peña presented a series of structural reforms amongst them was educational reform.

In the past PRI established a corporative system using workers unions to maintain a “balance” among the sectors. However, this time, the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), represented an obstacle to Peña’s reform. The lifelong secretary of the Union Elba Esther Gordillo “la maestra” was expelled from the PRI prior the 2000 elections but managed to create a new Political Party (PANAL) which was used as a political leverage, allowing SNTE to maintain control of educational policies.

On February 25th, President Peña Nieto enacted his reform; in the act “la maestra” was absent. A day later, Gordillo was arrested and charged with embezzling more than £97 million in union funds. A major political player whose charges were already put “on hold” by the National Attorney’s Office during the past Felipe Calderon-PAN’s administration,[1. Jiménez, Carlos. “El GDF de Encinas congeló 9 meses el casoElba”. La Razón.  March 2013.] was ousted after 23 years of leading SNTE.

Peña Nieto’s educational reform consists of 4 basic aspects.

  1. The creation of the Teachers Professional Service (Servicio Profesional Docente), a track career teacher system to access and advance teachers positions within the national education system.
  2. The Institutionalization of an assessment policy towards the National Education Assessment Institute (INEE), which has subsequently been constitutionally vested to conduct assessments and issue quality standards in national education
  3. The Full Time Schools program to increase daily schooling hours up to 8 hours
  4. The creation of the Information and School Management System, which will count the schools nationwide and will serve as a platform to cede the financial autonomy over school budget therefore increasing the school autonomy.[2. Presidencia de la República. “Reforma Educativa”. July 2007.]

The reform presupposes that from now on teachers will be assessed and could eventually be sacked depending on their scores. The reform also establishes an assessment policy where a rationale of homogeneous assessment is applied in a very heterogeneous educational system; and finally, it opens the door for private investment in the public system and the regularization of “cuotas” (illegal fees charged to families so that public schools can pay for ISP, telephone, and other lease services). However, this reform contravenes the legal rights of teachers as the assessments constitute a prosecution against their labour rights.

A Chronology of Mexican Education Reform Protests, 2013


Teachers arrived to Mexico City to protest. Coming mainly from Oaxaca’s Section 22 from the C NTE (National Education Workers’ Co-ordinator, a faction grouping sections form the SNTE originated in 1979 to democratize SNTE), teachers caused chaos to the already chaotic metropolis, demanding the abrogation of the enacted reform.

See: CNTE “Nosotros Somos CNTE” CNTE blog. July 2013; Antenaza B. Natalia. “Régimen político alinea piezas para desalojar las calles de la Ciudad”. Revolución Tres Punto Cero. August, 2013.


CNTE occupied the Zocalo (Mexico’s main square) as the negotiations were stalled. Protestors rallied everyday closing avenues and blocking private media buildings (Televisa, TVAzteca). Mainstream media started to portray teachers as vandals, lazy and ignorant.

See: Antenaza B. Natalia. “Régimen político alinea piezas para desalojar las calles de la Ciudad”. Revolución Tres Punto Cero. August, 2013.

Jun- Jul

An agreement was reached between the SEGOB and the CNTE: a National Forum of Consultation was to be carried out.  As the CNTE delivered the conclusions of the forum, the SEGOB disregarded those conclusions.


The rallies continued while teachers form other states arrived to the City. Teachers blocked the Congress several times to impede the legislators approving reform’s secondary regulations. At the same time, the SEGOB announces that, the reform will not be stopped.


On the 11th the Congress approved the secondary regulation  and SEGOB demanded the teachers to move out form the Zocalo as the national festivities for the Independency of Mexico were to be held in the main square. On the 13th, the teachers form the CNTE were surrounded by the Federal Police in the Zocalo and as teachers were moving out clashes with the federal police produced around 80 detainees and injured people. Academics  and Human Rights Organizations  in Mexico regarded the event as emblematic of the prevalence of violence over dialogue. Meanwhile the Movimiento de Regeneracion Nacional (MORENA) leaded by the left presidential ex-candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced a series of rallies against these reforms and solidarizes with the teachers.

See: Luego de un duro proceso, la reforma educativa entra en vigor el jueves. CNN México. September, 2013. ; Cabrera, Rafael. “El viernes 13 de la CNTE: desalojo del Zócalo y enfrentamientos con la PF” September 2013; Camacho, F. y Jiménez, A. “Cien académicos rechazan la violencia como método para solucionar conflictos”. La Jornada. April, 2013; Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos, “Levantamos nuestras voces” Comunicado. September, 2013.


Recently, Section 22 teachers decided some 20% would remain in the City, while the remaining would return to Oaxaca and restart teaching by October 14th.

At the time of writing, teachers are still protesting and rallying in Mexico City but protests have also sparkled and extended to more than 20 states where in the past teachers remained affiliated to the SNTE. Teachers form Chiapas Veracruz and Guerrero are joining the remaining ones in Mexico City to continue protesting.

The so called reform on education has also been characterised as a labour reform more than a reform oriented to really address the real problems of Mexican education, such as school infrastructure and improving teacher schools and training. While teachers’ positions towards the qualification assessments is not radically opposed, the movement sustains assessments are not adequate. Nevertheless issues such as the virtual privatization of the schools and legalization of quotas are perceived as a retreat from the state obligations, with regards to its constitutional entitlement to provide free and universal education to all Mexicans. Education in Mexico remains one of the lowest scores within the OCDE PISA assessment.



Jaime Echavarri Valdez

Jaime Echávarri is a Phd Student at The University of Manchester – IDPM. His research is looking at how teachers in elementary education in Mexico acquire and create ICT knowledge in different contexts of scarce ICT teacher education policies.