Friday, 13 June 2014

The Future Belongs To Us

Poor old Mexico .... drug cartels everywhere you look, a low level civil war with those same cartels that is seemingly endless, and has cost tens of thousands of lives, and yet unbelievably that isn't its biggest problem. No, it is in fact a very bloated, very corrupt trades union. One that has had a massive influence over the  way civic Mexico has developed for the last 70 years, and will also develop in the next 50 as

Now before I name and shame, one has to understand the way 'modern' Mexico developed .... The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), assumed power after a long civil war in the late 1920's, and instituted a long series of electoral wins which became categorised as 'One Party Rule', between 1929–2000 ... this was of course a left-wing government (on which the current Venzuela government is modelled), and like all such political systems, it soon became corrupt, and the organisations and institutions it controlled soon became so as well.

One of those organisations was the education of children. Historically there had been an issue between the education offered in rural areas, and  the one in the urban areas .... this came to a head in the early 1920's, when there was disagreement between teachers who graduated from Escuelas Normales (teacher colleges) and the teachers from rural communities who had litle formal training. The “Normalistas” were reluctant to accept any expansion of teaching posts, to allow individuals who did not receive the same formal education as them, to teach. 

The revolutionary government of the time took the side of the rural teachers in this conflict, and  expanded the Escuelas Normales into rural communities, so any person who wanted to teach could have the same academic background. They also identified the need for a professional and curriculum reorganization, and the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) was created on September 25, 1921. In the 1930's, the new federal government implemented a centralization initiative to develop a national, education system for its people.

All ran smoothly enough, while Mexico went through something of an economic miracle, despite having a centralised control on the economy, and in December 1943, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educacion (SNTE) was founded, with the goal of educating, protecting and improving the benefits of educators. From the start the Union had a liberal membership rule, and it includes teachers, both from the public and private sector, educators with permanent and temporary positions, retired educators, members of the Secretaria de Educacion (SEP), and administrators from the federal, state, and municipal governments amongst its membership.

The nature of the one party state system soon led to 'clientelism' and the SNTE gained power over the education system, as it provided PRI politicians with votes in exchange for economic benefits for teachers. Although it was recognised that things had started to go seriously wrong in the education system, all attempts at reform, even after the PRI lost regular power in 2000, failed because of the opposition of all the unions, but particularly the SNTE.

SNTE Union Protects Its Interests

So now Mexico has the poorest education results of any country in the OECD. The problems are widespread and entrenched, and hold Mexico in a vice like grip, with its future mortgaged to this powerful union. Just to give you a flavour of the conditions the SNTE union has managed to lever out of successive Mexican leaders, here's a few of the highlights of what their membership can expect:

  • All teachers belonging to the SNTE union have refused to undergo even the most basic of teaching aptitude tests. 
  • They have more paid holidays than just the time between term periods.
  • They get two annual bonuses, one from the Federal and State level (two rounds of negotiation).
  • Some teachers in some states do not pay taxes on the bonuses (the taxes are paid by government).
  • They can buy and sell their positions as public officials
  • They can even bequeath their jobs to their children as hereditary posts. 
  • They get Orthopedic insurance and Dental insurance.
  • Their own subsidised housing program (Viviendas).

As a result of this:

  • There are actually 70 teachers, who records show earn more than the Mexican President.
  • Recently, it was revealed that 1,440 teachers in the state of Hidalgo alone, were all registered with the same birth date of 12 December 1912, making them 102 years old. 

Nepotism, corruption and inefficiency are commonplace in Mexican schools .... more attempts at reform are under way following more scandals, but are being met by stiff resistance from the teachers unions, so that  most Mexican pupils aren't doing any better today, than they were three years ago when the reforms started. The drug wars may eventually go away, especially if the Uruguayan approach to drug reform is adopted, but the future of Mexico will rest on the success of reforms to its schools system.


  1. Thanks for that short history of Mexican politics, I had no idea.

    1. I don't know why, but I always feel that Mexico could be so much more than it actually is.

  2. Just read in the news that the dissident CNTE teachers union in the state of Oaxaca have opposed the education reforms introduced by President Enrique Pena Nieto in 2013. The changes include new measures to assess teachers' performance. This has so far involved riots and now six people have been killed in southern Mexico in clashes between protesting teachers and police. This following arrest of two union last week, accused of corruption.

    Just FYI: The Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) is a teachers union in Mexico founded as alternative to the mainstream SNTE by teachers of the SNTE in the poorer, southern states of Mexico.

    Viva La Revolución seems to be the motto of the Mexican teachers, who have a poor reputation for actually teaching children, but a big one for hard left militancy and wanting something for nothing.

    1. I didn't know there was another even more radical teachers union in Mexico. who would have thought it was possible .... kinda explains why Mexico keeps failing to get out of the third world trap. Thanks for the interesting comment.


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