Education in Mexico: Calderon's Vision Meets Test Results

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on September 9, 2009

Elected officials in Mexico often buy radio and TV time or use the Internet to distribute spots in which they describe their efforts to build a better future for their people. President Felipe Calderon has been particularly active with such efforts, including one on education that was released at the end of August and is posted on Youtube here.

"All of us want a Mexico that offers more opportunities to our young people and that permits them to prepare themselves to obtain dignified work and compete successfully with young people worldwide," Calderon says in the video. "In the government of Mexico, we are determined to transform Mexico, to transform its future through education." He talked of financial support the government provides to needy families, of an ambitious program to refurbish schools, of efforts to ensure competence in the teaching corps. (See here for more on Mexico's teachers union.)

It is an impressive presentation by a man whose efforts in his first three years of office have earned him high public approval ratings despite the recession, drug violence, swine flu, and drought that have shaken the country.

But now comes discouraging word about the performance of Mexican high schools, which are generally known either as prepas (prep schools) or technical schools. Here is how El Universal began its story on the results of a test administered to more than 835,000 students in nearly 12,000 schools:

"After 12 years in the school system, eight of every 10 young people who finish high school in Mexico know only how to perform basic operations -- addition, subtraction and multiplication of whole numbers -- and one of two has a low level of reading ability, according to the National Evaluation of Academic Achievement in Educational Centers."

The implications of such performance are grim. As President Calderon notes in the video, "investments and employment around the world are decided on the basis of the quality of the quality of education in every country."

Topics: Education