Teachers in Mexico are continuing their determined struggle against education 'reform' which is being forced on them by the right wing government of Pena Nieto. The reforms would see schools being forced to teach standardised curricula and teachers taking standardised exams based on Spanish and English in a country where millions of people speak indigenous languages. Teachers say that the reforms are also paving the way for privatisation.

In the state of Oaxaca alone there are 18 different indigenous groups with 18 different languages. Teachers have been campaigning for months with local indigenous people, setting up stalls in the main square to explain to the people the kind of education they want to see and how it differs from the kind of shrink-wrapped one being forced on them by the government. Most of the teachers work in rural areas in schools sometimes without roofs or walls, electricity or water. Many of the children come to school hungry. As one teacher quoted in a recent article said, “How can I teach computers in a school without electricity and teach English to a group of children who aren’t yet alphabetized in Spanish?”

The teachers are fighting for a curriculum which is multicultural and agreed with local people. As one local union leader put it in the same article, “We want to show the richness of our state, how rich it is in culture and tradition. The government wants to make every school teach the same thing, completely ignoring our indigenous roots.  Mexico is country with many languages and many traditions.”  

The protests both by teachers and indigenous peoples are often attacked violently by the police. At the beginning of the month, angry teachers attacked the Oaxaca offices of the ruling PRI party as part of a protest against the reforms. A local teachers' leader commented that the teachers' actions were nothing in comparison to the crimes of the PRI against the Mexican people.

Meanwhile young people training to be teachers in Oaxaca and also in the state of Michhoacan set up road blocks, hijacked buses and occupied offices to protest against the failure to give them contracts until they passed the standardised exam. Teachers meanwhile continue to occupy the main square in Oaxaca City

In the country as a  whole thousands of teachers have been told that there are no jobs for them and that they will have to wait till serving teachers retire or resign. And at the same time there are millions of chidren with no-one to teach them. The government is attempting to blame teachers for the poor state of Mexican public schools while failing to give suficient funds to staff and equip them properly. This is of a piece with a forthcoming report from the World Bank which puports to show that the main problem with education in Latin America is poor teaching. And of course its 'solutions' - big data, performance related pay, standardised curricula, destroying such employment rights for teachers as exist - are identical to those being imposed by the Nieto government.

To read more about the background to the Mexican teachers struggles go here and here