Delfina Gómez will leave the Ministry of Public Education (SEP) to contend for the governorship of the State of Mexico for the second time in her career, but during her tenure as Secretary of State she did not solve the greatest urgency in the educational system: to have an accurate diagnosis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during two years of distance classes, as well as on the effects on learning and school dropout and, in addition, did not specify a clear strategy to recover students, specialists agree.
Added to this, the cuts in areas as relevant as teacher professionalization –which came to have up to 85% fewer resources in 2021–, the disappearance of the Full-Time Schools program, the cuts to the INEA and the changes to textbooks without first having an educational model, among other problems, will have an effect on educational matters that will be seen in the following years.
This is what Marco Fernández, a researcher at Tec de Monterrey and Mexico Evalua, and Pedro Flores, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Querétaro, warn in an interview with Animal Político.
On the achievements of the outgoing secretary, they point out the late payments to English teachers and Distance Education facilitators, but refer that in reality they were only palliative, because the problems of basification and full payments are not yet resolved. And although the government could consider as a contribution the construction of a supposed new educational model called La Nueva Escuela Mexicana, specialists warn that in reality it is not very relevant in the midst of the urgency left by the pandemic.
Although Delfina Gómez replaced Esteban Moctezuma as of February 2021, with the pandemic still present and the task of organizing the return to face-to-face classes, in the following months she did not achieve it with guidelines dictated by the Federation, but it was the state governments that made the decisions according to each context.
The main responsibility of the SEP was to have the diagnosis of the affectations at all levels of the school communities after two cycles practically only with classes through television, the main strategy of the federal government in educational matters during the pandemic.
However, he did not comply with this. At the moment, only some entities are promoting these diagnoses, which is essential to create the next strategies, say the specialists.
“There is no comparison of how we are, how to set priorities, how to work with teachers in schools to make the recovery route, how to recover learning. Instead, we are wasting our time with ideological discussions such as changing curricula,” says Marco Fernández.
The really serious thing, insists the researcher, is that there is no strategy in the face of this reality: “Today we have 367,000 fewer young people in upper secondary education, 200,000 fewer young people who moved from high school to upper secondary education and a fall in preschool enrollment of 13%, and there is no specific measure in this regard.”
According to data from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), at least 628,000 young people between the ages of six and 17 have interrupted their studies due to the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. A decrease of this magnitude means a 13-year decline in the level of school attendance.
Meanwhile, the World Bank (WB) calculated that the pandemic caused a lag in Mexico that is equivalent to two years of schooling. Before the pandemic, Mexicans reached on average learning corresponding to third grade, and today they will reach only the equivalent of first grade.
To this is added the disappearance of the Full-Time Schools program, a trans-exempt strategy that served the most vulnerable areas with food services and extended hours in schools. Although the SEP has insisted that both services can be contracted by parents with the resources they receive through the School is Ours program, it is not yet clear how they could do it nor are there evaluations of those who have achieved it.
The administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador also elevated higher education to constitutional status as compulsory and promised the creation of a Special Federal Fund for the obligatory and free higher education, but this has not been allocated resources.
Gómez also left “as a free agent” Marx Arriaga, director of Educational Materials of the SEP, “to act on his side making textbooks and proposing a curriculum when there is not even an educational model,” says Pedro Flores.
For the researcher of the Autonomous University of Querétaro, the changes in the direction of the SEP, first with Esteban Moctezuma, who had worked more than a decade with the businessman Ricardo Salinas, and then with Delfina Gómez, who will now be Morena’s candidate for a governorship, added to the inaction in educational matters in the first half of the sexennium, they show that this administration “is clearly not interested in education, and the effects will not be seen immediately, but in the years to come.”
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