The day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto inked broad education reform legislation, his government took another major step in the sphere of Mexican education by arresting the head of the country’s teachers' union. On the evening of February 26, Elba Esther Gordillo was taken into custody for embezzling some $156 million in funds from the Mexican Educational Workers Union (SNTE). In a televised statement last night, Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam gave an overview of illicit money transfers and misuse of funds, from transfers to bank accounts in Lichtenstein and Switzerland to big purchases at luxury department stores. “I want to remind everyone that this money came from the savings accounts of education workers, the union, and was used, among other things, to pay a Neiman Marcus credit card for an account that came close to $3 million.”
As the documentary ¡De Panzazo! explains, Mexico is the OECD member that spends the most on education in terms of public spending, yet its education system ranks last in terms of quality. ¡De Panzazo! (Barely Passing) director Juan Carlos Rulfo and producer Daniela Alatorre spoke with AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis after the film’s New York premiere on June 4 at Americas Society. With the support of civil society group Mexicanos Primero, the documentary calls for quality education and teacher evaluations in Mexico. Rulfo and Alatorre explain how they became involved in the project, involving Mexican students in the film’s production, the need to share best educational practices on an international level, and the impact of the film during a Mexican election year.
Costa Rica’s high literacy rate has long made its educational system the envy of the Americas. Still, high school enrollment and access to higher education remain tough challenges in the Central American country. Costa Rican Education Minister Leonardo Garnier spoke with AS/COA Online’s Editor-in-Chief Carin Zissis, not only about how his country is fighting dropout rates, but also how new teaching approaches and technology can play a role in boosting education. Garnier says that changes underway offer “more relevant, more significant, and more entertaining education so that kids will stay in high school—but they will stay for a good reason, not just for staying there.”
AS/COA Online: With a 96 percent literacy rate, one of Latin America’s highest, many see Costa Rica’s education system as a model for other countries in the region. What models in other parts of the world do you look to for inspiration and ideas?
Garnier: Well, I don’t see Costa Rica as a model. I think we have done some things that have been useful for us, but still, we have a lot of problems. When we look at other countries, for example, the things that small countries like Finland have done with education, certainly there is big room for improvement in our system.
Mar del Plata played host to the twentieth Ibero-American Summit over the weekend, where leaders took a stand to reject undemocratic power seizures. In a special declaration, the members agreed to expel any country that fails to follow democratic processes. “There is no Latin American forum in which you can be a member if you do not respect the democratic order,” commented Argentina’s Foreign Minister Hector Timerman. Leaders in attendance signed on to a final document that focused on boosting education and social inclusion, as well as a series of releases touching on topics ranging from the Falkland Islands controversy to climate change. And, despite news reports wondering whether WikiLeaks about Latin America would cast a shadow over the summit, leaders carried on with business and inked deals on the sidelines.
A special series in the print edition of the Fall 2010 AQ highlights eight outstanding teachers from the region. Meet one—Peruvian teacher Leoncio Tamay—and learn about the school where he works.
Served as multimedia editor.
CPM Braxis CEO Jair Ribeiro, in an interview with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis, discusses Partners in Education (Parceiros Da Educação), a program he established in São Paulo to match executives with schools—particularly in poor and underserved areas—to improve teacher training and boost students’ test scores. The program has proven to show marked results in the “adopted” schools. As the model developed by Partners in Education evolves and improves, executives from across Brazil approached the organization about adopting the model in other parts of the country.
AS/COA: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Partners in Education and how and why you started it?