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EDUCATION

SEP: School at the Center

Article of the Secretary of Public Education, Mtro. Aurelio Nuño Mayer

This year will be key to the transformation of the Mexican educational system. In the coming months, we will present each of the seven priorities that we have formulated to bring educational reform to fruition.

Today we are launching the first of these priorities that we have called the La Escuela al Centro plan. The objective of this scheme is to improve the organization of schools to bring educational reform to the classroom.

In the last few months I have had the opportunity to visit numerous schools in various parts of the country. Although each campus is different, I have found that there are recurring problems. First, most teachers complain of excessive bureaucratic burden that distracts them from their real task: teaching.

It is also common for parents not to find a way to be actively involved in schools. On the other hand, principals and teachers often have nowhere to turn when they need technical-pedagogical accompaniment and support in managing their campus. Similarly, school communities lack the flexibility and financial resources to meet their daily needs.

Finally, instructional time is used inefficiently in most of our schools. Various studies and international experts suggest that at least 85 percent of the time in front of the group is used effectively in learning activities. In Mexico, we allocate only 56 percent.

With the La Escuela al Centro plan we seek a change in the organization of schools so that all members of the community are actively involved in their continuous improvement. The whole system must be at the service of the schools and their students, and provide them with the support they require to raise the quality of education.

Our vision is that schools have principals who effectively exercise their leadership and teachers who work collectively to improve their methods. That the supervisors have the resources to provide technical-pedagogical support to the schools and that they have greater flexibility to organize themselves according to their needs. That parents participate in an active and informed way to contribute to the improvement of education. That the time in schools be used appropriately, dedicating at least 85 percent of class hours to effective teaching time.

To make this vision a reality, we will work together with local educational authorities, teachers, principals, and parents in six lines of action.

First, a new school organization with less bureaucracy. We will seek that each campus has an assistant principal for school management and an assistant principal for academics. For their part, the supervisors will have a technical-pedagogical support team and a management team. Lastly, the requests for information made to schools today by various bodies will be limited. Taken together, these measures will reduce bureaucratic burden and reorganize schools in such a way that they can focus on improving the quality of education.

Second, more resources for schools. Each school will receive its own budget to strengthen its management autonomy, according to its enrollment and its level of lag. With these resources, the community of each campus – principal, teachers and parents – will be able to decide collectively on what to spend the money, whether it is to fix a broken glass or to buy educational materials. The goal for the next school year is to go from the 50,000 schools that currently have this type of resources through the Educational Reform Program and the Full-Time Schools, to 75,000. In a complementary way, we will launch an online portal where teachers, principals and supervisors can consult in exchanging pedagogical resources and experiences.

Third, strengthening of the School Technical Councils. These councils are critical to improving instruction in schools because they bring together teachers and the principal of each campus for academic planning and monitoring. Until now, the guidelines required that these councils meet three times before the start of school to plan the year and last Friday of each month to follow up on the improvement path. With the La Escuela al Centro plan, we will give each school community greater flexibility to organize these tasks. It will no longer be mandatory, for example, that the sessions of these tips be on Fridays. Each school, both public and private, will be able to choose the day of the month and the time that suits them best.

Fourth, active social participation. The School Councils for Social Participation are the basis for decision-making to solve the most urgent needs of the campus and its link with the community. Parents, teachers, educational authorities, civil society organizations, as well as the social and productive sectors are represented in them. We will strengthen these councils so that parents have effective instruments to demand transparency and accountability in each school.

Fifth, better use of time in the school day. To make the best use of study time, we will allow each school community to choose different ways of organizing their calendar. To this end, an initiative to reform article 51 of the General Education Law will be submitted for consideration by the Congress of the Union to allow modifications in the structure of the school calendar.

In no case will the number of hours be cut. Directors, teachers and parents, subject to the approval of the state educational authorities, may adjust the school calendar and schedules according to their needs, within certain parameters. Primary and secondary schools will continue to have the same number of hours per year, but now they will be able to choose whether to continue teaching them in 200 days with the traditional schedules or to change to a 185-day calendar with longer hours and thus improve the effective use of the time in classrooms.

Both modalities are kept under the parameters that are practiced in the rest of the OECD countries. On average, the member countries of this organization have 185 days with 791 hours in primary school and 183 days with 907 hours in secondary school. In Mexico, the regular-time elementary schools have 800 hours of classes per year, the extended-day primaries 1,200 and full-time 1,600, while the secondary schools have up to 1,167. In all cases, the number of days and hours will remain above or exactly the OECD average.

In the case of preschool schools, class hours will be increased in all cases from 3 to 4 hours per day for the 200-day calendar and to 4.5 hours for the 185-day calendar. This change will not only significantly improve the quality and equity of teaching – international evidence shows that extending early education is crucial for better educational development at all levels – but will also represent an important support to working mothers in Mexico .

Sixth, summer schools. In a complementary way to the adjustments that we propose to the school calendar, we will seek a better use of the summer holidays. Like the new preschool hours, this will not only improve the quality of education, but also equity, by offering sports and cultural activities in public schools, as well as academic reinforcement to the children of those parents who so they wish. We will launch a pilot program this summer with the intention of scaling it nationally in the 2017-2018 cycle. All these changes will be made in strict accordance with the law and without affecting the teachers’ labor rights.

Mexico is experiencing an exceptional period in its history. In the life of a nation, there are few opportunities to undertake such a fundamental transformation as the one our educational system is experiencing today. The changes are many, but our objective is only one: that all children and young people in the country have the quality education to which the third article of the Constitution commits us. To achieve this, we all have to work together. We at SEP define the educational policy guidelines and lead the project, but education is everyone’s responsibility. For this reason, I call on local educational authorities, all educational officials, teachers, parents and society in general to participate in this renewal.

Source:  SEP

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