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Mexico: Teachers protest against test-driven education

More than 70,000 teachers have marched through Oaxaca, Mexico, and taken strike action to protest against inadequate school funding and a recent policy that ties teacher compensation to standardised test results.

The strike action began at four different points around the city on 23 May, before convening in the city square, where teachers closed off intersections, toll booths, government buildings and business offices.

Although the teachers were demonstrating about local and state issues, the two main factors were funding and standardised tests.

The teachers have demanded that all elementary schools be given computers and that school electricity bills should be paid by the government, instead of the bills being deferred to families, as is the current arrangement.

The Oaxaca state governor claims that $128 million was offered towards school funding during previous failed negotiations, but union members say the proposed amount was closer to $59 million and therefore rejected.

Disagreements between the leaders of the teachers’ union and the organisation’s members have further complicated negotiations with the government.

Additionally, Elba Esther Gordillo, president of the teachers’ union, recently signed an agreement that made student standardised test scores worth 40 per cent of a teacher’s evaluation score. Teachers with the highest scoring students will receive a $1,725 reward, and some may even be rewarded with a new house.

However, many teachers disagree with this policy because it may encourage teaching to the test.

EI’s Chief Regional Coordinator for Latin America, Combertty Rodriguez Garcia, said: “EI firmly believes that the measurement of a teacher’s worth should not rely on standardised testing. Standardised tests measure a student’s ability to work within the system, but they also limit ingenuity and discourage teachers from creatively pushing students to achieve beyond normal standards.”

Although Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, and the teachers' union president, Gordillo, claim this policy will modernise and improve Mexico’s educational system, the passionate opposition demonstrated by working teachers highlights the tensions.

The teachers’ opposition caucus, composed of teachers from around the state, has given educators who disagree with the recent policies a method of organising their opposition through the strike action.

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