Mexico celebrates 100 years of education as a public right

published 9 February 2017 updated 15 February 2017

The SNTE, Education International’s Mexican affiliate, spared no detail to celebrate 100 years of education as a right for all citizens, at the centennial anniversary of the adoption of its national constitution.

Trade union officials from the Sindicato National de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), Education International (EI)’s affiliate in Mexico, joined their president, Juan Díaz de la Torre, high-profile politicians and international scholars and delegates to celebrate a century of free public education, a right included in Mexico’s 1917 Constitution.

The celebration was headed by Díaz de la Torre alongside the governor of the State of Mexico, Eruviel Ávila Villegas, and the secretary for Public Education, Aurelio Nuño Mayer, who signed SNTE’s declaration “For education and public schools”.

Human right and public good

At the international seminar “Education and public schools”, organised by SNTE as part of the celebrations, Díaz de la Torre said the Constitution’s 3rd article – relating to education as a right for all - shows Mexico’s commitment to establish education as a fundamental human right and a public good.

He highlighted the opportunities that had been created for all Mexicans with the establishment of a compulsory and free public education, especially for those living in conditions of inequality and poverty. “The education system then became the best platform to build a country in justice and equity”, at a time when almost 80 per cent of the country’s population could neither read nor write, he said.

International support

The event was also attended by prominent international scholars. Antoni Verger, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, outlined the findings of his latest research into the expansion of private for-profit education in the Latin American region. Gustavo Fischman, from the University of Arizona, and Carol Anne Spreen, from New York University in the US shared their research on public policy and education. All of the speakers highlighted the importance of education as a human right and a public good in the development of a nation.

EI: “Time for bridges, not walls”

In his keynote speech, David Edwards, Deputy General Secretary of EI, stated his support of Mexico in the context of its current foreign policy challenges. “It is time for bridges, not for walls”, he said, congratulating SNTE and its affiliates for a century of compulsory, free and secular public education. He also stressed the union’s key role in the fight against the privatisation and commercialisation of education, a fight that is “possible, necessary and urgent”, with edubusinesses aiming to turn education into a marketplace.

Edwards highlighted the “long way from education as a privilege to education as a public right”, and the role that the teachers’ movement had played in the definition, institutionalisation and implementation of that right. “Our successes should make us proud, but let us not rest, let us continue to defend this right for our children and for the generations to come. Let us still be proud 100 years from now.”