Academic journal article Bilingual Review

Special Education and Education Reform in Mexico

Academic journal article Bilingual Review

Special Education and Education Reform in Mexico

Article excerpt

PROVIDING QUALITY EDUCATION TO A DIVERSE STUDENT POPULATION

Special education in Mexico, in keeping with international trends, is in the process of transformation. Educational reforms currently under way in Mexico have adopted and systematized the measures recommended by UNESCO (1994) to extend educational services to all students, accommodate the diversity represented in the special education population, and provide a high-quality education for all students. The 1994 World Conference on Special Educational Needs held in Salamanca, Spain, highlighted the importance of including all students in our schools, celebrating their differences and responding to the specific needs of each individual. The Declaration of Salamanca adopted at the Conference outlined the principles underlying inclusive education, discussed the political implications of the Declaration, and provided an action plan for the successful implementation of inclusive schools.

In addition to international declarations, forces within Mexico were calling for reforms designed to decentralize education and to provide quality instruction for all students. In Mexico, as elsewhere, this required legislative changes to meet the challenges of educating students from diverse backgrounds, including those with special educational needs. The goals of education recently adopted by the Mexican government focus on restructuring public education to enable it to respond to the basic learning needs of all students while attending to their cultural, economic, physical, and cognitive differences. This has led to a reconceptualization of the role of, and services provided by. special education and its relationship to general education. This, in turn, has led to systemic changes in the delivery of services for special needs students, the retraining of both general and special education professional, and new strategies and interventions to meet the demands of an integrated educational system.

Legislative Changes

Present-day Mexico is redefining its basic liberties. The senate of the Republic of Mexico, in consultation with the social and political protagonists of the country, has initiated reforms directed toward the creation of a new federalism. As part of these reforms, the powers of the federation, the states, and the counties were established, particularly with regard to the distribution of the public budget.

Based upon this changing situation, a new federal pact was established for the National Education System (SEN). In 1992, the National Agreement for the Modernization of Basic Education (Secretaria de Educacion Publica 1992a. 1992b) was agreed to by the federal government, the 31 states of the Republic, and the Education Workers' National Union (Gordillo 1992). With the decentralization of the SEN, reform in education was initiated and restructuring begun. The restructuring consisted fundamentally of the decentralization of the SEN in an effort to return sovereignty to the states, allowing them to operate basic educational services according to the diversified conditions required by their particular populations, and to promote greater availability and completion of schooling (Pescador Osuna 1992). This movement toward a unique and diverse system of basic education created the need for constitutional reforms and legal ordinances regarding educational matters. Figure 1 provides a frame of reference outlining th e different legislative and programmatic components that underlie the educational restructuring process currently under way in Mexico.

According to Article 3 of the Mexican Constitution, every Mexican has the right to an elementary education. Article 3 was previously interpreted as providing for the education of children with special needs, but not as mandating special education on a federal level (Direccion General de Educacion Especial 1985). In 1993, Article 3 of the Constitution was amended, and a new General Education Law (GEL) replaced the previous Federal Education Law. …

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