The CNTE and the Fight against Reform

By Fagan, Evan | Washington Report on the Hemisphere, June 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

The CNTE and the Fight against Reform


Fagan, Evan, Washington Report on the Hemisphere


The Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (the National Coordinator of Education Workers union; CNTE) has been increasingly active since 2013 when President Enrique Peña Nieto created the Education Reform Bill in order to boost Mexico's comparative standing in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) where Mexico scored last out of all 32 participating OECD countries. Recently, on May 15, the CNTE began an indefinite strike against Peña Nieto's neoliberal education reforms, demanding dialogue and negotiations with the government.

The national and international media have criticized the CNTE and its demands since the beginning of their campaign against the Education Reform Bill in 2013, painting the CNTE as corrupt and abusive. While some media claims hold truth, particularly regarding problematic organizational practices, it is important for observers to not obscure what many teachers and parents are demanding: the protection of indigenous students against distant attempts to privatize the Mexican education system.

The CNTE

According to their website, "The CNTE is an organization of the masses formed by the workers for democratic education of the country, independent of the bourgeoisie and their state, corporatist unions, and whatever other political organisms, which is to say it is not the property of anybody."* The CNTE also claims to be involved in the alleviation of class oppression, regardless of race, sex, or religious creed. It is non partisan, and one of its primary objectives is to reshape the much less militant Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (The National Union of Education Workers; SNTE), which it hopes to make more democratic and less corporatist.

The primary differences between the SNTE and the CNTE are as follows: the SNTE was founded in 1943, 36 years prior to the founding of the CNTE, and has a much greater number of members than the CNTE. Additionally, the CNTE fights for the independence of teacher's unions from the government and authorities while the SNTE works under the guidelines and authority of the government. Another unique aspect of the CNTE is its militancy as shown by their frequent marches, which have led to teacher absences and school closings. In reality, the influence of the SNTE is inextricably linked to the power of the administration. Critics occasionally describe the SNTE's role in the education system as the "colonization of the education system." This claim is due to the SNTE's close ties to the federal government, which is attempting to homogenize Mexico's education system through the teacher's evaluations introduced by Peña Nieto's reform.

The Education Reform Bill

One of Enrique Peña Nieto's first major reforms during his presidency, the Education Reform Bill, was implemented in February 2013, and began the normalization of standardized teacher evaluations. The bill made clear that three evaluation failures by a teacher would result in job termination. According to Peña Nieto, "This is an important and transcendental step to improve the education of Mexican children and young people." With Mexican children scoring poorly in comparison to other countries, the education reform, to many, seemed like a reasonable initiative. However, since its creation, the reform has received much criticism. A metaphor for the problems this reform creates is that of a school bus that is falling apart. In regards to Peña Nieto's reform, the government's response to fixing this school bus (the school system) is simply replacing or reforming the driver (the teachers) and expecting a new and improved bus (school system).

Responses to Reform

One common criticism of the Education Reform Bill is that it is a transparent neoliberal attempt by Peña Nieto and the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party; PRI) to privatize the education system. …

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