Education vs. emigration

The poor quality of Mexican schools keeps the economy weak, writes Liam Julian on Education Gadfly.

. . .the nation’s K-12 schools are models of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption. They are also in thrall to the all-powerful National Education Workers Union, which has done much to devalue and degrade classroom instruction for Mexican children.

For example, the teachers union has advocated keeping the elementary school day limited to a paltry four hours of instruction. It has opposed any overhaul of an 80-year-old middle school curriculum that perceptive government officials say is in desperate need of modernizing.

Teachers bribe the union so their job applications are expedited. Once hired, they won’t be fired — even if they cut class to work another job.

Add to this graft the schools’ incompetent, centralized control and the results are predictable: a 2005-06 World Economic Forum report placed the quality of Mexican education 81st out of 117 countries. Only 25 percent of the nation’s students graduate from high school.

A poorly educated workforce keeps the economy from growing, Julian writes, encouraging underemployed Mexicans to go north for opportunity.

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Comments

  1. There is a chicken or egg question here.

    I have noticed a distinct devaluation of education among the parents of the children I teach. The vast majority of these parents are first and second generation immigrants (legal and illegal) from Mexico. During parent-teacher conferences when I tell parents their child is failing seventh grade,I have had parents tell me “So what, I only went to school until the third grade and I’m doing OK.”

    I had a student who never turned in a single assignment all year, and I never received any contact from his parents, despite letters and phone calls.

    My school then reinforces this attitude when my prinipal announces that he is not ever going to retain a student.

    So my question:

    Is Mexican education so bad because Mexicans don’t care?

    or

    Do Mexicans not care about education because Mexican education is so bad?

  2. Wayne Martin says:

    In an earlier thread the question of Mexican education came up. While difficult to find much on this topic on the WEB, one site claimed that the high school graduation rate was only 28%. The CIA Fact Book page for Mexico claims literacy at 92%.

    Given that educational performance is tightly linked to the education of the parents (particularly the mother), it would seem that as more people immigrate to the US (from places like Mexico) that the educational interests of the parents will tend to predict their childrens’ performance.

  3. Indigo Warrior says:

    The vast majority of these parents are first and second generation immigrants (legal and illegal) from Mexico. During parent-teacher conferences when I tell parents their child is failing seventh grade,I have had parents tell me “So what, I only went to school until the third grade and I’m doing OK.”

    Well, that’s the truth. The parents are doing well, with plenty of informal family-based education and practical life experience to make up for the lack of formal government education. They are no so dumb. If the schools are so bad, then staying in them for 12 years is the dumb choice. These parents are not going to be brain surgeons – but there are plenty of opportunities for hard workers without diplomas missed by so many born-Americans. And what about entrepreneurship?

    The question is whether the (relative) success of their parents will transfer to the children. Do the children want to participate the in the knowledge econonmy, or live the same lifestyle as their parents? Are their parents giving them a good education outside school?

  4. Mike, a diag in Texas says:

    I do quite a bit of work with the ESL community. It is possible to claim a 92% literacy rate in Spanish, because of the phonemic differences in Spanish and English. It only takes typically to the 3rd grade to be a proficient reader in Spanish. It takes typically until the 9th grade to be a proficient reader in English.

    Think about it: in Spanish an “f” is simply an “f.”

    In English, an “f” is an “f” or a “ph” or “gh” or…..
    You see my reasoning.

    In Spanish, 5 vowels. In English, 15 vowels and vowel combinations. (I think, I am going from memory here….)

    Bottomline: They are not equivalent comparisons.

  5. Wayne Martin says:

    > The parents are doing well, with plenty of
    > informal family-based education and practical
    > life experience to make up for the lack of
    > formal government education.

    Certainly one needs only so much education to work in service industries. Bringing in a salary is probably better for someone who is not educationally inclined, than sitting around in classes that are not particularly valuable to this career path.

    More than one poster has supported returning to high school programs that are geared to kids headed directly to the job market. This is another example of why this isn’t such a bad idea.

  6. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    TexasMike’s argument that Spanish is phonetic/English is not, therefore, it’s harder for native Spanish speakers to master English is specious–Asian students, for example, whose native languages are VASTLY MORE DIFFERENT THAN ENGLISH–ie. Thai, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Hindi–and do not contain the NUMEROUS COGNATE WORDS TO ENGLISH that Spanish has (the difference might only be a single letter, ie. constant/constante or words containing similar Latin roots, ie. solar/sol…..In LA Unified School District por ejemplo, Spanish-speaking students should master English far more rapidly than Asian students, and yet they don’t. At our elementary school, most of the non-English native Asian students have transitioned to fluent English status easily by 3rd grade; less than half of our native Spanish speakers who started in pre-K or K have transitioned by 5th grade–and many still don’t transition, despite ESL classes in middle school. Cultural values clearly matter, when it’s that many people over generations.

  7. Mike, a diag in Texas says:

    I wasn’t comparing anything other than the length of time to master reading in a particular language.

    I did not comment on the ability of any group to learn English faster than one another.

    You make good points, but are off topic from what I was writing about…..

    Perhaps better reading before flaming……

  8. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Again, you miss the point–time of language acquisition is what I was addressing….I guess it’s easy to dismiss as ‘flaming’ an inability to respond to ‘valid’ points. ‘Nuff said.

  9. Wayne Martin says:

    > Cultural values clearly matter, when it’s
    > that many people over generations.

    Yes.

  10. Indigo Warrior says:

    More than one poster has supported returning to high school programs that are geared to kids headed directly to the job market. This is another example of why this isn’t such a bad idea.

    I was one of those posters.

  11. Indigo Warrior says:

    Another factor to consider re. the success of immigrant communities is the hurdles such communities jumped. Generally, the most successful ones are those whose immigration was fraught with distance and danger. Compare Cuban-Americans (swimming from Castro’s pet sharks) to Mexican-Americans (hopping over a lightly-defended border). Both are Hispanic in tribal culture, but the former are more likely to own hotels, and the latter, clean beds in them.