By KELIN DILLON
As more than 25 million members of Mexico’s school-aged population returned to class on Monday, Aug. 29, to begin the new school year, controversy is running abound surrounding the staggered implementation of the Mexican government’s contentious and newly created curriculum – an syllabus widely criticized by international educational experts yet still vehemently defended by departing Secretary of Public Education (SEP) Delfina Gómez Álvarez – throughout the nation’s public and private educational institutions.
The New Basic Education Study Plan, as ordered by the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), will begin rolling out in 30 schools per state – which still have yet to be selected – in October of this year, before mandatorily expanding in use across all of the nation’s public and private institutions in 2023. The SEP previously promised that the New Basic Education Study Plan would only be used in Mexico’s public institutions, a commitment it rolled back on less than a week before 2022’s school year began.
The soon-to-be nationwide curriculum has come under fire for a multitude of reasons throughout its crafting, including a heavy-handed praising of public works completed by the AMLO administration and exercises instructing children to identify the individual Mexican states by which political party is in control of its territory – all while López Obrador and the SEP tout the New Basic Education Study Plan as doing away with the corruption of educational plans past.
As a result, many educational experts have condemned the SEP’s new approach as indoctrinating Mexican children into the grips of AMLO and his administration’s so-called Fourth Transformation (4T), calling out the politically motivated rewrites of the history books and characterizing the move, as stated by Mexico’s former Undersecretary of Basic Education Gilberto Guevara Niebla, as “an act of demagoguery that can end up doing tremendous damage to our national education system.”
The plan has also came under fire for being quickly improvised by AMLO-ites without the necessary technical knowledge of curriculum creation to create a satisfactory syllabus, therefore putting the potential prospects of Mexican children in jeopardy later in life if the New Basic Education Study Plan leaves them undereducated as anticipated by sector experts. Given that the plan does away with national benchmarking standards, it will be altogether impossible to determine if the plan’s so-called curriculum is effective at teaching students in any capacity.
Likewise, experts have pointed out that the rush to implement the plan has left teachers without the proper education materials, textbooks and grade-specific content needed to accommodate different age groups’ learning levels. Rather than create study plans first and develop textbooks around it as standard in the educational development process, the 4T approached the New Basic Education Study Plan from the other way around, only adding to educators’ and students’ confusion.
Still, following the lead of her executive, Gómez Álvarez took the start of the school year as an opportunity to double down on the Basic Education Study Plan and her perspective on its purported potentials.
“There is a concern that the plan is going to be applied right now,” said the SEP head at the time. “No, we are in the pilot application where this year it will be done through 30 schools per state, in order to provide attention and follow-up, and we were still commenting with the secretaries of education of the different states. It is open to some observations, some comments, because finally we remember that, as well as education, health, even communication, we must be open to a constant transformation and a constant process of adjustment.”
She went on to say; “The Basic Education Study Plan is a product of a work that has been thanks not only to the teachers in front of the group, but also to experts, educational authorities, secretaries of state governments, our children, who have also participated different secretaries that make up the presidential cabinet.”
Gómez Álvarez, who is leaving her post to run as her party’s candidate for governor of the State of Mexico, also spoke about salary raises for teachers and creation of new teaching jobs implemented underneath her helm at the SEP.
With the national benchmarking tests removed from Mexico’s schooling syllabus, not even time will tell if the Basic Education Study Plan does its job at sufficiently educating its students. But if the voices of seasoned educational specialists are to be believed over the rag-tag team of AMLO’s inexperienced curriculum builders as they should, the Basic Education Study Plan is not set to expand the minds of Mexico’s students, but cage them inside the 4T’s mentality instead.