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Cablegate: Calderon and Gordillo Cooperate On Education Reform

VZCZCXRO0002
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHM RUEHHO RUEHJO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHPOD
RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #1540/01 1421705
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211705Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1951
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USNORTHCOM
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MEXICO 001540

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR A/S SHANNON
STATE FOR WHA/MEX, WHA/EPSC, EB/IFD/OMA, AND DRL/AWH
STATE FOR EB/ESC MCMANUS AND IZZO
USDOC FOR 4320/ITA/MAC/WH/ONAFTA/GERI WORD
USDOC FOR ITS/TD/ENERGY DIVISION
TREASURY FOR IA (ALICE FAIBISHENKO)
DOE FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS KDEUTSCH, ALOCKWOOD, GWARD
NSC FOR RICHARD MILES, DAN FISK
STATE PASS TO USTR (EISSENSTAT/MELLE)
STATE PASS TO FEDERAL RESERVE (ANDREA RAFFO)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB EFIN EAGR PINR PGOV MX
SUBJECT: CALDERON AND GORDILLO COOPERATE ON EDUCATION REFORM

Summary and Introduction
------------------------

1. (SBU) On May 15, Teacher's Day in Mexico, President
Calderon unveiled the "Alliance for Quality Education" aimed
at improving education quality, school infrastructure and
teachers' skills based on five pillars: modernization of
schools, renewal of teachers' selection and promotion
processes, implementation of scholarships and nutritional
programs, curriculum reform, and improvement of the national
education system for teachers and students. The Alliance is
part of Calderon's social strategy "Vivir Mejor" (Live
Better) and represents the government's effort to develop a
long-term education policy that goes beyond the current
Administration and political interests. The Alliance
combines social commitments made by the federal government,
the local governments, and the teachers' union to improve
education. The question remains whether these commitments
will translate into tangible improvements in Mexico's
educational system.

Real Reform or Political Alliance?
----------------------------------

2. (U) Before governors, deans, cabinet members, teachers and
legislators gathered at the National Palace, President
Calderon, accompanied by Education Secretary Josefina
Vazquez, Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino, and the
President of the Teachers' Union, Elba Esther Gordillo
presented the "Alliance for Quality Education." Calderon
explained that existing educational problems were the result
of a demographic explosion, in particular the increase in
school-aged children, which had generated severe coverage
problems. Although the government has made significant
efforts to meet this group's needs, it needed to take steps
to improve the quality of education so Mexicans would be able
to compete successfully in a more demanding global economy.
Calderon remarked that after several discussions with the
teachers' union since the first day of his Administration,
the union and the government forged an agreement to work
together to improve Mexican education.

3. (U) A year ago, also on Teacher's Day, Calderon called for
the union's support in approving an education reform that
would tackle Mexico's educational system and improve
teachers' skills. A year later, both actors finally reached
an agreement to sign an "alliance," not a "reform" to improve
the country's educational standards. Calderon revealed a
general education agenda based on five pillars, which focus
mainly on improving schools' infrastructure and teachers'
skills and knowledge. This alliance represents a "social
commitment" by the federal government, local governments, the
society and the union as opposed to a binding legal
obligation.

Five Pillars of the Calderon-Gordillo Alliance
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (U) President Calderon said he was glad to see that the
five challenges for improving the educational system
discussed by the government and the union a year ago were now
a firm social commitment. According to the government, this
agenda includes the parents', the teachers', local
authorities', academics', researchers' and the private
sector's proposals. (Note: local press has run articles by
academics and associations complaining about not being
included in the discussion. End note).

--Modernization of schools, through the improvement of
infrastructure and technology, including potable water,
drainage, furniture, electricity, and depending on available
budget, computers in rural and urban schools. The government

MEXICO 00001540 002 OF 002


will give priority to 30,000 schools with the worst
performance.

--Renewal of the teachers' selection and promotion process
and incentives program. Teachers will be now hired or
promoted based on the results obtained in public national
competition and on professional merits. The first public
contests will be conducted before the new school cycle begins
in August. The government will also grant an annual economic
incentive to those teachers who achieve an improvement in the
educational performance of their students. The government
will also certify teachers once they fulfill all the
requirements of the Superior Educational System (education
requirements for Mexican teachers). Teachers will be
certified in three fields: technology, English, and teaching
skills.

--Implementation of a scholarship program to discourage
children from quitting school due to the lack of economic
resources. This program will be accompanied by others to
help children improve their health and nutritional levels.
The program "Safe School" will be expanded to 37,000 schools
to prevent and stop drug addiction and delinquency.

--Curriculum reform for elementary and junior high schools
to increase Mexican students' opportunities to compete in
equal conditions with other countries for the best jobs
worldwide.

--Improvement of the education evaluation system. The
government will improve the testing system and implement a
new National Education Evaluation System to measure the
students', teachers' and government's performance.

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) Calderon's announcement that the government and the
union had reached an agreement on the steps to be taken to
overcome the country's educational failings inspires hope,
but it remains to be seen if these commitments translate into
any tangible improvements in the educational system. It is
worth noting, that this is the third pact that the leader of
Mexico's education union Gordillo has signed with a Mexican
President, the first being in 1993 and the second in 2002. It
is also unclear whether the government will be able to
implement an independent and transparent system to evaluate
teachers and compensate them according to their skills and
performance, and most importantly if the union will be
willing to cede some of its control and include the poorer
teachers in the south of Mexico in the incentive and training
programs. The proposal is still very general and lacks
timeframes, which makes it difficult to follow up and measure
performance. Hopefully, the alliance opens a window, if even
a small one, to impro
ve education, an important tool to alleviate poverty in
Mexico, and it is not used by the union cynically as another
means to reap economic and political benefits of Mexico's
poorly managed education system. End comment.

Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /
GARZA

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