Tag Archives: education in Mexico

Online Prepa


Remember how part of my transition year included the fact that my son would no longer be attending school in town?  Well, he’s been enrolled 5 months now and here’s how that is going.

At the end of July, we headed down to the UVEG office in Moroleon in order to enroll my son in the online Preparatoria program.  He needed to actually take the entrance exam there in the office, I suppose to reduce the chance of cheating.  Well, as I didn’t need to be there, I dropped him off and went shopping.  I went back later to pick him up and the supervisor said that he had left some time earlier because he wasn’t able to take the examination.  Why wasn’t he able to take the exam?  Well, I set it up so that notifications from UVEG get sent to my Gmail account, not his and he didn’t know my password to get the link for the exam.  Well, alrighty then.

So we tried again the next day.  I waited this time.  I brought my Kindle and twirled around in a computer chair for about 2 hours while he completed the exam.  He tested out of the Introduction to Spanish course, but didn’t do so well in the other sections, well, he passed, but not enough to opt out of those sections of the course entirely.

So his first course online was Introduction to Computer Science.  Seems like a good one to start with.  Only he found it tediously boring.  When it came time to take the exam, he missed an entire section (because it was boring) and failed.  He had the option to do an extra credit activity (for a fee of course) and passed with a 77.  

The second online course was Online Classroom Study Techniques.  Again, this seemed like a good course, even helpful perhaps?  But just like the first course, he found it BORING!  He procrastinated and then the last day to turn in the exam he had made plans with friends, so rushed through it and guess what?  Failed again.  He did the extra credit activity and passed with a 70.

You can probably guess that I wasn’t a happy camper at this point.  As an incentive, I drew up a potential income chart.  If he scored above a 90, he would earn 500 pesos.  An 80 would earn him 200 pesos.  No earnings for grades in the 70s.  Anything below that, woe betide him.  He must reimburse me for the retake fees.  AND he would not be allowed to say at the little house in Sunflower Valley overnight until he brought his grades up.

The third online course was Mathematical Reasoning and he bellyached about that, but the first week he completed 70 percent of the course. He was doing well.  He had 80-100% correct answers on his activities.  Then he let it slide.  He logged on to complete the final section, worth 25% of his grade to find out that the course had closed the previous day, 3 days early, due to technical problems with the site.  So he failed AGAIN!

For some reason we couldn’t register for the recuperation activity, site problems I guess. So he would have to take the course over again.  

The next class was Text Analysis, not his favorite by a long shot. Upon registration,  I really emphasized that he needed to complete the course sooner rather than later.  The whole point of doing this online course bit is for him to learn how to manage his time effectively.  So far he hasn’t mastered that particular skill. If he learns something from the actual course he is taking, well that’s a bonus.  Call me crazy but time management would be something to excel at before taking more extensive(and expensive) courses.  I also threatened to send him to the downtown computer lab to do his school work daily.  If there are too many distractions (Minecraft, Facebook, Whats App) for him at the little house, well then, time to move to a distraction-free monitored zone.

This time, he really applied himself even though I know this was his least favorite course so far.  The report card came and he passed with a 71 the first time around. No extra activities needed, no redoing the entire course.  Yipee!  As a reward, the prohibition to staying at the little house in Sunflower was lifted. He now could choose one night to stay overnight per week.  IF he passed the next course, he’d be allowed to stay 2 nights.

December brought a redo of Mathematical Reasoning.  Since he had done well with the material the first time around, he rushed to completion a full week ahead of schedule.  He double and triple checked that 100% of the course activities had been submitted and we waited for the grade. 79.  Much better!

So, over the holidays, there aren’t any classes scheduled.  Wanting to get a jump on the new year, we went to register for his next class, English (he’d better pass this one) and much to my delight, beginning in 2018, all online preparatorio classes are free in the state of Guanajuato.  Oh, happy day!  I feel less guilty about quitting the book reviewer job now.  Of course, if my son fails and needs to do extra credit activities, there’s a fee involved but he must reimburse me according to the rules above.  He’s currently 14% through his total studies.  Considering that his classmates who continued their education at the local prepas will only be 25% through their studies next July, I think he’s making good progress.


Herbalism Courses for all levels



Filed under Education, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Christmas in México–Elementary Event


After the morning’s kindergarten event, I went and hid in my classroom awhile to rest. The elementary event was scheduled for 6 pm the same day. It made for an extremely LONG day.

Initially, I thought I would be singing with fourth, fifth and sixth graders, so I picked the song “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” I imagined a mini-skit. A group of carolers arrives at a house, and a couple comes out to enjoy the singing, afterward rewards the singers with a little food and drink. Seems simple enough, right?

I expect you have read enough of my posts to realize by now that things don’t often go as I imagine. The principal informed me on December 1 that I would be responsible for teaching the carol to third grade as the rest of the students already had parts in the Christmas play. That only proved my suspicion again that he doesn’t like me. Third grade is a particularly challenging group. I have been struggling to teach them since the beginning of the school year. They are all very intelligent but so concerned about other students in the class that they spend most of the class either insulting other students or getting up to hit the insulter, making discipline very challenging.

Of course, the first rehearsal went poorly. I sent for the principal. He’s a big guy and makes quite an imposing sight. When he entered, the class quieted down enough for me to explain what we were going to do. I had to redesign the skit. Now instead of a couple in the house, I would have the girls be the householders. There are only 3 of them. The rest of the class are boys. So the boys would be the carolers.


Now we needed a house. I asked my art friend Claudia to make me a house. She outdid herself on this project. I ended up with a nearly club house-sized gingerbread house. I told the kids that they were in charge of protecting the house from the other students as kind of reverse psychology. It didn’t work. The first time I showed the third graders their house, various adornments were damaged. I had Claudia come again and fix it. I didn’t take it out of hiding until the dress rehearsal, then I hid it again, just in case. I wanted it to at least survive the event. It did cost me a pretty penny after all.


I also had the kids cover a cup with aluminum foil for the “cup of good cheer” and make a music book with the words inside–just in case they couldn’t remember the song when they were actually in front of a crowd.

We spent 2 weeks rehearsing daily. Oh, the agony of it! I had the boys form two lines, short and tall, and put the most troublesome at the head of the line. Every single day, I had to remind them what they were supposed to do. Line up, enter the scene, spread out, say Merry Christmas, look at me and my finger counting to begin and sing. Then pause after the request for figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer for the girls to bring their refreshments. Look at me again, watch for my finger counting, sing the last verse and exit stage right. It felt like I was trying to teach a herd of cattle ballet.

I only agreed to continue if the principal was present in each and every rehearsal. He didn’t have any choice to accept. That helped some.

Two days before the event we had the full rehearsal. It was just plain awful. We waited around 40 minutes before it was even our turn. By that time, the kids were running around much like chickens with their heads cut off. I finally got them more or less arranged, and then the clown in the back started to sing as fast as he possibly could, throwing off the rhythm of the rest of the singers. I threw in the towel with that. I just walked off, told the coordinator that 3rd grade was not able to participate at this time, and hauled my gingerbread house off the scene.

The next morning, I gave it another go. They did everything exactly right! I was so hyped! Now, to just get through that afternoon’s performance!

I arrived early. Actually, I didn’t ever leave. No one came to pick up little P after school, so I stayed with her until I was able to get ahold of someone at 4:30, three hours after school let out. As the kids began arriving for the event, I positioned myself right next to my gingerbread house. I was determined to see that nobody knocked it over and trampled on it prior to the event. I glared at every little brother or sister who dared approach. The school kids gave me a wide berth as well.

The event started late, as expected. The play part went just fine–no major mishaps. Suddenly it was my turn, and I wasn’t ready! I hurried over to the kids and marched them around the audience. We had a pile up at the gingerbread house. The boys wanted their own music books. I kept telling them that it didn’t matter whose book it was, the music was the same, but it did delay things a bit.

All three girls were present. However, more than half the boys were missing. Well, it couldn’t be helped. We’d perform as we were. They did fine–singing acapella rather than with music–everybody was happy–especially me now that it was over. I marched them back to their places and sat down to enjoy the next few songs performed by the music teacher.

Santa Claus made an appearance again–this time with Mrs. Claus. She read a longish letter that asked for health for all the teachers and the director for Christmas. The kids received a bag of candies. Fights broke out in the receiving line and Santa had to step in to settle the kids down. Then it was officially finished.

The director invited everyone to enjoy corundas and ponche, only the corundas hadn’t arrived yet. I went and made myself useful serving ponche while keeping an eye on the gingerbread house. Three-fourths of the attendees left after their cup of ponche, off to their own posadas. The corundas did finally arrive and those of us that remained enjoyed them immensely.

I headed home at about 7 pm. My frigid moto ride was considerably longer due to road closures and posada parades. I nearly wrecked when I met a procession headed by a giant illuminated star on a stick at the corner. As I got further out of town, there were fewer hazards to contend with. I got home and went straight to bed.

See why teachers aren’t big fans of school events?

SOTBS Blog Hop Op1Sq

    Have a Christmas in Mexico themed blog post?

Link it up here!   An InLinkz Link-up 



Filed under Carnival posts, Education, Mexican Holidays, Teaching

Mexican Educational Reform and Political Wrangling


The last Friday of every month during the school year, except December and Semana Santa, is the dreaded CTE (Consejo Technico Educativo) meeting for teachers formerly known as Organo Colegiado Escolar (OCE).

The now redesigned CTE meetings are a direct result of recent educational reforms passed into law by the esteemed Mexican President Pena-Nieto. In theory, additional teacher training is a good idea. After all, the Mexican educational system definitely has room for improvement. But…..

The CTE forum is based on a teacher training program used in Chile, modified to suit the Mexican government’s agenda. Instead of open and frank discussion and problem-solving, the content of the CTE meetings is carefully orchestrated by the Ministry of Public Education (SEP). Each meeting is to focus on a reglamento (statute) and there is no room for individual school differences based on the assumption that the teachers, students, and schools in Oaxaca and those in Mexico D.F. are equal in every way. Everybody must be on the same page as the program progresses. (Educational Reform and State Power in Mexico)

In addition, each school is to submit a proyecto escolar (school project) complete with short and long term goals. Again, in theory, that seems reasonable. However, the school projects must be approved or the school risks losing accreditation. So it’s no surprise that the projects are, more often than not, chosen from a government approved list rather than designed by each school to meet its needs.

As if that isn’t enough, individual teachers are required to submit el plan de maestro (teacher’s plan) which demonstrates how each teacher plans on incorporating the school project and reglamentos (statutes) set up by the CTE into his or her teaching.

control education

So we have this 3-tiered plan of action in school reformation which sounds progressive, to be sure. However, government control is rampant. Subject matter is carefully monitored. Textbooks are issued by SEP and both teachers and schools must render an accounting at the end of the school year. The CTE meetings are yet another way the federal government of Mexico is exerting its influence on the educational system.

The national news has been highlighting some questionable activities on the part of teachers to support the new reforms. One practice that surprised me was the passing on of teaching degrees to the children of the teachers who had obtained them. The teaching credentials are considered an inheritance much as a title of Don was under Spanish rule. But that age-old tradition took a back seat to other “concerns.” Probably because nepotism is alive and well here in Mexico.

Fun Fact for ya–Did you know that the current president is related to four former governors in his state and that his cousin took over his governorship when he was elected as president?


Another less than kosher practice was discovered when a census of current teachers was conducted. There were thousands of teachers throughout Mexico that were receiving government pay for teaching at non-existent schools. Reportedly there were even 70 teachers nationwide earning more than the President himself. I find that hard to believe. Perhaps the dean of UNAM could be raking in those big bucks. But really, even the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO) reported that the average teacher’s monthly salary at only about $2,000 USD. Being a teacher myself, I find this estimate still too high.

poor teacher

Looking at another source, the World Salaries comparison reports Mexican teachers earn between $651 USD and $1,018 USD. That seems to me a far more believable figure since my own teacher salary is under even that amount. The inflated IMCO figures have been used to prejudice the general public against teachers. Based on those figures, the agency reports that teachers are the highest paid occupation in Mexico. That’s an eye opener for ya! I’d like to see the census of politicians receiving excessive pay and compare their paychecks before I make any judgment on this particular issue. (See Mexican Officials Feather their Nests while Decrying US Immigration Policy)

Just as an interesting side note—Did you know that the current president of Mexico receives somewhere between $13,307 USD and $20, 857 USD each month before taxes? Nobody seems clear on the exact figure of Sr. Pena-Nieto’s salary. Did you know that the current president will continue to receive a lifelong pension after his term ends? Did you know that there are currently 5 ex-presidents receiving this lifelong pension?

Then another 1,440 teachers in Hidalgo all had the same birthday and were over 100 years old. Those dastardly teachers! However, the state officials clarified that those marked with the birthdate December 12, 1912 have child support deducted from their salaries and the birthday is a way of noting that.

Another little tidbit–Pena-Nieto has been accused of being a deadbeat dad. He fathered an illegitimate son in 2005, while married to his first wife (who died under mysterious circumstances in 2007). He claims he pays up, but the mother of his child disagrees and outed him on Facebook in 2012.

Finally, there was the recent arrest of the former president of SNTE teacher’s union for embezzlement. Elba Esther Gordillo even made Forbes Most Corrupt People in Mexico list. But don’t worry, it’s not just teachers that are corrupt. Pena-Nieto’s own uncle, Arturo Montiel Rojas, also made the list.


So based on these questionable teacher practices, the federal government has stepped up their vigilance. There has been extreme resistance to reforms from the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) and the National Committee of Education Workers (CNTE), but not for the reasons that are often publicized.

For instance, one of the new requirements will be the mandatory testing of all teachers, principals, counselors and staff. The assessment designed by the National Institutes for Educational Evaluation (INEE) must be satisfactorily completed during a two-year period. If teachers do not pass, they will no longer be allowed to teach, but will be assigned administrative positions or be forced to accept voluntary retirement. A teacher that does not take the test will not be allowed to continue in his or her current position.


The SNTE and CNTE are not opposed to teacher testing but insist that this will not solve the underlying problems in the Mexican education system. One teacher described the situation in this allegory paraphrased below:

‘The government has seen that our students are in an educational “bus” that is in poor condition, like the trambillas (chicken buses). The shocks are gone, the brakes don’t work, the steering wheel is loose, the floor is rusted through and so on. The government sees that our children take this bus over a rough road, hardly even a road, full of dangerous curves, holes, steep cliffs and so on (Mexican society) So the government’s solution to this is to take the driver of the bus (the teacher), give him a new suit, a fancy cap, train him to fly planes even. Then, after all that specialized training put him back in the same bus that runs over the same road. The problems that the educational system face are not being addressed in additional teacher training.’–Professor Alberto at the November 27th CTE multi-grade meeting in Moroleon.


Another issue that protesting groups highlight is the top-down approach to educational reform as demonstrated in the CTE sessions and the national exams. The teacher unions insist that exams should be created from the bottom-up with teachers in the classroom contributing to state-administered exams that take into account the disparity of income, culture and even language found throughout Mexico.

While Mexico has eliminated the yearly national exam called ENLACE, the National Institute for the Evaluation of Education (INEE) began implementation of another exam administered to sixth graders in elementary school, third-year secondary students (ninth graders) and third-year high school students (12th graders) called PLANEA.

At our last CTE meeting, we were given a chart that showed the results of the PLANEA from last year. Guanajuato state was next to last for the results of this exam. The top performing district was Mexico City, followed by Colima.

Ok, looking at just that information–

Mexico City is the 8th wealthiest city in the world. Schools within the district are under the domain of the federal government rather than State control. So it would be safe to bet that schools are more than adequately equipped with all the modern doodads that make learning interactive and fun. Federal teachers are paid much higher than State teachers, another incentive there.  And as the federal curriculum comes from the same source the PLANEA, students taught that curriculum are in a good position to score well on the exam.

Colima, ranking in a #2 on the PLANEA exams is Mexico’s fourth smallest state and the second-lowest population but is considered to have the highest standard of living and lowest unemployment rate in Mexico. Again, it seems that the prize goes to the elite. Within the state, there are only 307 preschools, 510 elementary schools, 131 middle schools and 57 high schools.

Now let’s look at Guanajuato, ranking next to last on the PLANEA exams. This state has over 4,000 preschools, 4,600 elementary schools, 1400 middle schools and 650 high schools. Aren’t we comparing apples to oranges here?

All in all, based on the results of the PLANEA only 12% of students in Mexico have adequate academic skills. At the last CTE meeting, teachers of Guanajuato, me being one, were berated for the low scores because it has to be the teachers fault, right? (See Mexico Public Education: New Student Achievement Test Finds Elementary and Middle School Students Still Perform Poorly)

big story.png

But what’s this all about really? Here are some headlines that you might not have seen with all this publicity on educational reform–

Mexico Plans to Eliminate 246 Social Programs in 2016

Nearly a Dozen Dead After Violent Few Days in Mexico’s Guerrero

Mexican President Has Spent Almost $1 Billion in Publicity
Mexican Lawmakers Demand Peña Nieto Declare Financial Assets
Violence, Impunity in Mexico Put Governance, Democracy at Risk

Drug Violence Fueling Displacement in Guerrero, Mexico

Mexico readies for 2016 Domestic Drug Policy Debate
Leaked Intelligence Points to Top Level Corruption in El Chapo Escape

Pemex: Oil Theft Up by 44% in Mexico

Mexico Local Officials Behind Mass Grave in Morelos

The Implications of Mexico’s Rising Deportations

No Keystone, No Problem: TansCanada Turns to Mexico Expansion

Violence, drugs dash Mexico Triqui people’s dream of new start far from home

Yes,’ Carlos Slim Is Linked to Drug Trafficking




Filed under Cultural Challenges, Economics, Education, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms, Politics, Teaching