The new Mexican school’s challenge to eradicate violence

(Reposted from: Observatory of Educational Innovation. December 4, 2020)

By Ulises Avila, Margarita Euán and Rodolfo Sánchez

“Family and gender violence in all its forms has intensified during the pandemic.”

Education in Mexico faces critical challenges due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. This event radically changed the methods of teaching and learning. It also increased stress, unemployment, fear, and violence in all its manifestations. As the pandemic continues, violence against women is intensifying. According to UN data, “domestic violence against women has increased 60%” in Mexico during this pandemic. It signifies that two out of three women between the ages of 15 and 18 have experienced violence.

Violence in its multiple forms manifests itself more ferociously in times of pandemic. Nine months ago, when the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus began in Mexico (and with it new ways of life), the statistics about violence were already alarming. In all its forms, family and gender violence distinct from domestic violence increased from 23.4% to 100.7%, respectively, with data from the Observatory on Gender-Based Violence in the March 2020 report of the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection in Mexico. In whole numbers, these violent offenses increased from 147 to 295, comparing March 2019 with March 2020 (p.2). These numbers of widespread violence are alarming and must be addressed by various institutions and mechanisms; education is the central axis for people’s goodness.

“The educational level with the highest dropout rates in Mexico is upper secondary education. Violence in its different manifestations is the dominant factor for which a young person leaves school.”

Gender violence

Violence is facilitated by the infrastructure of violence in Mexico, a violent country accustomed to living in this situation. In 2017, seventy murders a day occurred: this statistic and the act going unnoticed by Mexican society and, even worse, by the government of that time. According to INEGI (2018), ” 66% of women have experienced some form of gender violence, and 44% have experienced violence from their partner or husband” (p.2).

Women represent more than 51% of the population; however, they have less access to education and work, according to Mexico’s 2017 National Discrimination Survey, recently published in 2019. Concerning education, the report points out the lack of options for young women in Mexico, despite having reached a higher education level than men. The same is also reflected in a gender gap in the workforce that restricts women’s advancement opportunities.

How do we build a society free of violence? How do we recognize our human essence? How can we make the humanist perception of the New Mexican School and its purposes our own? How do we contribute to building a school that starts from the perspective of human rights, conceives an open structure, integrates the community, and hopes to offer “a humanist education with a gender perspective that is inclusive, intercultural, scientific and excellent?”

The worldwide challenge in Goal 4 of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is Quality Education. The New Mexican School (NMS) has absorbed this goal to achieve education for peace, even seeing it as an immediate demand, not just in higher education but at all levels, ranging from elementary school through high school, college, and postgraduate education.

The New Mexican School

In Mexico, beginning with the 2018 Education Reform, new legislation was passed that amended Articles 3, 31, and 73, and also the Secondary Legislation was issued, reorienting the National Education System to guarantee every Mexican citizen the right to education. These actions present a new educational approach from the perspective of “human rights and substantive equality, influencing educational culture through co-responsibility and the drive to bring about social transformations within the school and the community.”

The NMS is the Mexican State institution responsible for fulfilling the right to education throughout the trajectory of all Mexicans aged 0 to 23 years. This institution has as its focus the integral training of children, adolescents, and young people. Its objective is to promote excellent learning that is inclusive, multicultural, collaborative, and equitable throughout the students’ educational journey, from birth to the end of their studies, adapted to all regions in the Republic. The NMS led to the establishment of new public policies for the Mexican educational system, which were formulated to ensure that young people could access school, stay in school, and graduate with established learning. This connotes that students “learn to learn,” that the learnings endure, and they become young people who value peace, individually and socially. Achieving this requires the will and commitment of teachers, staff, and administrators who are willing to transform themselves.

The history of education in the world affirms that countries with better educational systems have invested in refined, rigorous, free, and compulsory training of their teachers, directors, and administrative and support staff, adopting the perspective of human rights and the common good. This is now the great challenge of the New Mexican School.

High school (“Educación Media Superior:” EMS) in Mexico is the level of education with the highest dropout rate according to the national survey on school abandonment. (High school is the educational level which this article addresses). At this level, violence in its different manifestations is the most prevalent reason why a young person leaves school. According to data from the Third National Survey on Exclusion, Intolerance, and Violence in High Schools, 72% of men and 65% of high school women report having been victims of some form of aggression or violence by their schoolmates, whether physical or verbal. (2014, p 3).

What elements must we integrate into school to contribute to the disappearance of the various forms of violence? What is “Middle Higher Education” (high school) doing to help build a violence-free society to fulfill the central purpose of the New Mexican School?

These and many other questions should be central issues for the schools to address; however, there are still serious shortcomings to confront despite constitutional reform and the New Mexican School. We are all immersed in a culture that conceives violence as natural, where healthy coexistence fades away, and education for citizens, healthy coexistence and peace for the time being remain in the status of good intentions – because we are not enforcing legal, educational provisions currently implemented, at least in the EMS.

Education Challenges in Mexico

The great challenge for education in Mexico in the New Mexican School is constructing a society that perceives education as a transformer of reality in the country, where training, not just a directive, results in education that is humanistic, inclusive, gender-sensitive, intercultural, scientific, and excellent (NEM, 2019, p.3). We speak of education that contributes to reducing and eradicating violence, offering young people in Mexico the opportunity to achieve and exercise their right to education and decent and egalitarian treatment.

We need paradigm shifts achieved through the training of school staff, ensuring the same learning opportunities for all Mexicans, guaranteeing that excellent service will be possible if we consider the revaluation and holistic training of teachers, directors, support staff, and supervisors to be mandatory. The educational transformation of our young people must start from the perspective of entitlement to human rights.

We propose strengthening the ties between school and community through:

  • Education for peace through training in the New Mexican School.

  • The urgent training of teachers, managers, and support staff in the EMS, focusing on the human rights perspective.

  • Research-focused training.

  • Training for teacher board and certification.

  • Management training that demands fewer hours per school year both for the aspirant to a management position and the office managers:

    • in training for peace,

    • in training in the New Mexican School,

    • the obligation to pursue a master’s program offered by and for management staff (all staff).

    • Management training according to the regional context where the function is exercised.

Training that arises from the construction of the common good is required, not from the teacher, not from the principal, not from the supervisor, not from top to bottom, but from the construction of us as an educational system unrestricted respect for human rights.

The integration and collaboration of the human team and infrastructure are necessary to diagnose, attend, and follow up on young people and their families who require accompaniment; also, the urgent hiring of specialized personnel such as psychologists, social workers, and counselors who promote those activities in the New Mexican School that ensure the violence in all its manifestations will stop, which existing programs have not confronted and diminished.

The New Mexican School can influence the Mexican people’s culture and bring about paradigm shifts among all those involved in the school system. It requires teachers with passion, vocation, commitment, and values, who have training in gender awareness.

Having in the classrooms the staff who seek to eradicate the hegemonic machismo called patriarchy, with the firm conviction of never, never stop learning, is the only way we can guarantee that we will have an inclusive, equitable, quality education, not leave anyone behind.

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