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MEXICO: Education

The piece by Elias Castillo has been commended by several people. Miles Seeley says it "explains how the world really works and what Mexico must do to share in the prosperity. I'm sure many will not like what he says, but that does not change the accuracy of his remarks. As one who has spent a fair amount of time living in and facing the harsh realities of "the real world," I have to think that Mr. Castillo also has done so".

Paul Simon says "I suspect this interesting posting from Senor Castillo will open up a debate about the relative merits and deficiencies of the US educational system. WE may see postings about underpaid teachers, poor infrastructure, the flight to private education, the failure of universities to produce well-rounded people, low standardized test scores, social promotions, and all that.

As we ponder all the problems the US system has, we should stop and wonder, "If it is truly so lacking, why is the end result such a creative and inventive populace, such a vibrant economy, such high technology, etc?" I want to point out two unsung strengths of the US system. 1) Standardized test scores are artificially low because the US is an immigrant nation, and one that has immigrants from non-English speaking nations. One in FIVE children in US public schools is not a native speaker. Hardly surprising, therefore, that such students score lower on standardized tests. This does not mean that such pupils will never learn English and master these skills and go on to be valuable citizens, however!!! 2) The US may have the world's best informal, post-graduation education system. In 14 years abroad I have never elsewhere encountered anything like the US network of night schools, practical skills academies, self-teaching books, on-line courses, corporate training, adult education, government training, off-sites, workshops, professional seminars, and welcoming of older students back to universities. Hence, even someone leaving their university with gaps in wisdom and technical skills, has opportunities (sometimes forced upon them by their employer) to plug the holes".

I strongly agree with point 2, but not with point 1. To attribute low scores to the 1 in 5 who are not native English-speakers is bad arithmetic, and does not explain the failure in mathematics. California used to have an excellent school system, but now incredibly its results are about the worst in the US. Oriental schools do well in general because the society is more used to exacting schooling.

Bienvenido Macario compares US education with that in the Philippines:"The situation in Mexico is quite similar to that in the Philippines, except that in the Philippines there is no incumbent PAN party instituting educational reforms. The schools and universities charging the highest tuition fees are still controlled by the same group. In trying to keep a firm grasp on the Philippines, colonial administrators did not bother to teach Filipinos the Spanish language, which was spoken by less 5% of the population at the height of Spanish Colonial Philippines. So when the Americans came and opened free public schools (up to 4th grade), they quickly picked up the English language and the Philippines is now the second largest English-speaking nation after the US, having surpassed England's population".

I am puzzled by the statement about the Spanish colonial administrators. Spain believed that "language is the instrument of empire", and, thanks to the religious orders, Spanish is now heard in the remotest areas of Spanish America. As I have pointed out, often illiterate Indians speak better Spanish than people in modern cities like Buenos Aires.

Ronald Hilton - 11/28/01