The La Flecha al Aire Award, founded by Javier Beristain and organized every year by the Fundraising Office, seeks to recognize the rigorous research of newly graduated ITAM students whose thesis focuses on education in Mexico. Prior to an award ceremony, a panel of various education experts discussed the situation in the country, as well as the possibility of new solutions to long-standing problems.
Meet the Winners of the VII La Flecha al Aire Award
Valeria Moy, general director of the think tank México, ¿cómo vamos?, professor of the Department of Economics at ITAM and moderator of the event, opened the panel pointing out that Mexico is lagging behind in education at a vital moment of technological change. Given the ITAM approach and the profile of the majors it offers, she asked how this approach can contribute to society in matters of education.
Go Beyond Imposed Educational Limits
Lorenzo Gómez Morín, member of the Advisory Council of the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI), expressed the importance of addressing the education issue in universities that do not offer such directly-related programs. He said education in Mexico must transcend the disciplinary boundaries of traditional majors.
Education experts can be somewhat closed to new opinions, but this view of other professions may be more relevant in finding new ways to address the problems that exist in qualitative education. He pointed out that the traditional system, although good at the time, is currently counterproductive, since the information contained in textbooks is considered to be the only source available for new generations, when reality shows that emerging technologies complement this information a great deal and can be the key to breaking old paradigms and for the educational system to progress.
On the other hand, Dr. Rafael de Hoyos, principal economist at the Educational Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean of the World Bank, spoke of the importance of making visible the situation of people who are at the other end of the wealth distribution spectrum. These children, although they have the right to attend school, receive very poor education. They do not even have teachers, but rather community instructors who do not have adequate training. That entire sector of the Mexican population is born with differences, and the Mexican education system exacerbates those differences instead of appeasing them. He also said that millions of Mexicans leave compulsory education (or before finishing it) and do not have the minimum skills necessary to contribute to democracy, productivity and the formation of human capital.
Education in Mexico for All
Dr. Margarita Zorilla, professor and researcher of the Department of Education at the Universidad Autonóma de Aguascalientes, continued with this vision, speaking about the democratization of education in Mexico. Although access to school in the country was mandatory, success in education was not democratized. The same system blames those who enter it and fail because they are poor, they have no opportunities, they are offered a different quality of education, among other reasons. Dr. Zorilla pointed out that there is a social and pedagogical debt of the entire population with its poor sector to balance the situation a little more. She also said that “we are not going to achieve quality of life if we do not resolve the country’s inequality issues.”
Dr. Zorilla believed before that there was a dilemma between quality and quantity of education because there was a clash between the ability to educate the entire Mexican population and the quality of education it received. Now she recognizes that this a false dilemma, because all that is required is greater effort on the part of the whole society. Although it is complicated, it is not or should not be impossible. Educators must have knowledge of what is the evolutionary development of people and what is learning, and then be able to optimally teach the knowledge they posses.
Opening the Eyes of the Entire Population
Another important aspect is to make young people face the different realities in our country. Experiencing activities outside the comfort zone provides knowledge of different environments.
The panel concluded with a question from Dr. Moy: Where to start generating changes and advances in education in Mexico? All the speakers agreed that the best place is in early childhood, because that is where the first values are formed. Any investment in secondary or higher education is regressive if you do not have the right bases. Also, classrooms are a place where more actions must be taken. A school must be able to make decisions for its students in the context of its campus. Therefore, following a unique program throughout the country goes against the needs and personality of each school.