Secretariat of Public Education (SEP)

The Mexican Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) building is located near the center of Mexico City. It is rich with public history, including a series of murals from the famous Diego Rivera such as the “The Rural Schoolteacher.” The building currently serves as the headquarters for SEP, which has a multitude of purposes including the maintenance of public schools and ensuring that educational requirements of the Mexican Constitution are upheld.

Victoria Andrade de Herrara describes the progression of the Mexican education system in her work titled “Education in Mexico: Historical and Contemporary Educational Systems.” She states that, first, the history of Mexican public education began with the establishment of the first university in 1551 by the Catholics in the years after Spanish Conquest in 1521. In the years following Mexican Independence from Spain, Mexico took control of their education system. However, this was soon followed by a series of political upheavals that made it almost impossible to regulate education until the Mexican Revolution in 1910. The Mexican education system was then decentralized, ultimately leading to a chaotic lack of organization and resources that would prove to be detrimental until revolutionary and intellectual José Vasconcelos was given authority to reform the Mexican education system. As a result of this, the Secretariat of Public Education was created on September 25, 1921 and has worked since its creation to provide organization to the Mexican school system. Article 3, in addition to Article 30 and 31 of the Mexican Constitution, guarantees Mexican citizens the right to public primary and secondary education. As a result, it became necessary of the SEP to develop an education system that would support the articles of the Mexican Constitution. Originally, SEP targeted the high illiteracy rates that plague the Mexican people. Multiple reforms went into effect, including reforms aimed at providing classroom structures and missionary teachers for rural schools. The emphasis on educational reform continued through new leadership until more political conflict ensued. Socialism became part of the reform under Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas, though it eventually became the root of a social conflict that led to brutal attacks on teachers. Eventually, socialist education in Mexico failed. The SEP then spent decades combatting illiteracy and targeting woes in the system with reform after reform. Today, Articles 30 and 31 provides the basis of the Mexican education system, while the SEP serves as the primary entity of Mexican education system. Education is divided into multiple stages including “basic preschool, primary, secondary (junior high), prep school, higher education, and postgraduate” while basic education includes “initial, preschool, primary, secondary, and special education” (Herrara 20). Each stage is comprised of multiple requirements, goals and objectives. SEP continuously maintains that each state meets those requirements in addition to other criteria.

Currently, the Mexican public education system is facing a crisis as political leaders such as Mexico’s Secretary of Education, Aurelio Nuño Mayer, attempt to pass educational reforms that are met with opposition by teachers who do not support the implications of the reforms. In fact, during our time here, we were not able to enter the building because of a press conference held by the Secretary on the issue. In the months and even years to come, it will be interesting to see what reforms SEP puts into place to alleviate pressures from the teachers and rural populations.

Images

Aurelio Nuno Mayer, Secretary of Education in Mexico

Aurelio Nuno Mayer, Secretary of Education in Mexico

Aurelio Nuno Mayer is the Secretary of Education in Mexico. He was appointed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. According to an article by The Washington Post, he has spearheaded the Mexican educational reform law that would require more teacher evaluations. Because of this, Mayer has received harsh criticism for his reforms and ultimately his response to the teachers™ strikes in Mexico. He has made all efforts to put down strikes with imprisonment, lay-offs, and federal troops. His stark opposition to the teachers™ union in Oaxaca has resulted in disillusionment not only with teachers but with the nation as a whole. | Creator: Amy Townley View File Details Page

Press Conference at SEP

Press Conference at SEP

This is an image that I took of the SEP van and news vehicles outside of the SEP building in Mexico City. During our time here, we attempted to visit the SEP building but were unable to enter the building, which is usually open to the public. The news vehicles were there in preparation for a news conference to be held by the Mexican Secretary of Education, Aurelio Nuno Mayer, on the teachers™ crisis in Oaxaca that has ultimately resulted from the Mexican education reform laws put forth by Meyer and the Mexican government. | Creator: Amy Townley View File Details Page

Protests Outside SEP Building

Protests Outside SEP Building

This is an image that I took outside of the Secretary of Public Education (SEP) building. Notice the crowd of people outside of the door. There was speculation from verbal accounts from employees at a nearby restaurant that the teachers as part of the teachers™ crisis had taken over the building, thus the employees could not enter. The white sign that was torn down that had been previously strewn across the doors is another indication that the teachers had gotten access to the building. However, there are conflicting reports, as it is also said that the building was closed for the press conference held by Aurelio Nuno Mayer and the SEP. | Creator: Amy Townley View File Details Page

"La Maestra Rural"

"La Maestra Rural"

This is a mural by the famous Diego Rivera titled “La Maestra Rural” or “The Rural Schoolteacher,” which was painted around 1923-1928. The mural is part of a series of murals within the SEP building depicting the Mexican Revolution. Rivera was invited by former education secretary Jos© Vasconcelos in an effort to commemorate the event. At the time of the painting of the mural, the Mexican government advocated for a socialist education reform that was met with violence against schoolteachers. The mural is significant because it signifies the importance of rural schoolteachers in spreading literacy and knowledge while protected by an armed man on a horse. | Creator: Amy Townley View File Details Page

Secretariat of Public Education Building

Secretariat of Public Education Building

This is an image of the main office of the Secretariat of Education building located in the middle of Mexico City. The building has a beautiful exterior, while inside there are multiple murals including some from the famous muralist Diego River. SEP has a multitude of responsibilities including but not limited to the construction and maintenance of public schools, providing resources, regulating funds, and adhering to Article 3 (and article 30 and 31) of the Mexican Constitution. | Creator: Amy Townley View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amy Townley, “Secretariat of Public Education (SEP),” HistoricalMX, accessed January 22, 2018, http://historicalmx.org/items/show/35.

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