Institute of Public Education

The Institute of Public Education of Oaxaca (IEEPO) serves as the center of education located in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. It has currently been in the news as a result of the ongoing teachers’ strike and the growing disdain for the changes brought on by education reform laws proposed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. This reform, in reality, is targeting the teachers’ union, or the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) in an attempt to dissolve the union. The conflict lies specifically between the Mexican government and the dissident Section 22 of CNTE.

Oaxaca consists of a largely rural population, and public school teachers work diligently to target the various needs and demands of their students despite multiple significant barriers. The mountains of Oaxaca, while contributing to a plethora of cultural and linguistic diversity, also serve as a physical barrier in that the spread of knowledge is limited because of the mountainous terrain. Travel is extremely difficult, and the system in place within Oaxaca requires novice teachers to travel to remote locations by themselves, miles away from their homes. Oaxaca possesses a large indigenous population, with almost forty percent of the population considered indigenous. The Mexican state of Oaxaca has the worst literacy rate in Mexico, with just 93.5 percent of the adult population considered literate. The population is just under 121,000 people as of 2012 and is plagued with isolation. .7 percent of the population are considered to be below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. Issues with literacy and poverty contribute to a variety of societal problems that impact education such as domestic violence against women and children. Teachers feel that the odds are stacked up against them.

Article III of the Constitution of Mexico requires that all children within Mexico have access to free public education. Despite this, the rural education system in Oaxaca has been plagued by inconsistencies and broken promises that have now transformed into a sometimes violent struggle between teachers and state officials. The teachers are fighting an unjust system in an effort to advocate for themselves and their students. IEEPO has contributed to this conflict, as they have not only ignored the needs of teachers and students, but they have also worked with the Mexican government to put people in positions of power that are corrupt and unwilling to compromise. Teachers feel that they must tread carefully as they are relentlessly evaluated and tested at multiple times of the year instead of given the support they need to target the needs of their students. This is in comparison to education agencies in the United States such as the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which typically evaluates teachers just two to three times during school year and requires testing just once in a teacher’s career, depending on the situation. In an interview with a former school teacher in Oaxaca named Juana Sánchez Jiménez, she shared that students in Oaxaca are subject to terrible conditions within the schools, as the classrooms lack the necessities such as proper ventilation, enough desks, bookshelves and textbooks, school supplies, restrooms, and even running water. It is no wonder that the teachers want change.

The teachers’ crisis in Oaxaca is not a conflict merely destined to disappear. It has been a decades-long struggle that has now transformed into a social revolution. How the Mexican government responds to this struggle is pivotal in determining their reputation both domestically and internationally. True reform, starting with IEEPO, is a good start.