Wednesday, May 22, 2024

25 million students hit the books as authorities declare conditions are right

After 2 1/2 years of interruptions due to the COVID pandemic, more than 24 million students return to the classroom Monday to begin the 2022–23 academic year.

Just under 24.5 million students will begin the new school year in preschools, primary schools and middle schools across Mexico, according to the Ministry of Public Education (SEP). Over 5.2 million high school students returned to the classroom after summer vacation on August 15.

Basic education students — those from preschool to middle school — will take classes given by some 1.2 million teachers in almost 233,000 schools, according to SEP.

In a statement published Sunday, the Education Ministry urged students to return to in-person classes, stressing that “the necessary conditions” to do so are in place.

President Lopez Obrador with Mexico's new education minister
Leticia Ramírez becomes Mexico’s new education minister Thursday. She inherits a plan for implementing major curriculum changes from her predecessor, Delfina Gómez. Presidencia

It noted that health authorities are recommending a range of measures to ensure that in-person learning can resume safely amid the ongoing COVID pandemic. Among the recommendations are the use of face masks in enclosed spaces, the frequent washing of hands, and the carrying out of activities in the open air where possible.

Health authorities also advocated vaccination against COVID for both teachers and students. Teachers were among the first people in Mexico offered shots, but the federal government only extended its vaccination program to younger children this year.

The commencement of the new school year isn’t only notable due to the return to in-person learning across the country, but also because the government will begin the implementation of a new curriculum model. A pilot program will initially run in 960 schools across all 32 federal entities, with the new “libertarian” and “humanist” model to be extended to all schools in the 2023–2024 school year.

Also notable is the fact that Mexico’s schools will have a new Education Minister this week: Delfina Gómez, who shepherded the new curriculum into being, is leaving the position Thursday to become a candidate for the governor of México state in 2023. Her successor, Leticia Ramírez Amaya, who has a degree in education and worked as a primary school teacher, most recently served as the director of citizen attention for the federal government.

The return to school comes as Mexicans face an inflation rate that reached 8.62% in the first half of August, the highest level in over two decades. Prices for school supplies such as pens, pencils and notebooks have increased even more, according to a vendor in the historic center of Mexico City.

“Products here have been affected by [a] 25–30% [price rise], but we try to give [customers] a good price so that they can buy everything they need,” Diego Tejada told CNN.

The ruling Morena party offered students and their families one way to save on school supplies: in a Twitter post on Sunday, it included six printable — and propagandistic — notebook labels with lines for students to write in their name, grade, subject and teacher. Each features an image of President López Obrador, Morena’s founder.

With reports from El Universal and CNN

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