Amid cancelled exams due to the coronavirus, UK ministers may take comfort from the country’s modest gains in the international PISA tests at the end of last year.
Every three years, the UK’s 15-year-olds join pupils across the globe in sitting the PISA test, which ranks the 78 participating countries in science, maths and reading.
But for the country which came last in the 2018 PISA tests – Mexico – the results published in December last year came as a severe blow.
The results placed Mexico bottom out of all 36 OECD member countries – OECD being the intergovernmental economic organisation which runs PISA. By contrast, the UK improved its position by 10 places on 2015.
It’s not the first time pupils in the central American nation have hit the lowest scores. In the 2015 test, Mexico also came last.
With architect of the PISA test, Andreas Schleicher, saying even the UK has only made “modest gains”, what are his thoughts on Mexico?
Now three influential people in education policy-making in the country, who were attending the CIIE conference at Tec de Monterrey, have given their responses.
Governmental education official Luis Humberto Fernández said Mexico must stop comparing itself to other, high-performing countries such as Finland, as per the previous Mexican government, and instead focus on what works within the country’s own context.
“[Other countries] have really different communities and realities. We have to see what works in Mexico, for the Mexicans, with our Mexican context,” he said.
A middle-of-the-road tone was struck by Juan Alfonso Mejía López, who said education is both about attainment and developing well-rounded citizens.
But Marco Fernández, professor at Tec de Monterrey’s School of Government, roundly criticised the current government for what he described as a blasé response to Mexico’s poor showing in the test.
“Mexico is not an island; there’s a global competition – like it or not – and in that competition we’re losing,” he said.
Now Schleicher has urged Mexico to change its approach to the classroom going forward.
“Unless Mexico succeeds in changing its pedagogical environment, you’re not going to see massive improvements,” he said.
But Mr Luis Fernández added: “We’re working on how to build stronger, more patriotic citizens.”
Watch the video report from Mexico with Anna Staufenberg for the full story.