, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 1-27

Recipients, agents, or partners?: The contradictions of teacher participation in Mexican secondary education reform

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Abstract

The countries of Latin America have been no exception to global calls for educational transformation and teacher professionalization at the secondary level. One of the newest of these reforms is Mexico’s Reforma de la Educación Secundaria (RS) (Reform of Secondary Education), launched in 2006. This article examines portrayals by various actors of the nature and extent of the participation of both teachers and the teachers’ union in the different phases of the RS, beginning with the initial formulation of the reform through the implementation and the “follow-up.” Findings indicate that in spite of efforts to provide more transparency and opportunities for teacher participation, for the most part secondary teachers in Mexico neither felt like agents nor partners in the RS, nor did they function as such in the reform process. As in previous reform efforts, teachers mostly felt that they were recipients of plans formulated by government officials, and as a result many have evidenced neither complete compliance nor full commitment to the reform. The national teachers’ union, meanwhile, claims to represent teachers’ voices and thus a form of teacher participation, but this claim is denied in the findings. The discussion and conclusions emphasize the multiple significations of teacher “participation” and the need to overcome system-wide contradictions, while drawing on theory about the conditioned state, bureaucracy, and democratizing civil society to help situate and explain the findings.