Indigenous elementary school students in Mexico have improved their test scores in Math and Spanish again this year according to results from a national comprehensive exam, and these advances mark the sixth consecutive year of better grades for indigenous children.
According to the 2011 National Evaluation of Academic Achievement (Enlace), indigenous girls and boys at the elementary levels registered an advance of six percentage points in the categories of Excellent and Good in mathematics since 2010. From 2006 to 2011, the total increase was 16.9 percentage points in the higher categories, along with a decrease of 19.4 percentage points of indigenous students in the categories of Basic and Insufficient.
These elementary school age children also scored higher in Spanish in 2011 with an increase of 3.7 percentage points from 2010 in the Excellent and Good categories. Similar to the overall advances in math, the students increased their total scores by 13.6 percentage points between 2006 and 2011, with a decrease of 18.7 percentage points in the Basic and Insufficient levels in that same time period.
These improvements, according to Rosalinda Morales Garza, the Director of Indigenous Education in Mexico (DGEI), are directly linked to a change in national education policy and a strategy involving the professionalization of teachers who work with indigenous students.
In a press statement issued on October 10, Morales Garza asserted that the improved scores come from a “public policy oriented towards results with a strengthening of teaching methods, of an integral strategy of professionalization of indigenous educators, that has brought an academic mobilization connected to the Indigenous Education Professionals Network (IEPN), that also reasserted the culture of responsibility for improving their performance in the classroom, with innovative practices…”
The statement also noted that “…the efforts at professionalization and formation continue, coordinated by the DGEI’s technical teams at more than 100 events annually.”
Part of the professionalization effort, according to DGEI publications, involves participatory seminars for educators, and courses designed by specialists in indigenous education that are offered to teachers of indigenous children and adolescents. Close to 20,000 teachers have taken these courses yearly since 2008.
According to information provided by Beatriz Martinez, an Education Media Consultant for the DGEI, the teachers who participate in the seminars and other programs, learn about the customs, practices and experiences of the Indigenous Peoples in Mexico. The DGEI team has also designed a series of Indigenous Language courses, where students in 120 schools can learn the Maya, Totonaco, Nahuatl or Nahnu language that includes a variety of textbooks in the respective language.
Following these efforts is a bilingual, Spanish as a second language program for very young children, where the students begin to learn to read and write in their native language as well as learning Spanish as a second language as part of the same program. So far, the DGEI data shows that there are now 59,000 indigenous bilingual teachers working in schools in Mexico.
These indigenous programs are aimed at the 1.3 million elementary school age indigenous children and the 850,000 adolescents who are presently enrolled in any of the 23,000 indigenous schools in Mexico. One of the recent projects of the DGEI is also to include the indigenous children of migrant farm workers in the country, where it is estimated that 40 percent of all migrant farm workers are indigenous.