On 26th May, 2017, we hosted our fifth Education Day. The day kicked off with a welcome from Chamber President Emilio Díaz and Head of the Education Group Louise Batchelder. To officially inaugurate the event, we were accompanied by Ing. Benito Ramírez Romero from Mexican Education Secretariat who introduced some of what would be the main themes of the day: education for all Mexicans, an education that develops a student’s initiative and not just parrot learning and the importance of international practices and strategies.
Olivier Evans, Dr. Benito Mirón, Emilio Díaz and Louise Batchelder (from left to right).
With the day officially inaugurated, we moved to a debate on the main challenges and opportunities of innovation in Mexico. One of the key challenges - according to panellist Senator Juan Carlos Romero Hicks - is related to the size of the country and distribution of schools amongst communities. Some isolated communities may have just ten children which makes it difficult to justify the building of school. Dr. Javier Rojas from the Centre for Research and Economic Development suggested that technology and online learning may be helpful in addressing such challenges however it is also important to assess viability. The debate also covered the historical impact the teacher’s union has had on education, with Dr. Miguel Szekely commenting that the union in Mexico became too political. Senator Romero Hicks also brought up the desperate need for strong leaders and headteachers under some type of supervision to guarantee a consistent level of education for all users.
Senator Juan Carlos Romero Hicks
After this fascinating debate, the day moved on to the first module, which focused on innovative teaching. The first speaker was Gustavo Merkel of Jacaranda Education, who spoke about makerspaces in
schools, and how they can promote innovation. He spoke about the 4 areas of change required to create a true learning environment:
1. The professional development of teachers
2. Physical makerspaces (innovative open classrooms, with a focus on creating)
3. Student makerclubs for students to brainstorm together independent of teachers
4. Linking economic benefits with makerspace technology; by presenting their innovative outcomes to businesses.
This was followed by Angelica Gutierrez, a senior coach in mindfulness, who explained the benefits of this practice. Taking a pause in the day and observe the present can reduce stress and promote real learning and engagement. She ended her presentation with a short meditation exercise for the room to participate in. Then Gavin Judd, from Humanitree developed the conversation on the importance of the learning space and its impact on education. He explained that current learning environments are outdated, and that leaders in education should be brave enough to look for alternatives. Ideally, classrooms should be set up in such a way that “teaching and learning take place at the same time”.
Gavin Judd, Angélica Gutiérrez, Gustavo Merkel, Kevin Luckham and Sandra Aguilera from Module 1 (from left to right).
Finally, Sandra Aguilera from the Colegio de Puebla presented a project her organisation carried out to implement new technologies in 21 schools in the state of Puebla. They carefully monitored the installation of such technology and she explained the need for schools to address the changes required to harness the advantages of such modernisation.
Attendees enjoyed the coffee break and stands.
After a quick “caffeine fix”, Chamber members and guests returned to their seats to listen to different presentations on how students can achieve their potential professionally. Aribel Contreras from the Iberoamericana University sparked debate by saying that many of their university students arrive greatly unprepared for the initiative required and demands made on them by university. She spoke of students expecting university to be like a bigger high school and still being smothered by their parents while lacking the basic organisational, mathematical and practical skills required by the university and necessary for them to be employable in the long term. For Aribel, employment is also about having the right attitude over and above any academic qualifications. IBEC Consultant Kevin Luckham then spoke about how, as companies become more international, demand for English communication skills increases although the level of English in Mexico is in fact falling. He noted that people who master these skills receive higher salaries and more regular promotions.
Malcolm Trotter, Rosalía Valero, Kevin Luckham, Aribel Contreras and Eamonn Mullally (from left to right).
The skills needed include being able to send appropriately graded emails, give presentations and understand the various English-speaker accents in meetings. Rosalia Valero of Cambridge English Language Assessment also spoke of the various English-speaker accents: As English continues to secure its place as the international “lingua franca”, the vast majority of English speakers are not native.
Aribel Contreras, Universidad Iberoamericana
The key is to speak in a way that is intelligible and understandable. She also presented global results in Cambridge exams and was able to show that, in Mexico, speaking usually obtains the highest marks as Mexicans love to talk! Closing this discussion, Malcolm Trotter of the International Association of Book Keepers addressed the skills gap in education that not only affects Mexico as it is becoming a global problem. He discussed the challenges specific to Latin America, namely low productivity, inequality, slow economic growth and the need to improve development in young people. The solutions he raised covered a bigger focus on technical learning and professionalism as well as training in technical skills to an international standard.
Prof. Héctor Tello, Lourdes Ibáñez, Tom Wingate, Amanda Jacob and David Jones (from left to right).
The last module before lunch was opened by Amanda Jacob, general director of the Churchill School. She gave practical advice about the benefits of using technology. Among other things, it makes it easier to track progress, it makes learning more fun and better prepares students for the future. She gave tips on how teachers can transform homework to involve technology. This could be listening to a ted-talk, or an audiobook, as well as writing a blog or even making a movie. She then gave a demonstration of how to use technology to involve an audience, by asking some people to come to the front and use their QR-scanner to give a quick summary of her presentation. Héctor Tello of Videonet then developed on the theme by sharing his experience working with schools to install the latest technologies. In his frank presentation, he explained that at times they have seen equipment going unused as teachers are not appropriately trained to use them and there is no technical support in the school. While technology is extremely advantageous when used correctly, it must not be used as a distraction or as a substitute for teaching itself. He was followed by Lourdes Ibáñez, who explained the growing involvement of technology in the lives of future generations. She spoke of this post-millennial generation Z, and how their needs and ways of communication are almost completely technology-based. She explained that speaking their language will be essential for working with this generation in the future. Finally, Tom Wingate of the Wingate School reiterated Hector Tello’s message of the crucial role of teachers in making children global citizens.
Prof. Héctor Tello.
However, he accepted that technology can also help achieve this, for example by connecting students to others in different parts of the world. He also spoke of the need to educate children around technology, for example teaching them how to protect themselves against ´fake news´.
Our keynote speaker, Elisa Bonilla, leader of the curriculum development for the Mexican government.
After the lunch, the day was concluded by a very interesting speech from Elisa Bonilla who leads curriculum development for the Mexican government. She opened by discussing the education reform and the laws that were changed to allow it to pass. She spoke about the real importance of improving teaching through the evaluation of teachers. Last year´s biannual evaluation showed 85% of teachers passing in most subjects. However, 47% failed English and many of those who failed decided not to resit, which has created the need for more and better English language teachers in Mexico. She outlined recruitment plans in place to address this. She also spoke about the need for improved content in the Mexican curriculum, granting schools that have demonstrated certain maturity greater autonomy in designing their own curriculums. Previously, all schools had their entire programme planned at a federal level. Following this speech, Louise Batchelder closed the event, summarising the highlights of the day and thanking attendees, sponsors and speakers for their participation.
Elisa Bonilla visiting our sponsors' stands
The British Chamber of Commerce in Mexico would like to thank all speakers for allowing us the opportunity to listen, learn, and engage in dialogue regarding education in Mexico today. We hope you enjoyed the event and wish to see you at future ones!
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