The main problem lies not with salaries for teaching, which are competitive with other jobs in Mexico, but with the quality of teachers. The government has been trying to solve the problem since 1992, when it introduced annual bonuses linked to teachers’ participation in training courses and their scores on tests. This system is far from perfect. A study last year by the Rand Corporation, an American think-tank, found that the tests given to teachers required “only low level cognitive responses”, while the criteria for evaluation were fuzzy and subject to manipulation.
The new agreement between Mr Calderón and Ms Gordillo has two aims. First, there is a promise to improve the fabric of the 27,000 schools—around one in eight—that are in poor repair (though no new money was allocated to this as part of the agreement). Second, it seeks to break the hold of the union over teachers’ careers. Under the agreement, teachers would be hired and promoted according to how they fare in a set of tests devised and marked by a new independent body.