“Diversity is not the problem of this country, but the solution. This laboratory is one of the deepest experiences of reconciliation we have had. Prejudices were challenged and stereotypes fell to pieces through dialogue and direct communication.” Esteban Moctezuma Barragán, Secretary of Public Education, Mexico
High levels of polarization, including between trade unions and government and among political parties, as well as important differences across student populations and states, have created enormous challenges to meeting the needs of children and youth in Mexico. Fifty diverse leaders, including politicians, trade unionists, principals, teachers, academics, activists, and business executives, worked together intensively for one year towards addressing these challenges.
The Mexico Education Lab is a platform for leaders to explore ideas together, respecting their different training, opinions, and lived experiences. In its first year these leaders together designed and advanced nine experiments to test their hypotheses about how the system is currently functioning and innovative ways to transform it.
In 2018, after the election of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, we worked with the new government and with Mexicos Posibles and the Aspen Institute of Mexico to create a space to employ stretch collaboration to improve the outcomes of the Mexican education system.
Early on in the process, the leaders who were participating in the lab identified ten priority results for 2030:
- Horizontal, participative educational policies that span multiple government administrations.
- Students receive integrated services as part of education (for example, nutrition).
- A national education budget that is sufficient, assigned equitably and used efficiently.
- A guarantee of rights for teachers, including initial training, professional development, competitive salaries and promotions.
- Schools as inclusive spaces.
- Citizenship, participation and rule of law as central aspects of education.
- Improved educational outcomes regardless of student identity (for example, socioeconomic status).
- Increased connections between schools and communities.
- Collaborative pedagogy.
- Opportunities for students to learn in their first language, as well as in Spanish and in English.
The group then worked over one year, including 14 days of workshops, as well as weeks of practical exploration, to clarify the reasons these results are not currently being produced and to identify points of leverage and initiatives to transform this situation.
The organizing partners agreed to work toward delivering the following results in the first 12 months of the lab:
- A network of leaders from the whole system, who develop trusting relationships with one another,
- Strengthened individual and group capacities to work collaboratively, systemically and experimentally,
- A shared set of hypotheses about the current system and how to transform it,
- A portfolio of projects with the potential to transform the system.
The lab team met every 1-3 months for a 48-hour workshop. At these workshops, the leaders explored ideas about the current realities and shared their hypotheses about how to transform these realities.
Leaders divided into teams to design practical explorations to test their hypotheses about the current reality. During these explorations, sub-groups of leaders worked together, often in unlikely or unconventional groupings, to test their hypotheses about what actions would work to make the current reality more like the desired results in 2030. Lab members were supported by a full time Technical Secretariat made up of staff from Mexicos Posibles and Reos Partners.
In its first year, Education Lab members advanced on nine projects aimed at working toward the 2030 results. Lab members indicated that a major impact of the first year of work included creating relationships of trust that were not possible outside the lab, and many of them continue to work through this network to advance on matters related to education in the country.
Some of these projects have delivered multiple results so far. One team contributed to national constitutional reform relating to educational budgeting. Another team worked on the creation of public policy in the state of Jalisco to attend to the wholistic well-being of children in their first 1000 days of life as central to improving educational outcomes. There is one group working on pilots to transform teacher training in the states of Jalisco and Sinaloa. Additionally, two pilot projects are being implemented in a rural community in Oaxaca and an urban community in San Luis Potosi to bring a new approach to education based on technology and innovative learning methodologies. Finally, four schools in Nayarit, Sonora, Jalisco and Mexico City are testing a pilot focused on shifting the culture of violence to one of peace.
There is much left to be done, and for this reason most of the project teams continue to work together in this space and others to keep learning and moving forward in their quest to transform the Mexican Education system.
- The Education Lab report, in Spanish: http://mexicosposibles.mx/laboratorio-de-educacion/
- Article by Adam Kahane about the project teams from the Education Lab: https://www.strategy-business.com/blog/What-Avengers-Infinity-War-can-teach-us-about-business?gko=d0b4b
- Aspen institute project description: http://aspeninstitutemexico.org/gobierno-y-sociedad-presentan-la-iniciativa-laboratorio-de-educacion/