Those familiar with the education systems in Mexico and the United States know there are differences. However, they have begun to understand that the differences may not be what people believe, and that those misconceptions are hurting the delivery of education to young Mexican immigrants when they enter U.S. schools.
To open a dialogue about this often-overlooked concern, two professors at California State University San Marcos have organized a bi-national conference to be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, August 25, 2001 in The Dome on campus. The conference will bring more than 100 educators from Mexico to meet with a similar number of U.S. educators for a series of discussions focused on a group of questions. The questions address issues such as the effect of immigration on border region education, the myths and realities of the educational systems, and the effect of communications media on identity formation, customs and cultural differences.
"There is a lack of understanding by U.S. teachers about Mexican education and a lack of knowledge about educated people in Mexico," said Zul-mura Cline, assistant professor of education. Cline is working with Juan Necochea, associate professor of education, to coordinate the conference. The two share Necochea's belief that the two nations "do not understand" each other's education systems.
The result is that U.S. teachers often approach newly arrived Mexican students with the expectation that they cannot compete, either because of language or preparation deficits. In some cases, said Cline, teachers "take it easy" on such students "to help them make the transition." In fact, she emphasized, these teachers are doing the students no favor. "Sometimes these kids are sent to the side to color with crayons and teachers end up just leaving them there," causing them to fall behind.
In fact, Mexican students may be better prepared than their U.S. counterparts, Cline said. She reported that when a student returns to Mexican schools after spending time in the U.S. education system, there is an assumption they will have fallen behind, because Mexicans believe the U.S. system to be lax.
"We're hoping (the conference) is a first step in developing an ongoing dialogue with educational leaders in this area," said Cline. "The dialogue should give everyone a better handle on the differences and similarities" and help them accommodate the differences or compensate in the conduct of their educational programs.
The conference is a cooperative effort between California State University San Marcos and la Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA) and la Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (UPN) from Tijuana, Baja California. The leader of each campus will attend and deliver brief comments to the meeting. An unexpected benefit of the conference has been discussions between the three leaders about future cooperation on educational programs, Cline said.
For information, contact Cline or Necochea at 760-750-3237.