Findings on How to Reform Mexico’s Elementary Education System Presented at NYU Steinhardt

In 2002, the Mexican Ministry of Education began a comprehensive reform of their elementary education system, partially in response to low test scores affecting the most vulnerable of Mexico’s children.

Last year, Mexico’s vice minister of basic education came to NYU Steinhardt to authorize a study to assess its science and math curriculum.

The study compared the relevance, subject matter, and pedagogical content of Mexico’s science and mathematics curriculum and textbooks to those of the United States and other Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked countries in Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

Working in partnership with the Directorate General of Curriculum Development, Steinhardt Associate Professor Professor Pamela Fraser-Abder (in collaboration with faculty from NYU Steinhardt, Ohio State University, Lesley University, and National Council of Community and Education Partnership, engaged 421 elementary students in New York, three professional developers, 24 teachers, 26 science and mathematics education specialists and PISA experts from 15 countries) conducted an assessment of the Mexican science and mathematics curriculum and student textbooks.

On May18, 2011, the research team presented the results of their study at NYU.

Some of the key findings:


Prepare to Cover Algebra Topics Sooner. In order to improve PISA scores, students can be given an advantage by being exposed to algebraic thinking sooner in the curriculum. The modeling type items used in PISA are more easily conceptualized and approached through an algebraic lens. Mexico should remove these lags and bring coverage, especially in grade 6, up to international standards. Redundancies (from an international point of view) should be removed from grades 5 and 6.


Align Instructional Model with PISA Orientation. Incorporate an instructional model that is based on contemporary learning theory and generally aligned with the PISA orientation. See, for example, How People Learn (National Research Council, 2000). The change could be incorporated within the extant structure of the textbooks, especially at the fifth and sixth grade levels.

Provide Assessments for Teachers. The current self- evaluations are helpful for the students. Provide teachers with assessments aligned with the curriculum and outcomes such as the PISA competencies.

Mathematics and Science

Provide a Teacher’s Guide. Provide a teacher’s guide to accompany the textbooks. The teachers’ guide could be considered as “professional development” for the elementary teacher and would complement, the program of study.

For more information or to receive a copy of the report contact: Pamela Fraser-Abder, principal research fellow, at .

(Photos: Assembled at the presentation were, left to right, from Steinhardt Assistant Dean Erich Dietrich, Steinhardt Dean Mary Brabeck, Pamela Fraser Abder, Deputy Secretary of Basic Education Fernando González Sánchez, and Consul General of Mexico Carlos Manuel Sada; Pamela Fraser-Abder presents findings; .)