Last night, my friends Andrea, Emily and I went to see a documentary that just came out in theaters here titled “De Panzazo.”  Andrea and I had to watch the movie and write a review for homework in one of our classes and since Emily thought it looked interesting she came along as well.

Going into the movie all I knew was that it was a recently made documentary about the Mexican education system. What I didn’t know, was the current state of the education system here.  I mean I am obviously aware that Mexico as a whole functions very differently than the US.  The political system, economical system and education system are all viewed differently here.  Simply the way they live life here is different, which is reflected in all of these aspects of their infrastructure.  If I may generalize, the country as a whole is very laid back and in most cases things happen as they happen and the people accept them and learn to live with the changes.  In the US we don’t exactly behave in the same way, we are constantly and adamantly working to protect our rights and inspire change how and where we want it.  We vocalize and protest, and make things happen our way.  Parents pay close attention to the grades and homework assignments of their children, and no one is afraid to make a call to the school to make sure their child is getting the education they properly deserve.  I guess having grown up in a country that handles everything in such a proactive manner, I naively assumed that is how most education systems worked.

I was wrong.  After watching the documentary I learned that most children here don’t continue their education past their equivalent of high school and a large percentage don’t even make it that far.  Of the very few students that do go on to study at a university, only two out of every one hundred continue into post-graduate studies.  These statistics were surprising to me, but what shocked me even more was the part of the documentary that came next.  In the second half of the film they discussed teachers and administrators in the school system. I learned that many teachers are not at all qualified for their jobs and that the main problem facing the education system is the lack of attendance on the part of the teachers.  Parents and students alike discussed how frequently the children will just spend the day at school sitting around and goofing off because the teacher didn’t show up for class.  The classrooms are run in a variety of different ways, some utilizing extremely ineffective teaching methods due to the lack of education of the teacher themselves.  On top of all this, the schools themselves were in terrible shape.  Many had broken windows, were covered in graffiti and had almost no materials available for the students.  Even worse the government will try to “help” and buy computers and other technology for schools that don’t even have electricity.  These resources just sit and go to waste, never even getting used once.  There was also footage of the government officers in charge of the education system, always giving positive speeches and asking for improvement of the system, but never actually taking charge and making a difference.   The film ended with some ideas on how to fix this broken system and what students, parents, teachers, administrators and other Mexican citizens can do.

I considered all of this information on my cab ride home last night as well as on my run this morning, I thought about how different things were here, and how it seems to be a self-perpetuating circle of distress.  The conclusion I have come to thus far is how lucky we are in the US.  When I am at home, in my own cultural bubble, I can come up with a million reasons why our education system is broken and why politics in America are useless.  However, when I look at our country from the outside we sure are doing pretty well.  I can’t even begin to write how appreciative I am for being able to attend school all the way through with the support of my parents.  To be able to live in a society where I can work hard and make enough money to pay for my college education, and where going to grad school is a rather common occurence.  Sure, we have our own set of problems, and being a more developed nation more is expected from us.  But when I consider the fact that I could have grown up in a family who needed me to leave school and work at the age of fourteen so we could eat, I realize just how lucky I am, and just how many benefits I have living in a country like the US.