by Author Montserrat

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Educational Reflections from Mexico

Mexico is a country rich full of contrasts with a wide range of cultural, educational, economic and political differences. It is full of culture and history with a wealth of musical rhythms and over 70 indigenous languages. This same cultural variety and rich contrasts are reflected in the 119.5 million Mexicans living in the Mexican Republic and 53 million of whom live in extreme poverty at the same time one of the world's richest men is Mexican.  

Mexico faces serious educational difficulties. The Secretariat of Public Education (SEP), is not considering this extensive cultural and social diversity with an absence of a variety of teaching approaches when planning the curriculum in some regions that are also experiencing an alarming economic situation at the same time.

According to Zuniga (2004), the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have undergone constant educational  reforms, which promote and strengthen the technological, scientific, and informatics fields, while weakening, almost to the point of elimination, the creative or artistic areas. The search for standardized qualifications to measure educational development in a country as diverse and contrasting as Mexico, only promotes, according to Villatoro,:- “the development of future professionals without a humanistic training, in which their very culture and roots are discarded.” However, a school education that does take into account their local culture: its music, history, geography, traditions, will generate in young people an authentic understanding and learning that will help and develop the students' cultural identity and recognition.

The standardized test conducted by the National Assessment Center (CENEVAL) can generate inequality and social segmentation in the population, as well as focus only on providing the lessons to obtain a good grade in the standardized test, leaving aside significant and integral teachings, such as thinking as individuals, analysis and questioning, creativity, as well as moral, affective and social development.

"Based on a review, it aims to give a rating that quantifies the level of knowledge of teachers and students, because it does not consider the historical, cultural and ethical roots of large sectors of society. It is an instrument whose function ends up becoming a disqualification for both teachers and students. "(Villatoro, 2014)

In music there are musicians who worked under this principle of ‘National Identity’, like Carl Orff, or Zoltán Kodaly "the musician who made a town sing". His concern to inspire students through the rhythms and music of his culture was key to his musical methodology. With this same principle, in Mexico the musician César Tort (1929-2015) worked hard to implement in the public schools of Mexico the teaching of music through the lyrical, instruments and rhythms of Mexican folklore.

Cesar Tort developed in Mexico using genres, modes, melodic traits, rhythmic patterns, cadences, and texts from Mexican folklore. He also encouraged the use of folk  instruments in the classroom and designed models to be used in the music classroom.

According to Tort, a new chapter in children’s music education in Latin America started in the second half of the 20th Century began to develop. He noticed a notable change in the procedures and music­pedagogic policies taking place in the region driven by the importation of European ideologies and methodology.  Tort believed that Latin American music education would benefit from developing a more indigenous approach to music education, rather than merely imitating  pedagogical approaches from other cultures. He also affirmed that Latin American ethnomusicology is the perfect tool to develop this new approach.

Tort’s Method focused on three fundamental principles:

  1. The ethnomusicólogo study of the instrumentation, rhythms, traditions and history of Mexico;

  2. The development of musical teaching techniques making use of the culture previously investigated;

  3. The training of the music teacher.

He founded his own school for music education called the Artene Institute, which was founded in 1974 and continues to teach music to generations of young children by teaching them Mexican Music and through using traditional Mexican folk instruments. The main instruments taught in Tort’s Method are the marimba, the harp jarocha and the huehuetl. The latter is a percussion instrument that was made at the request of César Tort.  It was built in different sizes to allow it to be used by children from 3 years old upwards, which makes the concerts of the Artene Institute attractive and interesting for the public. I had the opportunity to witness the musical performances through my Master's research "Contribution of César Tort to the musical education in Mexico" that I completed in Havana, Cuba.

Mexico is currently living through difficult and delicate moments. There have always been projects and people dedicated to champion for education, like Cesar Tort, despite the complex reality they face and work within.


Further Reading

  • Tort, C. (2004). Raíces y Educación Musical [Roots and Music Education]. In UNESCO­  FLADEM (Ed.), Hacia Una Educación Musical (pp. 86­89). San José, Costa  Rica: UNESCO­FLADEM.

  • Zuniga, N. (2004). La Educación Musical en Costa Rica: Nacionalidad y globalización  [Music Education in Costa Rica: Nationality and Globalization]. In UNESCO­  FLADEM (Ed.), Hacia Una Educación Musical Latinoamericana (pp.48­49). San  José, Costa Rica: UNESCO­FLADEM.