Startup Weekend Education Mexico
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In the past year, Mexico has made it to the international headlines via a string of crises ranging from massive human rights violations, scandals of political corruption, one of the highest levels of impunity in the world –only behind the Philippines–, increasing poverty and a stagnant economy.
It’s no surprise that the education sector is in a very deteriorated state. Even if it’s a constitutional mandate that the State provides free and quality education until high school, in practice, the reality is very grim: according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2012 Mexico had the lowest qualifications of that organization’s members in Mathematics, Reading and Science, from basic to secondary level (ages 6 to 15).
While the government’s policies have done little to nothing to attend its mandate, and instead is applying a series of measures that castigate protesting teachers and students via the increasing privatization of this sector (“structural reforms”), plenty of citizen-driven initiatives have been taking place to try and come up with solutions.
On of the most interesting projects comes from the intersection between technology and education. This year’s second edition of Startup Weekend Education Mexico (#SWEduMx) has seen an increase of participants that share a common concern: how can technology help improve the state of education in the country?
Most of the ideas revolved around solving something that’s not getting done: providing services, filling a void. Startup Weekends begin with a session where all participants share their idea or pitch, and these are voted. The most voted are the ideas that the majority considers urgent or doable. Some of the most urgent initiatives were the ones directed to Mexican youngsters that can’t make it to higher education because there’s no spot for them: thousands of students are rejected every year from public schools. They’re pejoratively referred to as “rechazados” (rejected) and the idea exposed during this event was to create an app (most people in Mexico access the internet via a smartphone) that provides free courses that train them and connects them to a possible employer.
Another project in the frame of collaborative economy was the creation of a one-to-one app where educators can offer their services for a low fee; a sort of Uber for education that’s fast and lacks the intermediary of a HR department, and a pitch that stimulates indigenous people to adopt technology in order to sell their products.
An urgent gender perspective was present in the pitch that proposed the prevention of violence in the family, as well as the civic education app project that teaches the importance of sustainability.
Not so urgent but equally important were the pitches thought for children: how to make kids more curious for the arts and culture (and getting rewards for it) during their weekends, as opposed to taking them to a mall?
It’s true that only a handful of projects end up as viable startups, and that these can only solve a particular problem and not the root of a whole country’s state of education. The hope is that more initiatives like SWEduMx take place in this very troubled country, where civil participation is frequently discouraged. The reach of the event goes beyond a successful enterprise: it’s an opportunity for people to come together, even in small numbers.