Developing a Knowledge-Based Economy
Recently honored as a 2011 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Mario Martin Delgado Carrillo is an economist who values education reform. With a bachelor's degree in economics from Instituto Tecnologico Autónomo de Mexico and a master's degree in economics from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, he understands the economic and social value of investing in education and training: "The best investment you can make is in education. You are investing in the present, but also in the future. It is a risk-free investment with significant returns."
Scholarships Counteract Dropout Rate
Delgado's investments in education date back to when he was Minister of Finance. He held this position before becoming Minister of Education in August 2010. In 2005 Mexico had staggering high school dropout rates: 67 percent in the country overall and 21 percent in Mexico City. Financial need contributed significantly to these high percentages. Delgado states: "In order to remove the economic barrier, we initiated a program to give students scholarships for high school. Today we have 200,000 students. Of those students, we estimate 120,000 would have abandoned school by now. The scholarship program has contributed to reducing the dropout rate in the city to as low as six percent."
"Boring" Curriculum Also Contributes to Dropout Rate
Finances are not the only reason students drop out of high school, says Delgado: "Almost 30 percent of the students who drop out of school at the national level say they do not like the education they are receiving. It is not interesting to them. We need to offer courses that will motivate them to stay in school. Given the importance of technology in today's economy, we should be teaching it in the classrooms, and students find it very exciting."
Mexico City instituted Cisco Networking Academy courses in some of their high schools in 2010 and they have been attracting students' ever since. Delgado explains: "The ability to manage networks is a very powerful tool these days. Students are interested. Businesses are demanding these new skills."
Networking Academy Provides a Second Chance
A subsystem within the city's high schools includes 18 campuses and a new opportunity for 23,000 students who were not accepted at larger institutions, such as the national universities or national polytechnic institutes. Delgado notes: "We began offering Networking Academy courses in these schools because it is crucial that we provide high quality training."
When the students finish high school, they are given the opportunity to take Cisco certification exams. In 2010 the first 20 Networking Academy students in Mexico City completed IT Essentials courses. Delgado adds: "Today, we have almost 500 students involved in these courses, which is great news because these high schools are located in the poorest areas in the city. The availability of the Networking Academy courses and the scholarships provide the young adults with a real opportunity. We are providing them with the best technological education you can find in the world."
A Scalable Model to Teach More Students
With 1.5 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24, Mexico City must expand its educational resources. Delgado says the Networking Academy model helps: "We start by training regional instructors, who later instruct our local instructors, who finally teach our students. This system provides phenomenal expansion, which allows us to provide superior instruction to more students, and sooner."
Delgado notes: "The combination of face-to-face and online instruction, along with practical and laboratory exercises, makes the Networking Academy experience more robust and the knowledge acquired of a higher quality. Online and complementary materials ensure that the learning process is complete. All of these factors make Networking Academy one of the most innovative programs in teaching, learning, and vocational training."
When Networking Academy was first initiated in the Mexico City high schools, the director of the high schools told Delgado that it would be difficult to find teachers who would be willing to take the training and become instructors. Delgado says that turned out not to be the case: "The teachers want to learn; they are very motivated by these courses. And now they are convincing our students to enroll in the Networking Academy classes."
Encouraging More Scientists, Technologists, and Engineers
Currently the Ministry of Education scholarships are only for high school students. The ministry is planning to extend the scholarships, Delgado says: "Soon, students who decide to study something related to science, engineering, or technology can keep their scholarship and use it for higher education. We do not need more lawyers; we do not need more administrators. They are not finding jobs. We need to convince young people to study science, technology, and engineering. That is what our country needs. These are the kind of jobs businesses are offering. These are the jobs with the best salaries. We need to encourage young people to study science, technology, and engineering."
When asked what he thinks is the most significant outcome of the Networking Academy courses in Mexico City, Delgado responded: "To me, it is that both students and teachers can receive the best networking training in the world here. With this training students can qualify for higher paying jobs. It motivates them to continue their studies in the technology area. You can see it in the growth of the number of students who are involved in Networking Academy."