Mexico's annual congress

Published: Wednesday 12 December 2012

Six years ago a number of CEFPI members were invited to Mexico by INIFED (the federal infrastructure agency for schools). Five years ago after the CEFPI conference in San Diego Ann Gorey ventured into Mexico and discovered a vibrant country with a community open to ideas and opportunities to improve the design, construction and management of their schools.

This year’s congress was held in Puebla, a Spanish colonial city is also UNESCO designated historic city sitting under the Popocatepetl - an active volcano. Although a relatively small city, Puebla has many museums, universities and learning /training centres and a strong focus on arts – music, dance, painting, pottery– and architecture. It is also famous for its food.

The congress always includes a range of international speakers, representatives of the Mexican education department and public works authority, architects, planners, builders, teachers, tertiary students, and parents. School building, furniture, and equipment suppliers contribute to its trade show and demonstrate the quality of local design.

This year one of the keynote speakers was Reino Tapaninen from Finland who is coming to Melbourne in February 2013 as a speaker at the Catholic Education Conference. Others included Teresa Heitor from Portugal who outlined their secondary school modernisation program and Henry Sanoff from the USA. In previous years Bill Walsh attended and his presentation in Spanish is still a talking point. Carlos Gargiulo and his team of energetic women representing the Latin American countries were also active participants.

During the year the OECD through CELE was invited to review INIFED’s “Better Schools Program” (BSP) which includes a strong focus on social participation by the parents and community. The BSP has successfully improved the physical infrastructure of many primary schools with a program similar to Australia’s “School Pride” program.

The Federal elections in July resulted in a change of government. The transition took effect in December 2012 and in accordance with standard procedures, key staff will be leaving INIFED and new people will be appointed. Those who have been the guests of INIFED have enjoyed wonderful hospitality provided by Ernesto Velasco Leon, Director-General of INIFED, and his committed team, and the opportunity to learn more about Mexico which is Latin America’s fastest growing economy.

Ann Gorey