Educational cooperation and exchanges: An emerging issue
At a time when the Mexican and United States governments are looking for an opportunity to diversify the bilateral agenda and strengthen the economic relationship, there is an urgent need to focus on the long term challenges of competitiveness and human capital in the region. Questions of infrastructure, standards, border procedures and energy are all crucial to this equation, but an emerging issue that has been little discussed in the public sphere is that of educational cooperation. Several experts and government officials have long recognized this as a potential growth area in the bilateral relationship, but there are now greater opportunities than ever to further develop educational collaboration.
Mexico urgently needs to build its human capital to move from a middle income to high income country. Indeed, the Peña Nieto government's first major legislative effort has been a constitutional reform of the K-12 system to improve the quality of education. However, a second area that requires major attention is undergraduate and graduate education, especially in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and innovation. At the same time, the United States needs to develop the cultural and linguistic capacities that would allow Americans in professions ranging from nursing to teaching to business to better communicate with the growing Spanish-language population in the United States and to take advantage of commercial and investment opportunities in the Western Hemisphere. There exists, therefore, a powerful logic for the two governments to work together to seek mutually beneficial solutions to their educational needs. One excellent way of doing so would be to encourage higher levels of university-level exchanges between them.