Mexican senators approved an education bill on Wednesday that will overhaul the country’s public education system, in a boost to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s goal of fixing a system many viewed as corrupt.
The vote—with 102 senators in favor and 22 opposed—follows Mexico’s lower house’s approval of the law on Sunday in a 390 to 69 vote.
The reform package establishes competency exams for teachers, promotions based on merit, and an evaluation system for hiring faculty. The Senate vote was the final step needed to move forward with Peña Nieto’s wider education bill, which was approved in December, although the secondary laws approved Wednesday remained pending for months.
On Monday, Peña Nieto gave his first State of the Union address, touting education reform as a means to attain greater academic achievement and allow Mexico to become more competitive. According to the OECD, only 47 percent of Mexican children graduate from the equivalent of high school.
Meanwhile, thousands of members of Mexico’s powerful teachers union have taken to the streets for weeks to protest Peña Nieto’s education reform package. The protesting teachers said that the reforms could cause them to lose their jobs and argued that the government should spend more money on underperforming schools. Teachers held strikes across Mexico in at least a dozen states and blocked traffic in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Peña Nieto is attempting a number of reforms that he says will help boost the Mexican economy, including a reform of the state oil company, Pemex, and a tax overhaul.